General framework

Legislation

What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?

The primary legislation governing immigration in Turkey includes:

  • the Law on Foreigners and International Protection (6458);
  • the Implementing Regulations on the Law on Foreigners and International Protection;
  • the International Workforce Law (6735); and
  • the Application Regulations of the Law on Work Permits of Foreigners.

The secondary legislation governing immigration in Turkey includes:

  • the Turquoise Card Regulations;
  • the Regulations on Citizenship Relating to Investors;
  • the Press Card Regulations;
  • the Free Trade Zone Regulations; and
  • the Petroleum Law (6491).
International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

The Free Trade Zone Regulations and the Free Trade Zone Programme provide for a different immigration procedure; however, these are not international agreements.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

The three main agencies which regulate immigration in Turkey are:

  • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (responsible for visa issuance);
  • the Ministry of the Interior (responsible for residence permit issuance, citizenship and passport control); and
  • the Ministry of Labour (responsible for work permit issuance).

Some decisions of these ministries can be appealed. Denial of a work permit by the Ministry of Labour may be appealed, as can denials of residence permits or citizenship.

Government policy

In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?

Turkey’s policy towards business immigration primarily supports foreign direct investment and allows for the immigration of individuals with special skills, while still protecting the local workforce and domestic security.

Short-term transfers

Visas

In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?

The main categories of short-term visa available in most circumstances are:

  • a standard visitor visa; and
  • an assembly and maintenance service (AMS) visa.

Visitor visasIf a party wishing to enter Turkey as a business visitor is ineligible for an electronic visa or is not from a visa-free nation, they must obtain a consular-issued visitor visa.

If the business visitor is eligible to receive an electronic visa, it is issued immediately online. If a consular visitor visa is required, the timeline for issuance is one to seven days, depending on the appointment backlog at the consulate.

AMS visasAn AMS visa is valid for a maximum of 90 days (cumulative) in a 12-month period. These are issued only at consular posts abroad for short-term technical work involving assembly, maintenance and service activities. An AMS visa applies to many categories of product, including the assembly, maintenance and service (or training thereon) of:

  • software;
  • computer hardware;
  • complex machinery;
  • energy equipment; and
  • construction and manufacturing equipment.

However, as the interpretation of what constitutes a product or service is not subject to Foreign Ministry guidance, in practice there are significant variations in each consulate’s interpretation of these concepts. Eligible employees include technicians and technical workers; this category is unsuitable for executives or non-technical managers.

Applicants must apply for an AMS visa at their home consular post. Visas will normally be issued within one to seven business days.

Restrictions

What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?

Visitor visasVisitors cannot perform productive work or receive remuneration for activities performed in Turkey. Visitors should limit their activities mainly to those that benefit an entity abroad – for example:

  • attending meetings or conferences with colleagues, clients or customers;
  • engaging in or receiving training; and
  • collecting data or undertaking research.

AMS visasEmployees holding this type of visa must continue to be paid outside Turkey by the foreign entity for which they perform the work in Turkey. The visa allows employees to work only in the designated locale and for the Turkish company which issued the support letter for the visa.

Short-term training

Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?

In many circumstances, employees on a visitor visa can receive short-term training. This should be provided in a manner that does not result in productive work (preferably in a classroom setting) and cannot be remunerated. It is strongly suggested that this type of stay be as short as possible in order to avoid compliance issues.

Transit

Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?

If a foreign national’s transit period is less than 24 hours and they will not leave the airport transit lounge, there is no need to obtain a transit visa. If the traveller intends to pass through immigration or passport control, or stay in Turkey overnight for a connection, a visa is required even though they are in transit.

Visa waivers and fast-track entry

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

There is an extensive list of nations whose citizens do not require a visa to visit Turkey. Most other nationals are eligible for electronic visas, which have a same-day turnaround. No other fast-track entry programmes are available.

Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

The main permit category used by companies to apply for long-term transfers of skilled staff is the work visa/work permit category.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The local entity sponsor and the applicant must collect documents to evidence that they meet all of the eligibility criteria. The applicant may then submit a work visa application to the relevant consular post abroad. Within 10 days, a work permit application will subsequently be filed domestically in Turkey. Once approved by the Ministry of Labour, the work visa will be issued at the same consular post abroad. At that point, the applicant may enter Turkey and complete their address registration with the local authorities.

