Parliament recently enacted International Workforce Law 6735, which governs the employment of foreign individuals in Turkey. The law aims to:

  • set the rules and principles regarding work permit applications and exemptions for foreign individuals; and
  • determine the rights and obligations of government authorities to implement and monitor work permit policies for foreign nationals.

Foreign workforce policy

Under International Workforce Law 6735, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security can determine work permit policy for foreign workers – considering the International Workforce Advisory Committee's decisions – and implement this policy on a national and international basis. Further, the committee will track national and international practices and endeavour to improve the relevant legislation and provide the ministry with policy recommendations in line with Turkey's economic, sectoral and regional priorities. The ministry will also gather the opinion of relevant entities when determining its foreign workforce policy.

Work permit applications

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is authorised to grant work permits in line with the foreign workforce policy described above. Applications can be made directly to the ministry or through Turkish embassies or consulates where the foreign applicant resides or has citizenship. The ministry must evaluate a work permit application and render a decision within 30 days from the date of application. Applicants submitting applications from outside Turkey must visit the country within six months from the work permit's validity date – if not, the work permit will be revoked.

According to International Workforce Law 6735, a pre-permit must be obtained from the relevant ministries for work permit applications by foreign individuals who want to work in healthcare and education. Pre-permit applications will be evaluated based on the applicant's professional eligibility. Similarly, a pre-permit is required from the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology or the Council of Higher Education for applications by foreign individuals who wish to work in those areas.

A foreign individual's first work permit cannot be for more than one year, provided that the permit does not exceed the term of the applicant's employment agreement. Following the expiry of the initial one-year permit, it can be extended for up to two years. For subsequent applications that follow the first extension, work permits cannot be granted for more than three years. Foreign individuals who hold a long-term residency permit or a work permit for eight years are entitled to apply for a permanent work permit. Further, the new law provides that shareholders of joint stock companies and limited liability companies, who are also company directors or managers, are entitled to work in Turkey under a work permit.

A work permit or a work permit exemption obtained by a foreign individual also covers residency.

Work permit exemptions

Under International Workforce Law 6735, the following are exempt from needing a work permit:

  • non-resident board members of joint stock companies;
  • non-executive shareholders of companies (other than joint stock companies); and
  • temporary service providers who stay no more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

While non-resident board members of joint stock companies are specifically exempted under the new law, there is no reference to managers of limited liability companies. Thus, it can be interpreted that managers of limited liability companies must obtain a work permit, regardless of whether the manager is a resident or non-resident.

Further, the new law provides a list of nationalities that may be subject to exceptional treatment regarding work permit applications, the application's evaluation and the terms of the work permit. This includes:

  • EU citizens;
  • Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus citizens;
  • professionally qualified individuals; and
  • qualified investors (based on their contribution to science and technology or the size of their investment).

Further, foreign engineers and architects can practice their professions in Turkey by obtaining work permits on a temporary and project basis.

Turquoise card

International Workforce Law 6735 provides that turquoise card holders have a permanent work permit and that their spouse and dependants also have residency permits. A turquoise card is issued based on an applicant's education, professional experience, contribution to science and technology, and economic contributions and Turkey's employment rate.

Other provisions

Applicants can object to ministry decisions within 30 days from the date on which the applicant receives the relevant decision. If the ministry rejects the objection, the applicant can file a lawsuit before the administrative court. Ministry and Social Security Institution officials are entitled to monitor and investigate employers and foreign employees' compliance with the law. International Workforce Law 6735 provides various financial penalties that employers and foreign employees can be subject to in the event of non-compliance.

Comment

International Workforce Law 6735 aims to facilitate work permit applications by qualified foreign employees and trainees and thus attract more foreign investment in Turkey. Details regarding the application and implementation of the new law are expected to be determined by a new regulation which will provide more clarity on the work permit application procedures and requirements. This new regulation may be more indicative regarding the success of the new rules in meeting the law's aims.

For further information on this topic please contact Duygu Acar Yucesoy or Ömer Faruk Çikin at Aykan Acar Ergönen Law Firm by telephone (+90 212 291 10 20) or email (duygu.acar@aaelegal.com or faruk.cikin@aaelegal.com). The Aykan Acar Ergönen Law Firm website can be accessed at www.aaelegal.com.

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