Business immigration in Turkey: overview

A Q&A guide to business immigration in Turkey.

This Q&A gives an overview of the key factors affecting business immigration, including information on the jurisdiction's sources of immigration law; relevant government entities; requirements for unsponsored and sponsored immigration; requirements for sponsors; civil and criminal penalties for sponsors; common issues and concerns; dependants; settlement and citizenship; recent trends and proposals for reform.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions, visit the Business Immigration Country Q&A tool.

The Q&A is part of the global guide to business immigration. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit www.practicallaw.com/immigration-guide.

Maria Celebi and Batuhan Sahmay, Bener Law Office
Contents

Relevant governmental entities

1. What are the relevant government entities (agencies, departments, branches, bodies, and so on) relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?

Administration

The main administrative bodies responsible for immigration matters are the:

  • Ministry of Labour.

  • Ministry of Interior.

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Enforcement

The Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Interior are responsible for the enforcement of immigration laws.

Legislative

The Parliament is the main legislative body and is responsible for adopting immigration laws.

 

Sources and conflicts of law

Sources of law

2. What are the principal sources of law relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?

The principal sources of law relating to immigration in Turkey include the:

  • Law No. 4817 on Work Permits for Foreigners.

  • Application Regulations for the Law on Work Permits for Foreigners.

  • Regulations on the Employment of Personnel of Foreign Nationality and Direct Foreign Investment.

  • Law No. 5683 related to Residence and Travels of Foreigners.

  • Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection (see Question 12).

 

Conflicts of law

3. What potential conflicts (if any) arise between the various sources of law?

Not applicable.

 

Business immigration

Unsponsored business-related immigration

4. What are the primary options available for unsponsored work and investment in your jurisdiction?

There are few provisions relating to unsponsored business immigration generally.

Self-employment

A foreign national can file an application for a work permit allowing self-employment if he both:

  • Continuously resided in Turkey for the previous five years.

  • Can provide evidence of continuous residence permits for the previous five years.

A work permit can be extended. However, work permits allowing self-employment are rarely granted.

Entrepreneurs

There is no specific permit category for entrepreneurs, except under the recent Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection, which creates special residence permits for property ownership. However, there is no guidance available on these permits yet. See Question 12 for more information on Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection.

Investors

There is no specific permit category for investors. However, certain investors are potentially exempt from the requirement to employ at least five Turkish employees per foreign national applicant and worksite (see Question 6).

Business visitors

Business visitors can require a letter of invitation from a domestic sponsor (see Question 5).

 

Sponsored business-related immigration

5. What are the options available for sponsor-based employment in your jurisdiction?

Business visitor visa

Some foreign nationals must apply for a business visitor visa at the Turkish consulate of their country of legal residence. Information on whether a national is eligible for an electronic visa in lieu of a consular visa is available online (www.evisa.gov.tr/en).

To apply for a business visitor visa issued by a consulate, an applicant must submit the following documents:

  • A petition from the overseas organisation specifying the (among other things):

    • dates on which the employee will be in Turkey; and

    • activities to be conducted.

  • An invitation letter from the hosting Turkish entity.

  • A visa application form.

  • Passport and photo identification.

The following documents may also be required, depending on the consulate to which the application is submitted:

  • A return ticket and proof of accommodation reservation.

  • Applicant's personal bank account records for the last several months.

  • Evidence of health insurance coverage for the duration of stay in Turkey.

  • Applicant's personal tax records for the last several years.

Additional documents may be required, depending on the relevant consulate. These requirements can be varied without notice. It is therefore advisable to communicate with the relevant consulate for each application.

If the applicant wishes to remain in Turkey after the date specified in the visa, he can apply for a residence permit on arrival in Turkey (based on a "business meeting"), for a stay of up to 90 days within a calendar year. A residence permit application must be submitted to the Migration Directorate (which acts under the authority of the Ministry of Interior).

Assembly, maintenance and service (AMS) visa

An employee of a foreign entity can engage in assembly, maintenance or service work for the benefit of a receiving Turkish entity without the need for a work permit under certain conditions.

However, an AMS visa is required for many types of products and services, including for the assembly (training) and maintenance of:

  • Software.

  • Computer hardware.

  • Complex machinery.

  • Energy equipment.

  • Manufacturing equipment.

However, as the products and services for which an AMS visa is required are not defined in the Foreign Ministry's guidance, there are in practice significant variations in the interpretations adopted by the various Turkish consulates.

Employees holding an AMS visa must continue to be paid by the foreign entity that sent them. The visa only allows the employee to work at the location and for the company designated in the visa supporting documents.

An AMS visa can be issued for a maximum of one year, for up to 90 days of stay within that year. Additionally, an AMS visa can only be issued once per calendar year for any employee.

