Turkey has introduced a new immigration regime for foreigners similar to 'Green Card' issued by U.S., titled 'Turquoise Card'.
Ministry of Labour and Social Security has recently issued a Turquoise Card Regulation at the Official Legislation Journal dated March 14, 2017 as the new secondary legislation in order to regulate the procedures and principles regarding the application, evaluation and transition period for Turquoise Card as well as the rights granted to Turquoise Card holder and his/her relatives.
According to this Regulation, Turquoise Card is defined as a document granting indefinite right to work and residency in Turkey to its holder and residence permit to his/her determined relatives.
Who Can Apply
Turquoise card is not for all foreign citizens willing to reside in Turkey, one needs to have special qualifications to become eligible. Accordingly, Turquoise Card may be issued to foreigners who;
a) Are evaluated to be highly qualified labor with their education, salary, professional knowledge and experience, contribution in science and technology and similar qualifications;
b) Are evaluated to be highly qualified investor with their investment or export level, size of the employment they will provide, contribution in scientific and technological development and similar qualifications,
c) Contribute in scientific and technological development or who are scientists or researchers who conduct studies which are considered to be strategic on the international level in terms of the country's interest in the fields of science, industry and technology,
d) Are successful on the international level in cultural, artistic or sportive activities,
e) Contribute in the international recognition or promotion of Turkey or the Turkish Culture and carry out international activities in relation to national interests of Turkey.
As noted above, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security ("Ministry") has a wide discretion to evaluate eligibility of such foreigners by grouping them in five categories with regard mainly to their educational level, professional experience, effect of their investments or commercial activities on Turkish economy and employment, internationally recognized strategic studies and researches in the field of science, industry and technology, level of their international achievements in cultural, artistic or sportive activities, and contributions to the international recognition or promotion of Turkey or Turkish culture.
How to Apply
Turquoise Card application can be submitted directly on the Ministry Foreigner Application, Evaluation and Monitoring System ("System") if the foreigner is legally residing in Turkey with his/her foreigner identity number in the country. It should be noted that foreigners who apply for this Turquoise Card legally being present in Turkey do not need to hold a valid residence permit. As to the foreigners residing abroad, they can apply through the Foreign Delegation of Turkey in the relevant country where the foreigner is a citizen or is legally present. In this case, information and documents regarding the applications made abroad are transferred to the Ministry electronically by the foreign delegation of Turkey. Additionally, as the third option, Turquoise Card application may also be submitted by an authorized intermediary firm on behalf of the foreigner in the country or abroad.
It is worth highlighting that this Turquoise Card holder's relative, who is defined as Turquoise Card holder's foreign spouse and Turquoise Card holder's or his/her spouse's minor and dependant foreign children, can apply for the residence permit, providing the marriage certificate for the spouse and the certificates demonstrating the parenthood or dependency for the child, if any. In this case, this residence permit application should be submitted to the Ministry according to Turquoise Card application procedure and at the same time with such application.
Following documents are uploaded to the System during Turquoise Card application:
a) Application form,
b) Copy of the passport or equivalent document of the foreigner,
c) Certificate of conformity taken from related public organization or institution, if any,
d) For the foreigners with specific qualifications noted above the documents below (or the ones listed at the official web site of the General Directorate of Immigration):
- Diploma, labor contract, CV, assignment or appointment letter, internationally accepted documents specifying professional experience and foreign languages other than the native language for the foreigners who are evaluated to be qualified labor,
- Documents specifying the size of investment, employment level, export amount, financial competence and area, sector and line of work for the foreigners who are evaluated to be qualified investor,
- Diploma, documents specifying academic career and title, academic studies or license, trademark or patent certificates for scientist or researchers,
- Certificates of achievements for the foreigners who became successful on national and international level in cultural, artistic or sportive activities,
- Certificates on activities carried out on the international level as Turquoise volunteer, literary and artistic works, certificates regarding promotion activities containing information such as duration, sustainability, continuity and impact area for the foreigners who contribute in recognition and promotion of Turkey or Turkish culture.
Once the above mentioned documents are submitted, evaluation of the application process will be initiated.
Evaluation and Result of Application
During the evaluation process of Turquoise Card application, a point-based scoring system established for each above-mentioned five categories within the scope of criteria determined by the General Directorate of International Labour Force ("General Directorate") according to the international labour policy will be used as the selective mechanism for the assessment of applicants.
For each type of above mentioned eligible foreigners, different criterion will be taken as basis for preparation of the scoring system. For instance, for the foreigners who are evaluated to be qualified labour, including but not limited to their educational background, the reputation of the higher education institution where they studied and their salary; for foreigners who are evaluated to be qualified investor, including but not limited to documented or contracted investment, export or employment level and qualification of the sector; for scientists or researchers, including but not limited to academic title, experience in internationally recognized higher education institutions or organizations which stand out in science and technology; for foreign athletes, including but not limited to individual or club license in their branch and achievements in national or international individual or team competitions; for foreigners who have literary and artistic works; including but not limited to recognition of their works and national or international awards; for foreigners who contribute in recognition or promotion of Turkey or Turkish culture, including but not limited to promotion activities including information such as duration, sustainability, continuity and impact area, literary and artistic works will be considered in this respect.
