On 13 August 2016, the International Work Force Law No: 6735 (the “Law”) entered into force, repealing the Law on Work Permits of Foreigners. Along with slight amendments to work permit application procedures, the main novelties brought by the Law are: (i) establishment of the International Work Force Policy Council (the “Council”), which will be comprised of several undersecretaries under the presidency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (the “Ministry”); (ii) the Turquoise Card, which will be granted to some foreigners instead of a work permit; and (iii) changes to the work permits of foreign board members and managers of capital companies.  

The International Work Force Policy Council: The main duty of the Council will be to determine international work force policy in light of developments in working life; sectoral and economic changes; development plans and programs; economic, social and cultural relations with foreign countries; international agreements; public order; health and security. The Council will also accept, review and provide recommendations regarding work permit and Turquoise Card applications. 

The Turquoise Card: The Turquoise Card will be available to persons deemed to have sufficient education, occupational experience and contributions to technology, employment and the economy in Turkey by the Council and the Ministry. The Card provides all of the benefits of the unlimited work permit; however, during the first three years after the application (referred to as the “transitional period”) the Ministry might request additional documents and information from the employer and the foreigner. Additionally, holders of the Turquoise Card must apply for the removal of the “transitional period” record on their cards within 180 days before the transitional period ends. If a holder fails to do so, the application will be rejected and the Card will be cancelled. The Card also provides a residential permit for the spouse and dependent children of the Card holder. 

Work Permit Requirements for the Management Personnel of Capital Companies: The Law removes uncertainty regarding work permit requirements for managers and members of boards of directors. Accordingly, work permits are required for foreigners who are managers of limited liability companies; board members of joint stock companies; or managing unlimited partners of limited partnerships divided into shares. Work permits are not required for board members of joint stock companies who are not resident in Turkey or shareholders who do not have a management role. 

Changes to Work Permit Procedures

The Law makes the following key changes to the work permit application procedures:

  • Intermediary firms are entitled to apply for a work permit or work permit exemption on behalf of the foreigner or the employer.
  • A work permit shall also be deemed as a residence permit.
  • Work permit holders who applied from outside of Turkey must enter Turkey within six months from the date the permit was issued - otherwise, the work permit shall be cancelled.
  • Work permit extensions may only be made for a maximum of three years and extension applications must be made within 60 days before the expiration date.
  • The Law also provides a list of persons who can receive a work permit without following the work permit procedure, including (i) foreigners deemed as skilled labour due to their level of education, salary, occupational experience, contribution to science and technology, etc.; (ii) foreigners deemed as skilled investors due to their contribution to science and technology, export or investment levels, employment that they create, etc.; (iii) nationals of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; (iv) EU Member State nationals; and (v) cross-border service providers (foreigners who came to Turkey to provide services on a temporary basis and paid in Turkey or from abroad).