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Unsponsored immigration

Highly skilled individuals

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

No unsponsored immigration route is available until the assignee has accumulated eight years of lawful residence in Turkey or qualifies for a turquoise card. The authorities are not yet accepting applications for turquoise cards.

Entrepreneurs

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Turkey, via the Migration Directorate, has a short-term residence permit category for establishing a new business; however, in practice, this residence permit does not grant work authorisation. Therefore, it is not an effective immigration category.

Investors

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

In January 2017 Turkey promulgated regulations for the naturalisation of certain investors in Turkey. Those regulations allow certain foreign investors who provide between $1 million and $3 million in certain investments in Turkey (eg, real estate, government debt and Turkish banks) to apply for naturalisation. In most cases, that investment must remain for a minimum of three years. As this programme is less than one year old, it is unclear how well it is being implemented.

Ancestry

Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

There is an immigration permit called the blue card, which allows for certain people of Turkish decent (those who have renounced their Turkish citizenship) and their children to apply for a status which allows them nearly full Turkish citizenship rights, including work authorisation.

Other routes

Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?

As of 2016, turquoise cards are being offered under a new immigration visa programme; however, the Ministry of Labour has not implemented a procedure for the programme and is not yet accepting applications. The turquoise card programme has a sub-category allowing applicants to qualify without a sponsor. Further details will hopefully be provided in 2018.

Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship

Extensions and status changes

Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Assembly and maintenance service (AMS) visas cannot be extended or changed to another visa domestically.

Work permits are initially granted for a maximum of 12 months. Following this, a maximum two-year extension is possible. A subsequent three-year renewal is possible. Finally, once an assignee has lived in Turkey for eight continuous years, he or she may apply for an unlimited work permit.

Further, as of 2016, there is a new visa permit called the turquoise card. However, the Ministry of Labour is not yet accepting turquoise card applications.

Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?

An unlimited work permit can be granted only if the assignee has lawfully resided in Turkey for eight continuous years. As of 2016, a new immigrant visa permit called the turquoise card was created; however, the Ministry of Labour is not yet accepting applications.

Permanent residence

Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Work permits are granted for one year, and can then be renewed for two and then three years. Once an assignee has lawfully resided in Turkey for eight continuous years, he or she can apply for an unlimited work permit. This type of permit has the same requirements as a standard renewal, plus additional proof of compliance with security and background checks. Not everyone that meets the minimum qualification criteria will receive an unlimited permit, as these are issued on a discretionary basis.

Further, as of 2016, there is a new visa permit called the turquoise card. However, the Ministry of Labour is not yet accepting turquoise card applications.

Citizenship

Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Yes. There are several categories of eligibility for citizenship, but if the applicant is not married to a Turk or has no Turkish ancestry, the main category of naturalisation would be through five years of continuous legal residency in Turkey. However, a cumulative absence of 12 months  days will disqualify applicants, which is often a strong hindrance to qualifying for citizenship based on residency. Further, applicants must satisfy several over criteria relating to health, their criminal record, financial self-sufficiency and a basic understanding of Turkish (among other requirements).

Applicants married to a Turkish national for three or more years need not meet the 180-day requirement. All other criteria apply, in addition to the couple needing to “live in martial union”.

The naturalisation process generally takes from one to two years.

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