Turkey: The New International Labor Law And The Turquise Card System


With the increasing flow of FDI into Turkey in the past decade, the number of international employees have substantially escalated within the Turkish companies. In 2003, the government introduced the previous Law on the Foreigners' Work Permit (No. 4817) in order to meet the needs of the market by allowing the employment of the foreign employees and to comply with the relevant international standards.

In 2015 the total number of applications received from foreign employees for obtaining a work permit were eighty thousand in comparison to ten thousand in 2009. Therefore it was evident that the number of foreign employees wishing to locate to Turkey for working have increased significantly. It was also observed by the officials that Turkey had its share from the global workforce by benefitting from the highly skilled, qualified employees' immigration into the country which eventually led to the preparation of the new International Labor Law ("ILL").

The ILL entered into force on 12.08.2016 by being published within the official gazette. The Law aims to introduce a system that will increase the volume of FDI and the employment of highly skilled workers whereby strengthening the administrative structure and implementing a solid foreign employment policy.

According to the ILL the international labor policy will be determined by the Ministry Of Labor And Social Security ("the Ministry") by considering the decisions of the International Labor Policy Advisory Committee which include undersecretaries from the Ministry for EU Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, etc. Thereby a corporate infrastructure and a policy-based framework is aimed to be set by the ILL.

The Ministry will also establish the System of Application, Review and Monitoring to receive and review the employment applications and monitoring their effects of the international labor.

The System

According to Article 6, foreigners that are within the scope of the ILL shall not work in Turkey or be employed without a work permit. The Article 6 also stipulates that foreigners may work or be employed without a work permit pursuant to other laws which permit such employment or bilateral or multilateral or international treaties which Turkey is a party to.

In general there are four types of permits within the scope of the ILL which are general work permit, indefinite work permit, independent work permit and turquoise card.

The general work permit is granted to a foreign employee, upon affirmative review of the application, for a maximum period of one year provided that it does not extend the term of the contract of employment. The extensions of such permits shall be for a maximum period of two years for the first application for extension and three years for subsequent applications.

The indefinite work permit is granted to a foreigners who have a long term residency permit or a legal work permit of at least eight years. However holding such conditions do not entitle an absolute right to an indefinite work permit. The holder of an indefinite work permit shall benefit from all rights provided by a long term residency permit.

Unlike the Law No. 4817, the ILL expressly sets out that the manager of a limited company or the board member of a joint stock company whom is also a shareholder may obtain a work permit.

It is also specified by the ILL that independent work permit may be granted to foreigners whom are member of a professional occupation provided that the conditions set out under other legislation are complied with. The preamble of the ILL sets forth that independent work permit may be granted to foreigners that will be employed within professional occupations and are expected to make an ample contribution to the country.

The Turquoise Card and Exceptions from the Work Permits

The foremost revision to the permit system is the introduction of the turquoise card under the ILL. Pursuant to the Article 11, in accordance with the international labor policy, the turquoise card shall be given to foreigners upon affirmative review of their application. The review shall be made by taking the level of education, professional experience, and contribution to science and technology, the effect of their operation or investment to the national economy and employment, suggestions of the International Labor Policy Advisory Committee and as per the procedure and terms set out by the Ministry.

Under the turquoise card system, the persons with internationally accepted academic work or who are distinguished within a field of science, industry or technology that is deemed strategic or who has contributed or are projected to contribute to the national economy in terms of export, employment or investment capacity shall be deemed as qualified foreigners.

The turquoise card shall be granted with a three years period of transition of and the holders of the card will benefit from the rights provided by an indefinite work permit. A document which will be deemed as a residence permit shall also be given to the spouse and the dependent children of the holder of the turquoise card.

The Article 16 states that in accordance with the international labor policy determined by the Ministry, exceptions may be granted to foreigners which are defined as qualified workforce by considering their level of education, remuneration, professional experience, contribution to science and technology; to foreigners that are EU citizens; to foreigners which are deemed as qualified investor by considering their contribution to science and technology, level of investment and export and similar specifications, etc.

The Exemptions for Board Members

The ILL also sets forth an exemption under Article 13 for board members of joint stock companies who do not reside in Turkey and shareholders of limited companies without an executive authority.

The Regulation

The conditions, procedure of application, the foreigners that may be evaluated within the scope of an exemption, the terms and procedure for exceptions, the details and grounds of the point scoring system pertaining to the work permits and other similar matters in relation to the application of the ILL will be set within a regulation that will be prepared by the Ministry as per the Article 25.

The Existing Permits

The existing work permits provided pursuant to the previous Law on the Foreigners' Work Permit will continue to be valid until the end of their term.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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