Foreigners have the right to work in Turkey within the framework of international law.1 Benefiting from the fundamental rights in the Turkish Constitution by foreigners is subject to certain restrictions in accordance with international law. In this bulletin, we will convey the most frequently asked questions about the subject such as the conditions required for foreigners to benefit from the right to work in Turkey, the procedure to be followed, the necessary applications and documents, foreigners who need and do not need a work permit.
1. What Limitations Are Foreigners' Right to Work Subject to?
General rules regarding the employment of foreigners in Turkey are regulated in the International Labor Law No. 6735. According to this law, the employment of foreigners in Turkey is conditional upon obtaining a work permit from the competent authority.2 Persons who have obtained a work permit or are exempted from a work permit by law can work in Turkey and benefit from social security rights related to the right to work.
- A foreigner cannot work in Turkey without obtaining the necessary work permit; It is forbidden to operate and is subject to administrative fines.3
- Foreigners are not allowed to work in some sectors and occupations.4
2. Which Authority is Competent to Grant Work Permit?
The competent authority in the work permit application process is the Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Security.5
3. What Are The Types Of Work Permits?6
- Temporary Work Permit: According to the International Labor Law, a foreigner whose work permit application is evaluated positively is given a maximum of a one-year work permit at the first application. With a temporary work permit, the foreigner can work in a certain job in a specific workplace belonging to a real or legal person or public institution or organization or in their workplaces in the same business line. If the foreigner applies for an extension of the work permit with the same employer and it is positive, the first extension period is a maximum of 2 years; in the next extension applications, it will be 3 years at the most.
- Indefinite Work Permit: Foreigners who have a long-term residence permit or a work permit for at least eight years in Turkey can apply for an indefinite work permit. However, it is not enough for the foreigner to meet the application requirements alone. The Ministry has the discretion to grant an indefinite work permit. A foreigner who has an indefinite work permit can benefit from all the rights enjoyed by a long-term residence permit.
- Independent Work Permit: Professional foreigners can be granted an independent work permit, provided that the special conditions specified in other laws are met.
- Turquoise Card: Turquoise Card is given to foreigners whose application is deemed appropriate in accordance with the procedures and principles determined by the Ministry, thanks to the positive contribution of their activity or investment in Turkey to the country's economy and employment for reasons such as their contribution to science and technology, education, professional experience, and capital share if they are a foreign company partner.
4. How To Apply For A Work Permit?
Work permit applications can be made in two ways, from abroad or domestically. The fundamental is the application from abroad.
In order to be able to apply from within the country, the foreigner must have a valid residence permit for at least 6 months.
ATTENTION: Considering7 that the work permit mostly provides the right of residence in Turkish law, it may be more advantageous to apply from abroad in order not to increase the number of bureaucratic procedures to be made. However, it is convenient to carry out all applications by proxy, by first obtaining a short-term residence permit and then applying for a work permit from Turkey through the person you will authorize by proxy. Since the advantage in this matter will vary according to your sector or foreign investor qualification, you can ask our expert team to help you by identifying the most practical and advantageous way for you and informing you.
The Turkish foreign representatives and the Ministry follow up the work permit applications to be made from abroad in an electronic environment. What the foreigner has to do is to apply to the Turkish consulates in the country where he/she is a citizen or legally located, with an employment contract, assignment letter, or documents showing the company partnership. It is possible for the employer in Turkey to apply for a work permit through the online system with the reference number given to him/her by the foreign representative office to which the foreigner applies. The employer must submit the electronic application and the necessary information and documents to the Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Services in person or by mail to the representative offices, within ten working days following the application date.8
It is possible to submit applications from within the country electronically. Foreigners who have a residence permit valid for at least six months on the date of application or their employers can apply for a work permit. The documents required for the application must be submitted to the Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Services in person or by mail within six working days following the electronic application.
5. What Are The Necessary Documents For Applying For A Work Permit?9
The documents required for the work permit application differ depending on whether the applicant is an employer or a foreign person. Some of these documents are scanned during the electronic application and sent only electronically. On the other hand, wet signed copies of some documents must be submitted to the Ministry separately. Detailed information on this subject is presented below;
1. Documents Required from the Foreign Employer Institution
The following documents requested from the foreign employer institution are only scanned during the electronic application and submitted online.
- Turkish Trade Registry Gazette showing the latest capital and partnership structure of the organization
- Balance sheet and profit/loss statement for the last year approved by the tax office or certified public accountant
- Information and documents proving that the workplace is within the scope of Special Foreign Direct Investments
- Document proving that organizations (including consortia) that have the right to carry out projects for which international tenders have been opened by public institutions and organizations have undertaken the work to be received from the relevant institution and organization.
