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Sponsored immigration

New hires

What sponsored visas or work permits are available to employers seeking to hire foreign nationals in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Turkey has two main categories of work visa which are available in most circumstances: a standard work visa and an assembly and maintenance service (AMS) visa.

Work visas Work visas are valid for a maximum term of one year and are renewable. They also require a local entity sponsor and the applicant must meet certain experience requirements. The sponsoring Turkish entity (acting as the local employer) must also meet certain requirements, which must be maintained throughout the life of the work permit. These requirements include that:

  • the employer must have at least five Turkish citizen employees per registered worksite per foreign applicant, as evidenced on payroll records (the so-called ‘5:1 ratio’); and
  • the employer’s paid-in capital cannot be less than TL100,000.

As an alternative to the capital requirement, the employer can show:

  • gross annual sales amounting to TL 800,000; or
  • exports with a gross annual value of $250,000.

Certain exemptions from the 5:1 ratio exist but are granted infrequently. Again, the employer must maintain the criteria throughout the work permit period.

Once a work visa is filed abroad, a work permit application will subsequently be filed domestically in Turkey. Once approved by the Ministry of Labour, the work visa is issued at the same consular post abroad. The adjudication time is generally four to six weeks. At that point, the applicant may enter Turkey and complete his or her address registration with the local authorities. The employer must also comply with social security regulations.

AMS visa An AMS visa is valid for a maximum of 90 days (cumulative) over one year. This visa is issued only at consular posts abroad. It will be granted for short-term technical work for assembly, maintenance and service activities. An AMS visa applies to many categories of product including the assembly, maintenance and service (or training therein) of software, computer hardware, complex machinery, energy equipment, construction and manufacturing equipment. However, as the interpretation of ‘product’ or ‘service’ is not subject to Foreign Ministry guidance, in practice there are significant variations in interpretation from each consular.

Appropriate employees include technicians or technical workers, and this category is unsuitable for executives or non-technical managers. Employees holding this type of visa must continue to be paid outside Turkey by the foreign entity which sent them. The visa allows employees to work only in the locale and for the Turkish company which issued the support letter for the visa.

Applicants must apply for the visa at their home consular post, and a visa will normally be issued within one and seven business days.

Intra-company transfers

What sponsored visas or work permits are available to multinational employers seeking to transfer foreign employees to your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Turkey does not have a special work visa category for intra-company transferees. Normal work permit rules apply.

Do any special rules govern secondments?

No special criteria allows or recognises secondments. Normal work permit rules apply where the local work permit sponsor is fully responsible as an employer under Turkish law.

Sponsor requirements and considerations

What are the eligibility and procedural requirements for employers to sponsor foreign employees?

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

  • have at least five Turkish citizen employees per registered worksite per foreign applicant, as evidenced on payroll records (termed the ‘5:1 ratio’); and
  • have a paid-in capital of at least TL100,000.

As an alternative to the paid-in capital requirement, the employer can show:

  • gross annual sales amounting to TL800,000; or
  • exports with a gross annual value of $250,000.

Certain exemptions for the 5:1 ratio exist, but are not often granted by the ministry.

What ongoing reporting and record-keeping requirements apply to sponsors?

Employer-sponsors must report on an ongoing basis when the assignment ends or if fundamental changes occur during the validity of the work permit (eg, in salary, job title or worksite).

In what circumstances (if any) must the employer submit to resident labour market testing before hiring or transferring foreign employees? Do any exemptions apply?

Turkey imposes no labour market testing requirements on sponsoring employers.

Are there any annual quota limits or restrictions on certain positions that can be filled by foreign nationals?

There is no annual quota limits per se, as long as the employer meets the 5:1 ratio or is granted an exemption in this regard. That said, there are restrictions on certain professions, including lawyers, teachers and professors, engineers, architects, urban planners and those in the medical and veterinary fields.

In relation to work permits for engineers, architects and urban planners, unless qualifying for a project-based exemption, the ministry will request a diploma equivalency from applicants who have degrees. Obtaining a diploma equivalency takes approximately seven to nine months.

Are there any immigration exemptions or other special schemes for shortage occupations in your jurisdiction?

Turkey lists no shortage occupations for special consideration.

How long does it typically take to obtain a sponsored visa? Is expedited visa processing available?

Expedited visa processing is not officially available. The typical adjudication times from filing to issuance is four to six weeks.

What rules govern the hiring of foreign third-party contractors?

There is no official recognition of hiring third-party contractors as distinct from normal sponsorship for a work permit. In relation to work permits (as opposed to an AMS visa), the sponsor acts as the employer in Turkey. The submission of a service agreement does not limit the sponsorship responsibilities from an immigration perspective. However, for an AMS visa, this does not apply and the AMS holders are not considered employees of the host.

What are the penalties for sponsor non-compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations?

In Turkey, there are consequences to both the employer and the employee for not abiding by work authorisation and visa requirements.

The new Law on International Workforce (6735/2016) sets out the penalties for those who conduct inappropriate activities, including monetary fines for employers and fines and deportation for employees.

However, these fines are not the only risk associated with using unauthorised foreign workers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Ministry of Labour may blacklist employers that it knows to have abused work permit laws. Further, non-compliance with immigration laws often results in social security, labour and tax violations that generate their own administrative fines, penalties and late fees, which often accumulate to much higher amounts than immigration penalties. Finally, labour law violations (including those relating to work authorisations) may disqualify an employer from special corporate tax benefit programmes (eg, 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.

Are there any other special considerations for sponsors in your jurisdiction?

Work permit sponsors are considered employers in Turkey. As such, attention should be given to the responsibilities of an employer under Turkish employment law.

General employee requirements

Must sponsored employees meet any language requirements?

No.

Are sponsored employees subject to any medical checks?

No.

Must sponsored employees meet any medical or other insurance requirements?

Several consular posts require evidence that the applicant has medical coverage. In addition, if dependents of the assignee are applying for residence permits, evidence of local medical insurance coverage is required.

Are sponsored employees subject to any security or background checks?

Yes. Many consular posts require police clearance from the country of nationality or country of residence. Police clearance is also required if the dependents of the assignee are applying for residence permits.

Are sponsored employees subject to any restrictions on studying or working second or volunteer jobs?

Yes. Work permits are employer and worksite specific. Applicants cannot have two concurrent work permits for different employers.

Are there any rules or standards governing the equivalence of sponsored employees’ foreign qualifications?

Education equivalence is needed for positions in engineering, architecture, urban planning, and the medical or veterinary fields. Equivalencies may take months to obtain.

What are the penalties for employee non-compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations?

The penalties for non-compliance for 2018 include:

  • 475 TRY (Turkish Liras) (approximately 105 Euros) shall be imposed on an employer or a self-employed foreigner who does not fulfill the abovementioned notification requirement;
  • 2851 TRY (approximately 629 Euros) shall be imposed on the foreigner employee who works without a work permit;
  • 7130 TRY (approximately 1573 Euros) for each foreign employee shall be imposed on an employer (or employer representatives) employing illegal foreign workers; and
  • 5704 TRY (approximately 1258 Euros) shall be imposed on a self-employed foreigner who works without work permit and his/her work place shall be closed down.  

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