The employee may commence employment in Turkey immediately after entering Turkey on a work visa, provided that the company has complied with all Turkish social security registration requirements.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

Work permits are initially valid for a maximum of one year and are renewable for two and then three-year increments.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

The typical adjudication period from the filing of a work visa application to the issuance of a work permit is four to six weeks.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

Consular posts generally require travel insurance as part of a work visa application. Additional requirements apply to the dependants of foreign staff.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

For work permits, the employer must be a Turkish legal entity and evidence that it meets sponsorship criteria. Specifically, the employer must:

  • have at least five Turkish citizen employees per registered worksite per foreign applicant, as evidenced by payroll records (the so-called ‘five-to-one ratio’);
  • have a paid-in capital of at least TL100,000. Alternatively, the employer can show gross (assumedly annual) sales amounting to TL800,000 or exports with a gross annual value of $250,000;
  • complete the Turkish company registration procedure using the ministry’s online system; and
  • ensure that the salary to be paid to the foreign employee is commensurate with the position considered.

A work permit may be denied based on some subjective criteria relating to the overall impact on business or social conditions in Turkey (eg, the conditions of the company’s sector or the broader economy), national security and public welfare concerns.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

Turkey has a special citizenship programme for parties willing to invest in Turkey. However, with regard to work authorisation, although the Turquoise Card Programme includes certain investors, it has yet to be implemented by the authorities.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

Turkey has a special citizenship programme for parties willing to invest in Turkey. However, with regard to work authorisation, although the Turquoise Card Programme includes certain investors, it has yet to be implemented by the authorities.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

In 2016 Turkey announced the Turquoise Card Programme, a new immigration visa programme which also covers certain highly skilled individuals who do not have a sponsor. However, the Ministry of Labour has not implemented the programme and is not yet accepting applications. The Turquoise Card Programme has a sub-category which allows applicants to qualify without a sponsor. Further details will hopefully be provided in 2019 or 2020.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

An immigration permit known as the blue card allows certain people of Turkish descent (ie, those who have renounced their Turkish citizenship) and their children to apply for a visa status which allows them almost the same rights as Turkish citizens, including work authorisation.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

Yes. Foreign employees must be paid a salary commensurate with the position considered. Specifically, the following rules apply:

  • High-level managers and pilots cannot be paid less than six-and-a-half times the minimum wage (or TL16,629.60 gross per month).
  • Department managers, engineers and architects cannot be paid less than four times the minimum wage (or TL10,233.60 gross per month).
  • Employees who will work in a position requiring expertise (which is not defined) and teachers cannot be paid less than three times the minimum wage (or TL7,675.20 gross per month).
  • Employees who will work as acrobats or in similar positions for tourism or animation organisations, as well as masseurs and spa therapists, cannot be paid less than two times the minimum wage (or TL5,116.80 gross per month).
  • All others (ie, sales staff and law-level marketing officers) cannot be paid less than one-and-a-half times the minimum wage (or TL3,837.60 gross per month).
  • Household workers cannot be paid less than the minimum wage.
Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

Turkey imposes no labour market testing requirements on sponsoring employers. There is also no quota on work permits; however, a five-to-one ratio per worksite applies.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

Turkey recognises no shortage occupations which enjoy special consideration.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

No.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

Turkey does not officially recognise a route for hiring third-party contractors other than the normal work permit sponsorship route. In relation to work permits (as opposed to assembly and maintenance service (AMS) visas), the sponsor acts as the employer in Turkey. The submission of a service agreement does not limit the sponsor’s responsibilities from an immigration perspective. However, this requirement does not apply for AMS visas and AMS visa holders are not considered employees of their host.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

In relation to work permits for engineers, architects and urban planners, unless they qualify for a project-based exemption, the ministry will request a diploma equivalency from applicants who have foreign degrees in these fields. Obtaining a diploma equivalency takes approximately 10 to 15 months.

Extensions and variations

Short-term to long-term status

Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?

Short-term visas cannot be converted in-country to a work permit. However, conversion to a residence permit is possible in some cases. If tourist or business visitors need to remain in Turkey for more than 90 days, a residence permit application appointment must be booked with the local migration directorate in the locality that they are visiting within:

  • the duration of their approved stay; or
  • 90 days of entry, whichever is earlier.

The residence card will allow applicants to remain in Turkey for up to one year. However, this type of residence permit does not confer on the holder any authorisation to work or conduct business activities.

AMS visas cannot be extended or changed to another status domestically.

Long-term extension

Can long-term immigration permission be extended?

Work permits are initially granted for a maximum of one year. Following this, a maximum two-year extension is possible. A subsequent three-year renewal is also possible. Finally, once an assignee has lived in Turkey for eight continuous years, they may apply for an unlimited work permit. However, this is discretionary. There are no legal restrictions to the number of work permit extensions that can be approved.

Exit and re-entry

What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?