- Payroll to prove that Turkish engineers/architects/urban planners are employed in the same profession in legal entities that will employ foreign experts within the scope of engineering, architecture, contracting and consultancy services.
- Notarized power of attorney of the person authorized to make the electronic application as a user on behalf of the institution and organization that will employ foreign personnel, or a document showing that the person in the capacity of user works in the institution or organization making the application.
It is not enough to send the following documents electronically; must be physically submitted to the Ministry.
- Application Petition: The petition containing the work permit request must be scanned and forwarded during the electronic application and also handed over to the relevant authority by the employer with an original signature.
- Foreign personnel application form: The form to be filled in electronically is sent to the Ministry as a paper copy after it is printed and signed by the employer and the foreigner. In the absence of a signed form, an employment contract between the parties is sent. If the form is unsigned and there is no employment contract, the application will not be processed.
2. Documents Required from Foreign Person
The following documents requested from the foreign person are only scanned during the electronic application and submitted online.
- Passport copy: in cases where the passport is not written in Latin letters, the official translation must be added to the application.
- Diploma or Temporary Graduation Equivalency Certificate of the foreigner who requests a work permit within the scope of professional services: In addition to the above documents, if the applicant has higher education abroad, he/she must also send the equivalence certificate to be obtained in accordance with the "Overseas Higher Education Diploma Equivalency Regulation".
- In case the foreigner is in the status of key personnel, the information, and documents stipulated in Article 10/b of the Regulation on Employment of Foreign Personnel in Foreign Direct Investments
- For domestic applications, a copy of a residence permit, valid for at least six months at the date of application.
- Copy of diploma or temporary graduation certificate: It must be officially translated into Turkish and approved by the competent authorities. ATTENTION: this document must be submitted both electronically and on paper.
- If the foreigner requesting a work permit does not have a valid residence permit, it is obligatory to apply for a work permit to the Republic of Turkey representations in the country where the foreigner is a citizen or permanently residing abroad, by submitting a document showing the employment contract or company partnership.
- A work permit application can be made directly to the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services if it is proven(By submitting a certified copy of the letter or passport showing the visa and entry date from the Police Department.) that the foreigner, who is key personnel to be employed in companies that meet at least one of the criteria for Foreign Direct Investments with Specialty, is legally present in Turkey. In this context, foreigners in the status of key personnel who are given work permits must enter Turkey by obtaining a work visa from the foreign representatives of the Republic of Turkey.
6. When Should a Foreigner Who Has a Work Permit Document Enter Turkey?
The person who obtains a work permit must enter Turkey within 6 months from the validity date of the permit.10 If he/she does not, the work permit loses its validity, and re-application is required. In addition, foreigners who enter Turkey by obtaining a work permit from the consulates must register with the Address Registration System in Turkey within twenty working days following the date of entry into the country.
7. How Long Does the Work Permit Application Process Take?
Work permit applications made in accordance with the relevant legislation are finalized by the Ministry within thirty days at the latest, provided that the documents are complete. In case the application is made with missing documents, the Ministry informs the applicant by requesting the application and the completion of the missing documents. In this case, the thirty-day period starts from the date the missing documents are submitted to the Ministry.11
8. Who is Exempted from Work Permit?
Persons who are expected to contribute to the country with the services they will render to the country in our laws and whose protection is deemed beneficial due to their characteristics are exempted from a work permit. Foreigners who are exempted from a work permit do not need to obtain a work permit to work in Turkey. However, even if they are exempt from obtaining a work permit, they are responsible for complying with the following rules and fulfilling the conditions;12
- They must obtain a residence permit by informing the General Directorate of Migration Management within the provincial governorship of the province where they will be assigned, within thirty days at the latest from the date of their entry into the country, and in any case, before starting their activities, with the information about the purpose of their arrival, how long and where they will stay.
- They have to fulfill their obligations regarding social security.
- They are obliged to comply with the obligations specified in special laws.
- Foreign architects, engineers, and city planners, who are within the scope of professional services and subject to exemption provisions, must complete their academic and professional qualifications, obtain a work permit from the Ministry, become a temporary member of the relevant professional organization, and comply with the practices of national institutions and organizations if their service period exceeds one month.
