Turkey has a rather strict policy regarding foreign employment where the work permit applications procedures are tied to numerous criteria. It should be noted that the regulations regarding the work permit applications are quite complex and although the main regulation regarding work permits is the International Labor Law No. 6735 (the Law), most of these criteria are not listed within the Law or the subsequent regulations, but are rather determined directly by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (the Ministry) as per Article 13 of the Regulation Regarding the Implementation of the Law Regarding Foreigner Work Permits (the Regulation).
II. METHODS OF WORK PERMIT APPLICATION
There are two methods to apply for a work permit; the first is overseas applications submitted to the relevant Turkish consulate at the appropriate country, and the second method is the domestic applications to be made directly to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security via the online application system. However, in order to submit a domestic application, the foreigner should have a valid residence permit issued for at least six months by the relevant authorities in Turkey.
The residence permit requirement is an important aspect for domestic applications, as without a legally valid residence permit, it will not be possible for foreigners to apply for a work permit within Turkey. In such a case, the foreigners will be required to first leave Turkey (if he/she is currently staying in Turkey) and go back to their home country or country of residence and submit a work permit application from the relevant Turkish consulates there. However, this prolongs the application process as the relevant consulates are required to convey the applications (once received) along with all the required documents to the Ministry. Ministry will then do a preliminary review of the application and if approved, will notify the consulate and provide a reference number for that specific application. Once the specific reference number is received, the potential employer (in Turkey) of the foreigner will need to make a separate application via the online application system, using this reference number. This process may take up to 3 months, whereas a domestic application will be processed much faster.
III. REQUIREMENTS FOR WORK PERMIT APPLICATIONS
There are other requirements which both the employer companies and the employee foreigners must fulfill in order to submit a successful work permit application. It should be noted that the requirements for foreigner employees are more ambiguous than those noted for employers, as the employers are required to satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible to employ a foreigner (updated list for 2019):
- The company should have at least (5) five Turkish citizen employees in its payroll for each foreigner employee application. This requirement is sought only at the second (6) six months of the permit to be provided if the foreign employee is also a shareholder in the company; if more than one foreign employee will be employed the same (5) five Turkish employee requirement will be sought for consequently;
- The paid capital of the company shall be at least (TRL 100.000) one-hundred-thousand-Turkish-Lira or the gross sales of the company shall be at least TRL 800.000 or the exports of the company shall exceed ($250.000) two-hundred-fifty-thousand-U.S. Dollars for the previous year;
- If the employee is also a shareholder in the company than shares of the foreign individual shall not be less than (TRL 40.000) forty-thousand-Turkish-Lira of the capital which shall not represent less than (20%) twenty-percent of the capital;
- The base salary of the foreign employee shall not be less than the following amounts:
a) for executives, pilots, engineers and architects applying for a preliminary permit: (6.5) six-point-five times of minimum wage,
b) for branch or unit managers and engineers and architects: (4) four times of minimum wage,
c) for works that require expertise and craftsmanship and for teachers: (3) three times of minimum wage,
d) for household service providers and other employees: (1.5) one-point-five times of minimum wage.
It should be noted that although there are no clear criteria established for foreigner employees, it will not be possible to employ any foreigner without a justifiable cause. Aside from the legal restrictions set forth for certain job titles (which prohibit the employment of a foreigner), the general rule regarding foreigner employment is to protect the local Turkish workforce and only allow a foreigner to work in Turkey if it can be established that the work to be conducted by that specific foreigner cannot be reasonably conducted by his/her Turkish counterpart.
As noted above, the criteria for foreigner employment is quite complex and most companies or employers may find it difficult to satisfy them. The Law does provide certain exemptions from these criteria under certain conditions, the most notable one being the employment of key personnel in Special Direct Foreign Investments, meaning for certain foreign investments, the above noted criteria may not be sought for. Accordingly, if the company where the expatriate will be employed could be deemed as a “Special Direct Foreign Investment” (“SDFI”) the foreign employee may benefit from these exemptions and employed without meeting the above criteria. According to the Regulation, if a foreign investment company satisfies one of the below conditions it shall be deemed as a SDFI (updated list for 2019):
- The turnover of the company for the previous year shall be at least TRL 114,700,000.-; provided that the foreign shareholders of the company possess a minimum of TRL 1,526.057 of such company capital, or;
- The exports of the company for the previous year shall be at least $1,000,000.-; provided that the foreign shareholders of the company possess a minimum of TRL 1,526.057 of such company capital, or;
- The company should employ at least 250 personnel registered at the Social Security Administration as employees; again provided that the foreign shareholders of the company possess a minimum of TRL 1,526.057 of such company capital, or;
- If the company is planning to make an investment with the projected fixed investment value of at least TRL 38,100,000.- or;
- The investor shall have at least one other foreign direct investment entity located at a country different than the country where its registered (main) offices are located.
The requirements and application procedures of foreigner work permits are very complex. Especially the online application system can prove to be very challenging to foreigners as the system requires a lot of information and documents to be uploaded in specific manner, and even with the online application, certain documents will still need to be mailed to the Ministry via post. Applications submitted without first completing the required document sets may be rejected, which may lead to a ban of re-application or the cancellation of the work permit. It is therefore highly recommended for foreigners to submit their work permit applications through experienced lawyers, to avoid any complications.
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