Once issued an initial work visa, the assignee may enter Turkey on a single-entry work visa. The assignee must collect from their employer their original work or residence card, which will allow them to travel freely in and out of Turkey during its validity period.

Permanent residency and citizenship

How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?

Once an assignee has lawfully resided in Turkey for eight continuous years, they 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. Notably, the Ministry of Labour recently temporarily suspended the issuance of unlimited work permits for technical reasons. It is unknown when this suspension will end.

There are several categories of eligibility for citizenship. If an applicant is not married to a Turkish national or has no Turkish ancestry, the main category of naturalisation will be through five years of continuous legal residency in Turkey. A cumulative absence of 180 days will disqualify applicants, which is often a strong hindrance to qualifying for citizenship based on residency. Further, applicants must satisfy several other criteria relating to their health, criminal record and financial self-sufficiency and demonstrate 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 living in martial union.

The naturalisation process generally takes between one to two years.

End of employment

Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?

Yes. If the assignment ends before the work permit expires, a cancellation notice must be electronically filed with the Work Permit Directorate within 15 days of the assignment’s end date. However, if the assignee is not leaving their employer, but rather has been promoted to a new position with the same employer at the same workplace, a notification petition may be sufficient, depending on certain factors.

Employee restrictions

Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?

Work permits are employer and worksite specific. Applicants cannot have two concurrent work permits for different employers, so no additional concurrent employers are permissible. If a permit holder’s salary is reduced, a notification must be submitted to the Ministry of Labour showing that it still meets the minimum salary criteria. If a permit holder is promoted to a new position with the same employer at the same worksite, a notification petition may be sufficient, depending on certain factors.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant?

Only lawful spouses and minors (ie, individuals who are under 18 years old) qualify as dependants.

Conditions and restrictions

Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?

Eligible dependants of work permit holders have the right to reside with the principal work permit holder, but not to work. Dependants who wish to work must independently qualify for a work permit.

Dependants who hold valid residence permits may attend primary and secondary school in Turkey.

Access to social benefits

What social benefits are dependants entitled to?

Dependants may have access to healthcare and the right to receive a pension under certain circumstances. Once a dependant turns 18 years old, they must independently qualify for immigration status.

Other requirements, restrictions and penalties

Criminal convictions

Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?

Criminal convictions which might be considered a threat to public security and order may lead a work permit application to be rejected.  Many consular posts require police clearance from the country of nationality or country of residence during work visa filing.

Penalties for non-compliance

What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?

In Turkey, there are consequences for both employers and employees which fail to abide by the work authorisation and visa requirements.

Monetary finesAs of 2019, the following immigration penalties apply in Turkey:

TL587 (approximately €98) will be imposed on employers or self-employed foreigners who do not fulfil the relevant notification requirement.TL3,527 (approximately €578) will be imposed on foreign employees who work without a valid work permit.TL8,821 (approximately €1,445) per foreign employee will be imposed on employers (or employer representatives) that employ illegal foreign workers.TL7,057 (approximately €1,155) will be imposed on self-employed foreigners who work without a valid work permit. In addition, their workplace will be closed down.

In case of a second violation by a foreign employee or an employer, the applicable penalty fees will double.

Non-monetary sanctions/consequencesImmigration non-compliance often results in social security, labour and tax violations which generate their own administrative fines, penalties and late fees that often accumulate to much higher amounts than immigration penalties. Further, many labour law violations (including those relating to work authorisation) disqualify employers from special corporate tax benefit programmes, such as those provided for in the Foreign Direct Investment Law and social security incentives. These types of penalty can be far more onerous than the amounts indicated above.

Language requirements

Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?

No.

Medical screening

Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?

No.

Secondment

Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?

Work permits are employer and workplace specific, so secondment from the sponsor to a client site does not comply with the law. Normal work permit rules apply where the local work permit sponsor is fully responsible as an employer under Turkish law.

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Work permitsAs of 26 February 2018, any sponsor of a work permit must use the Ministry of Labour (MOL’s) special online system, which requires employers to have an e-signature tool issued by a government-designated agency. Therefore, as of this date, no work permit applications can be logged without the company-sponsor using its e-signature tool. Each company’s designated social security e-notification authority – which is also the e-signature holder – must complete a MOL company registration through the online system and authorise the relevant companies to pursue upcoming work permit applications.

CitizenshipOn 18 September 2018 Turkey announced a lowering of the financial thresholds for citizenship by investment. Parties now qualify for citizenship where they invest $250,000 in real estate or deposit $500,000 in banks operating in Turkey for at least three years, although several restrictions apply.

Law stated date

Correct on

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

25 June 2019.