Provided that they comply with the obligations we have mentioned, it is possible for a foreigner who fulfills at least one of the following conditions to work in Turkey without the need for a work permit;13
- Those who are exempted from a work permit under bilateral or multilateral agreements to which Turkey is a party,
- Foreigners whose permanent residence is abroad and who will come to Turkey temporarily for less than one month for scientific, cultural, and artistic activities and less than four months for sports activities,
- For the purpose of assembling, maintaining, and repairing machinery and equipment imported to Turkey, providing training on their use or taking delivery of the equipment or repairing the malfunctioning vehicles in Turkey; Those who come to Turkey on condition that they do not exceed three months in total within one year from the date of entry and prove this with the documents to be submitted,
- Those who are in Turkey for the purpose of training on the use of goods and services exported or imported from Turkey, provided that they do not exceed three months in total within one year from the date of entry to Turkey and that this situation is proven with the documents to be submitted,
- Those who are present at fairs and circuses that will operate outside the borders of certified tourism enterprises, provided that they do not exceed six months from the date of entry to Turkey as a show or similar officer and that they prove this with the documents to be submitted,
- Foreigners who come to universities and public institutions and organizations to increase their knowledge and experience by proving their status with documents to be submitted, not exceeding two years and limited to the education period,
- Those who are notified by the relevant authorities that they can provide important services and contributions to Turkey in socio-cultural and technological fields and education in a period not exceeding six months,
- During the program of the foreigners who will come within the scope of the programs carried out by the European Union Education and Youth Programs Center (National Agency),
- Foreigners who will undergo internship within the framework of international intern student programs, the scope and duration of which have been agreed by the Ministry, the Ministry of Interior and Foreign Affairs, and the Council of Higher Education,
- Tour operator representative foreigners who come to Turkey, provided that their term of office does not exceed eight months,
- During the contracts of foreign football players, other athletes, and coaches whose demands are approved by the Turkish Football Federation or the General Directorate of Youth and Sports,
- Foreign seafarers who work on ships registered in the Turkish International Ship Registry and working outside the cabotage line, who have received a "Certificate of Conformity" from the relevant administration in accordance with the I/10 Rule of the International Convention on the Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Standards of Seafarers,
- Foreign experts assigned to projects carried out within the scope of Turkey-EU Financial Cooperation Programs are not required to obtain work permits during their duties.
Exemption periods cannot be extended. In addition, foreigners within the scope of subparagraphs (b), (d), (f), and (h) benefit from the exemption provisions only once in a calendar year.
9. How to Apply for Work Permit Exemption?
Work permit exemption applications can be made in two ways, domestically and abroad. Applications to be made from within the country are made to the Ministry, and applications from abroad are made to the Turkish foreign representations.14
In order to obtain a foreign exemption permit, the applicant must prove with documents that he/she has at least one of the conditions listed above.
It is forbidden for foreigners to work in Turkey without a work permit. Otherwise, employers may have to pay administrative fines and some costs. It should also be reminded that in our laws, this issue is associated with some crimes and is subject to criminal sanctions. For these reasons, the person who wants to work in Turkey as an employee or employer must obtain a work permit duly. As with different types of work permits, they also differ according to sectors and investments made. In this bulletin, we have contented ourselves with only mentioning the general rules. However, for instance, work permits to be obtained within the scope of foreign direct investments are very different from this procedure. For detailed information on this subject, you can take a look at our bulletins on "Obtaining a Work Permit by Establishing a Company or Being a Partner in a Turkish company" ( https://www.solmazlaw.com/en/obtaining-work-permit-for-foreigners-by-founding-a-company-in-turkey-or-being-a-partner-in-a-turkish-company/ ), "Foreign Direct Investments and Work Permits for Special Foreign Investments"( https://www.solmazlaw.com/en/employee-and-employer-work-permits-in-foreign-direct-investments/).
Although we try to answer the questions in your mind with these bulletins, our explanations are bound to be incomplete due to the complexity and technicality of the subject and the abundance of bureaucratic procedures to be made in practice. Since missing documents or incorrect applications can lead to loss of time and money, it is very important for the process to be carried out smoothly, so that you seek help from expert lawyers for such transactions. The expert staff of our team in the field of Foreigners Law will be pleased to provide you with legal services on the subject.
1. Early, Baki, 2018, Türkiye'de Yabancıların Çalışması, Seçkin Yayıncılık, Ankara, p.80-81;
Article 49/1 of the Constitution; Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions.
2. Article 6/2 of the International Labour Law.
3. ERKEN, ibid., p.105.
4. ERKEN, ibid., p.89-99.
5. Article 3/1(b,c) of the International Labour Law.
6. Access: (https://www.ailevecalisma.gov.tr/uigm/calisma-izni/izin-turleri/); Article 10 of the International Labour Law.
7. ERGİN, Hediye, 2017, Türk Hukukunda Yabancıların Çalışma İzinleri, Beta Yayıncılık, İstanbul, p.100-101.
10. Article 12/2 of the International Labour Law; See also. ERGİN, ibid., p.105.
12. ERKEN, ibid., p.111-115.
13. Article 55 of the IMPLEMENTATION REGULATION OF THE LAW ON WORK PERMITS OF FOREIGNERS.
14. ERKEN, ibid., p.113.
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.