The most important developments in Turkish immigration law and practice in the past few months have been (i) changes to the application procedure for residence permits, (ii) changes to the submission requirements for documents required for residence permit applications, and (iii) the implementation of the Regulation on the Employment of Foreigners who have been granted Temporary Protection ("Regulation").
In Turkey, residence permit applications consist of two phases, namely (i) completion of an online form and request for an appointment date on the website of the Directorate of Immigration ("DoI") and (ii) visiting the DoI in person on the scheduled appointment date. Previously, applicants were not required to be physically present in Turkey while completing the first phase; they were able to complete the online form when they were abroad and collect the necessary documents before their appointment. Due to a change in the DoI's practice, however, applicants are now required to be physically present in Turkey when requesting an appointment date on the DoI's website.
Another significant change to Turkish immigration practice is that the DoI now requests that certain documents required for residence permit applications must be apostilled. These documents include criminal records from the applicants' country of nationality, marriage certificates, and birth certificates. All documents not executed in Turkish must be translated into Turkish by a sworn translator, and the translations must be certified by a Turkish notary public.
Unfortunately, the DoI is a recently established authority (it began operating in May 2015) and does not yet have a settled practice, leaving it open to changes in practice almost every week.
An important development in Turkish immigration law is the Regulation that took effect on January 15, 2016. The Regulation sets out the principles with regard to the employment of foreign nationals who have been granted temporary protection by the Turkish government.
Pursuant to the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, "temporary protection" can be granted to foreign nationals who have been forced to leave their country, who cannot return to the country they left, and who have arrived at or crossed the Turkish borders in a mass influx, seeking urgent and temporary protection. The Council of Ministers has the authority to determine the period of the temporary protection.
Recently, a great number of Syrians have left their country due to the civil war and have arrived at or crossed the Turkish borders in need of urgent and temporary protection, and have been granted "temporary protection" by the Turkish government. It is also commonly known that most of these individuals are working in Turkey without work permits, in unsafe conditions, and for wages lower than the minimum statutory wage. Due to the high number of Syrians in Turkey, the government was pressured to enact a regulation that would set forth the principles on the employment of Syrians. In response to the crisis, the Turkish government thus enacted the Regulation.
As a rule, foreign nationals under temporary protection cannot work in Turkey without a work permit. These individuals, however, cannot apply for a work permit until six months have passed starting from the date they were registered as "an individual under temporary protection." In other words, the individual must have already been granted temporary protection by the Turkish government in order to apply for a work permit; it is not possible to apply for temporary protection and a work permit at the same time.
As an exception to the above rule, foreign nationals who are under temporary protection and who will work in seasonal agriculture or animal breeding can work without a work permit, but need to apply to the governorship of the city in which they have been granted temporary protection to obtain an exemption certificate. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security ("Ministry of Labor") has the authority to introduce limitations on the cities and quotas for foreign nationals under temporary protection who will work in seasonal agriculture or animal breeding.
If a foreign national wants to work for a specific employer, that employer must file the work permit application. However, foreign nationals who want to work independently may file the work permit application themselves.
Pursuant to the Regulation, the Ministry of Labor will introduce evaluation criteria for the work permit applications of foreign nationals under temporary protection. These individuals cannot occupy jobs that are permitted only for Turkish nationals, such as notary public, civil servant, judge, or prosecutor.
Foreign nationals who will work in the health and education sectors are required to obtain preliminary permits from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education or the Higher Education Institution, as applicable. The Ministry of Labor will cancel work permit applications if such prior permit has not been obtained.
The Ministry of Labor has the authority to stop issuing work permits in cities in which the Ministry of Interior has declared it would be inconvenient to issue work permits due to public order, public safety or public health. In such cities, work permits that have been previously issued will not be extended, but will continue to be valid until their expiry dates if the foreign national still has the right to reside in that city.
The Ministry of Labor has the right to apply different quotas for foreign nationals under temporary protection by taking into account the number of Turkish nationals in the workplace, vacant positions and recruitments in the relevant sector in different cities.
The number of foreign nationals under temporary protection working in a workplace cannot be more than 10% of the number of Turkish nationals in the workplace. If the total number of employees in the workplace is less than ten, a maximum of one foreign national under temporary protection can work in that workplace.
The Ministry of Labor has the authority not to apply this quota if the employer can document that it was unable to find a Turkish national who has the qualifications necessary for the work the relevant foreign national will carry out from the Turkish Employment Agency within the last four weeks of the work permit application.
Associations working for public weal and foundations that enjoy tax exempt status can apply directly to the Ministry of Labor to employ foreign nationals under temporary protection to work in humanitarian aid activities. Associations other than those working for public weal and representative offices or branches of foreign associations or foreign non-profit organizations that have their seat abroad must obtain the Ministry of Interior's approval to employ foreign nationals under temporary protection. If such approval cannot be obtained from the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Labor will cancel the work permit application.
Termination or cancellation of temporary protection will lead to the cancellation of the work permit.