1. Introduction

International Labour Force Law No. 6735 ("ILF") reframed and redefined the procedures concerning the granting of work permits to foreign nationals in Turkey, while introducing a new type of work permit named Turquoise Card, which was not enshrined in the now repealed Law on Work Permits for Foreign Nationals No. 4817. IFL stipulates that more detailed information regarding work permit applications shall be provided under directives to be published by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security ("Ministry"). The first of these directives is published in the Official Gazette dated 14 March 2017 and numbered 30007, under the name Turquoise Card Directive ("Directive"). This memorandum has been prepared to elaborate on the rules and regulations governing the granting of Turquoise Card.

  1. What is a Turquoise Card and who can apply for it?

Turquoise Card is a type of work permit which allows its holder to reside and work in Turkey for an indefinite duration. It also allows the dependants of its holder to reside in the country throughout the validity period thereof. Turquoise Card can be granted to foreign nationals who;

i) are regarded as highly qualified labour force as a result of their level of education, income, professional knowledge and experience, contribution to science and technology and other qualities,

ii) are regarded as high-graded investors as a result of the size of their investment and exports, the size of employment generated by their investment, their contribution to science and technology and other qualities,

iii) are scientists or researchers who carry on works and studies in fields of science, industry and technology at an international level, which are of strategic importance for Turkey's national interests,

iv) are successful at an international level in cultural, artistic or sports activities,

v) contribute to the promotion of Turkey or Turkish culture internationally, conduct activities at an international level that serve to the national interests of Turkey.

  1. The application process

Applicants can submit their Turquoise Card applications to the Turkish Embassy in their country of origin or residence. Alternatively, foreign nationals who are in Turkey at the time of their application can use the online portal designed for work permit applications. The application for a residence permit for the dependants must be made concurrently with the Turquoise Card application or, in the case where a dependant submitting an application from outside Turkey cannot provide the information necessary for the issuance of a residence permit, within ninety days of their arrival in Turkey and before the expiration of their visa. In both cases, documents listed under Article 8 of the Directive shall be attached to the application. The referred list of documents can be divided into two categories, the first of which specify documents which must be submitted by all applicants such as passport. On the other hand, the second group of documents vary depending on the persona of the applicant and are determined by the General Directorate of International Labour Force ("General Directorate"), which is affiliated with the Ministry. For instance, an internationally renowned professional athlete who qualifies for consideration under item iv) of section B above may be requested to submit his sports licence and individual and/or team awards.

Additionally, foreign applicants can seek to obtain "suitability certificate" from Turkish Government institutions which are relevant to their profession or expertise to substantiate their application. A suitability certificate is of advisory nature and indicates that according to the issuing Government institution, the applicant qualifies for Turquoise Card.

In evaluation of Turquoise Card applications, the General Directorate uses a points-based system which has been established in consideration of Turkey's international labour force policies.

Pursuant to Provisional Article 1 of the Directive, Turquoise Card applications shall be submitted via the e-government portal until such time as the technical infrastructure will be set up.

  1. Duration of the permit and conditions for validity

Turquoise Card is granted for a transition period of 3 years at the initial stage, which can later become permanent should the holder comply with the legal requirements. Within the transition period, a supervisor is designated by the General Directorate to monitor the activities of the Turquoise Card holder and report to the General Directorate in twelve monthly intervals. In the case where the said report indicates any non-conformity by the Turquoise Card holder, he shall be given 3 months by the General Directorate to take all steps as may be necessary for ensuring due compliance with the legal requirements, failing which might prompt the cancellation of the Turquoise Card.

At the end of the transition period, and should the General Directorate find appropriate upon its review of the final report of the appointed supervisor, a Turquoise Card will become permanent upon its holder's application within the last 180 days of the transition period.

Turquoise Card can be revoked under certain circumstances such as if its holder i) fails to enter into Turkey within 6 months of the issuance of the permit or stays outside Turkey for longer than 2 years without the existence of an hardship event, ii) fails to renew his passport iii) works illegally iv) does not work for an uninterrupted period of 12 months v) has obtained the Turquoise Card forged documents vi) fails to submit documents which may be requested during the transition period vii) is a foreign national who shall not be allowed entry into the country or must be deported, as determined by the Ministry of Interior viii) is a person whose presence in Turkey poses a threat to public order, safety or health, as determined by the relevant Government institution.

  1. Rights and obligations of Turquoise Card holders

Turquoise Card holders are exempt from the compulsory military service obligation; whereas they are subject to the same laws as Turkish citizens in respect of residence, travel, work, commercial activity, heritage and ownership or disposal of property, save for the exercising of rights that explicitly require Turkish citizenship. However, Turquoise Card holders cannot vote or stand for election in Turkey, nor can they hold public office at Government institutions. Finally, without prejudice to international agreements concerning social security, to which Turkey is a party, Turquoise Card holders and their employers must fulfil their obligations deriving from social security legislation in a timely manner and as per the provisions under Social Security and General Health Insurance Law No. 5510.

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.