Besides this, for some foreigners, who are highly qualified investor, contribute in scientific and technological development or successful on the international level in cultural, artistic and sportive activities, the certificate of conformity taken from related public organization or institution may be added in scoring.
In consequence of this evaluation, the applications which have the adequate score from this scoring system are considered to be positive. However, certain Turquoise Card applications may be rejected if such applications:
a) Fail to meet the evaluation criteria determined by the Ministry,
b) Fail to comply with international labour policy,
c) Contain false or misleading information and documents
d) Fail to provide adequate reason in relation to employment of foreigners,
e) Are submitted for the jobs and occupations restricted for Turkish Citizens in other laws,
f) Are submitted to the foreigners who are notified by the Ministry of Interior to be included among the foreigners who are not allowed to enter into Turkey, have visa or will be deported within the scope of related articles of the Foreigners and International Protection Law No. 6458 and dated April 4, 2013,
g) Are submitted to the foreigners who are not allowed to work in Turkey for public order, public security or public health concerns,
h) Are submitted to the foreigners who are citizen of countries which are not recognized or established diplomatic relations by the Republic of Turkey, except for the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
i) Are not submitted or completed in legal time period.
As can be seen, evaluation procedure is conducted with utmost level of attention and care.
Obtainment of Turquoise Card
Once the application is complete in accordance with the above-mentioned criterion, Turquoise Card will be initially granted provided that first three years are transition period. The General Directorate will, during such transition period, supervise the process by requesting information and documents related to the activities carried out by the foreigner.
Within this transition period, the General Directorate assigns a specialist who will monitor the activities and commitments of Turquoise Card holder and prepare monitoring reports in twelve month periods. The foreigner is obliged to submit all information and document required for the monitoring report to the Ministry within fifteen days. Such information and document may also be prepared and submitted by authorized intermediary institution to General Directorate. In the event that any deficiency is identified in the specialist's report, such deficiencies will be notified to the foreigner and a period of three month will be granted for completing the same. If they are not completed at the end of this period, it may be decided that the transition period is terminated and Turquoise Card is cancelled.
In order to remove the transition period registration on Turquoise Card, a request should be made within one hundred eighty days before the expiration of transition period and in any case prior to expiry of the transition period. If such request is not submitted within this period, Turquoise Card will be invalid. Upon applying for removal of transition period registration, it will take General Directorate a maximum of thirty days to remove such registration, provided that the final report to be prepared by the specialist is positive. In the event that the final report is negative, the General Directorate will determine whether to extend the transition period or cancel Turquoise Card.
Accordingly, Turquoise Card will become indefinite provided that the criterion, which is (i) the transition period registration on Turquoise Card is not cancelled within the transition period and (ii) the request for removing the transition period registration is approved in line with the above mentioned legal requirements, are satisfied.
Please also note that, work permit and residence permit fees stipulated in the Law on Fees No. 492 and dated July 17, 1964 are not charged to Turquoise Card holder, and residency permit fee is not charged to Turquoise Card holder's relative.
Rights and Liabilities of Turquoise Card Holder
Once the foreigner is granted with Turquoise Card, he/she will be entitled to exercise the rights granted by indefinite work permit. In addition please note that, Turquoise Card holders
a) are exempt from military duty obligation in Turkey,
b) cannot benefit from right to elect and be elected and assigned in public positions,
c) Their acquired rights regarding social security are reserved, but they are subject to the provisions in related legislation when using these rights,
d) Transactions of these people in relation to residency, travel, work, investment, commercial activity, inheritance, acquiring and renouncing from movable and immovable, etc. are carried out by the related organizations or institutions in accordance with the legislations that apply to Turkish citizens.
However please also note that if it is required to be a Turkish citizen in order to exercise such rights and obligations in special laws, Turquoise Card holders cannot demand to benefit from such rights.
Moreover, Turquoise Card holder and his/her relative may be granted Turkish citizenship upon the suggestion of the Ministry within the scope of Law on Turkish Citizenship No. 5901 dated May 29, 2009.
Cancellation of Turquoise Card
Please note that apart from the foreigner's request, Turquoise Card will be cancelled in the following circumstances and become invalid:
a) If Turquoise Card holder does not come to Turkey within six months after the effective date of the Turquoise Card or stays abroad continuously for longer than two years except for force majeure,
b) If his/her passport or equivalent travel document is not extended except for the approval of the Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
c) If it is determined that he/she is employed in contradiction with the provisions of law or illegally,
d) If it is determined that the foreigner did not work continuously for at least one year,
e) If it is determined later that Turquoise Card application is made with false or misleading information and documents,
f) If the information and documents requested within transition period are not submitted in due time or if it is understood that the foreigner is no longer eligible for Turquoise Card according to monitoring report,
g) If it is notified by the Ministry of Interior that the foreigner is included among the foreigners who are not allowed to enter into Turkey, have visa or will be deported in accordance with Law on Foreigners and International Protection No 6458 and dated April 4, 2013
h) If it is notified by related public organizations or institutions that the foreigner is not allowed to work in Turkey for public order, public security or public health concerns.
We would like to highlight the importance of accuracy and completeness of documents to be submitted and pursuing legal requirements when applying for Turquoise Card similarly as evaluation procedure, since they may constitute ground for cancellation of Turquoise Card.
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.