Recent Development 

The Turkish Parliament has adopted the International Labor Force Law (the "Law") on July 28, 2016. The Law was published in the Official Gazette on August 13, 2016 and entered into force on the same date. The Law has abolished the Law on Work Permits for Foreigners (the "Law No. 4817") and amended numerous relevant codes.

What the Law Says

  1. Scope

Differently from the Law No. 4817, the Law also covers foreigners who apply for or are doing internship in Turkey; and foreign cross-border service providers, who are individuals in Turkey to temporarily provide services.

  1. Filing of Work Permit and Work Permit Extension Applications

Similar to the Law No. 4817, the Law provides that work permit applications can be filed from both within and outside Turkey. However, work permit applications, which will not be filed by the applicants themselves, can be filed by the "authorized intermediaries", who are defined as "institutions and organizations whose qualifications and tasks have been set out by the regulations and who have been authorized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security" (the "Ministry" ).

Likewise, work permit extension applications must be filed prior to the expiry of the work permit, and any extension application filed after such date will be rejected. The Law No. 4817, on the other hand, allowed work permit extension applications to be filed until the end of the 15 th (fifteenth) day as of the expiry of the work permit.

A foreign national who has obtained a work permit must enter Turkey within 6 (six) months starting from the work permit validity date. Otherwise, the work permit will be cancelled.

  1. Work Permit Types

Similar to the Law No. 4817, the Law foresees 3 (three) types of work permits: (i) definite term work permits, (ii) indefinite term work permits and (iii) independent work permits. The Law has introduced certain amendments in the qualification requirements for these permits. We expect the secondary legislation to provide further details in this regard.

  1. Work Permits of Company Shareholders, Engineers and Architects

Until today, whether foreign nationals who are board of directors' members or statutory managers of Turkish companies must obtain a work permit has been unclear. The Law now makes it clear that the below listed foreign nationals must obtain work permits to work in Turkey: Foreigners who have duly graduated from one of the engineering or architecture faculties in Turkey or abroad, provided that the foreign faculty satisfies certain criteria, can work as an engineer or an architect in Turkey for a certain project or on a temporary basis by obtaining work permit.

  • statutory managers of limited liability companies, who are also shareholders of the relevant company,
  • board of directors' members of joint stock companies, who are also shareholders of the relevant company,
  • commandite shareholders of partnerships in commendam, the capital of which is divided into shares ( sermayesi paylara bölünmüş komandit şirketlerin komandite ortakları ).

Foreigners who have duly graduated from one of the engineering or architecture faculties in Turkey or abroad, provided that the foreign faculty satisfies certain criteria, can work as an engineer or an architect in Turkey for a certain project or on a temporary basis by obtaining work permit.

  1. Turquoise Card

One of the new items introduced by the Law is the so called "turquoise card." The holder of the turquoise card enjoys the rights granted to indefinite term work permit holders. Additionally, the spouse and dependent children of the turquoise card holder will each be given a document indicating their relationship to the turquoise card holder, which will function as a residence permit.

The turquoise card is granted by taking into account the applicant's education level, professional experience, contribution to science and technology and the impacts of their activities or investments on the economy and employment in Turkey. The card is initially granted for a 3 (three) years' transition period, and if this period is properly completed, the foreign national will be given a turquoise card for an indefinite term, upon his/her request.

  1. Work Permit Exemptions and Exceptional Cases

The Law brings work permit exemptions for (i) board of directors' members of joint stock companies who do not reside in Turkey; (ii) shareholders of other companies who do not hold managerial positions; and (iii) cross-border service providers whose services in Turkey do not exceed 90 (ninety) days in a 180 (one hundred and eighty) day period. The exemption grants the right to work and reside in Turkey without the need for a work permit. The foreign national must however apply to the Ministry for a "work permit exemption certificate".

  1. Working for the Public Interest

Foreigners who have a valid residence permit can apply for a work permit exemption certificate in order to work in associations operating for the public interest or foundations which have been granted tax exemption, provided they do not receive a salary or a similar benefit for their work. The work permit exemption certificate's validity period will depend on the residence permit's validity period.

At least 2/3 (two thirds) of the employees working in the respective association or foundation must be Turkish citizens.

Conclusion

The Law is important as it brings responses to flexible and temporary working schemes and the main legislation on work permits in line with the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, which regulates residence permits and the related procedures.

There are however many areas that need further regulation in secondary legislation. Such secondary legislation should be issued and enacted as soon as possible.