AMS visa applications must be filed at the Turkish consulate of the applicant's country of nationality or permanent residence.

AMS visa applications are first filed on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' visa website. The visa application is uploaded with the supporting documents, and the applicant can then request an appointment at the relevant Turkish consulate. There is no application or documentation to file in Turkey.

The following must be filed in order to apply for an AMS visa:

  • Petition from the company abroad specifying the (among other things):

    • dates on which the employee will be in Turkey; and

    • work to be conducted.

  • An invitation letter from the hosting Turkish company where the employee will perform the work.

  • A visa application form.

  • Passport photographs (the quantity varies depending on the consulate).

  • Visa application fee (the amount varies depending on the applicant's nationality).

The following documents may be required, depending on the consulate to which the application is submitted:

  • Round-trip ticket and proof of accommodation reservation.

  • Evidence of health insurance coverage for the duration of stay in Turkey.

  • Applicant's personal bank account records for the last several months.

  • Applicant's personal tax records for the last several years.

Certain consulates may require additional documents and may change their requirements without notice. It is advisable to communicate with the relevant consulate for each application.

AMS visa applications are generally processed within two to four business days. However, on rare occasions, at the discretion of the relevant consulate, the application can be forwarded for review to the Ministry of Interior in Ankara. If that is the case, the application process will take longer.

If an AMS visa was initially granted for less than 90 days, the visa holder can apply for an AMS residence permit to extend the duration of the AMS visa up to 90 days, including the original visa period. An AMS residence permit can only be granted once in a calendar year.

Work visa

There are two types of application procedures depending on the applicant's status. Work permit applications can be filed either with:

  • A Turkish consulate abroad.

  • The Labour Ministry in Turkey.

Applications filed abroad with a Turkish consulate. The application can be filed at the Turkish consulate in the applicant's country of residence or nationality. This option involves a two-step application process:

  • The applicant must log into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' online visa appointment system to obtain an appointment for filing his work visa application at the Turkish consulate.

  • Within ten days of filing with the Turkish consulate, the sponsor company must file the employer's section of the application with the Labour Ministry.

The following documents must be filed with the consulate:

  • Petition letter on the hosting company letterhead signed by an individual with authority to act on behalf of the company, and containing information on the intended employment (including term of employment and work duties).

  • Standard visa application form (available on the MFA's online system).

  • Passport (valid for at least three months after the expiry date of the requested work visa) and passport photographs.

  • Employment contract signed by an individual with authority to act on behalf of the sponsor company (containing information on the intended employment, salary, term of employment and work duties).

  • If the person applies from a country other than the country of his nationality, a valid residence permit or evidence of legal status in the country of residence.

The consulate will inform the applicant (normally by e-mail) when his application has been officially registered, so that the employer can file the required documents (see below) within the relevant deadline.

The employer must submit the following documents to the Labour Ministry within ten business days following the employee's application at the Turkish consulate:

  • Documents relating to the foreign employee:

    • application form (in Turkish) signed by both the employee and employer;

    • electronic scanned passport-size photograph;

    • copy of the diploma/degree of the educational institution from which the applicant last graduated;

    • copy of the passport page showing biographical information; and

    • recent employment agreement with the sponsor.

  • Documents relating to the employer:

    • letter to the Ministry petitioning for the employment of the foreign employee in the company (on the company letterhead);

    • previous year's balance sheet and profit and loss statement certified by the Tax Office or a certified public accountant;

    • most recent Social Security Institute list of registered employees;

    • company's entry in the Trade Registry Gazette showing the most recent capital and shareholding structure;

    • notary authorised copy of the company's signature circular;

    • recent document from the Tax Office certifying that the company has no tax debt (only required for renewals);

    • power of attorney given by the company authorising a law firm (if any) to complete the application.

Applications must be processed by the Labour Ministry within 30 days following submission of all required documents, unless the Ministry requests additional documents.

Once the work permit application is approved by the Labour Ministry, the foreign national must obtain his work visa from the Turkish consulate. After the work permit has been approved, the joint work-residence card will be posted to the employer's address. The Ministry will instruct the Turkish consulate where the original application was filed to issue the work visa. The applicant must then obtain the work visa from the Turkish consulate within 90 days of approval and must ensure that he enters Turkey on his work visa (and not a tourist visa) before expiration of this visa. A work visa is for single entry only.

The work visa allows the foreign national to enter Turkey for work purposes within the visa validity period.

Once the foreign employee has entered Turkey with a work visa, he is no longer required to obtain a residence permit from the Ministry of Interior. The work visa approval acts as both a work and residence permit. However, the work permit holder must register his residential address on arrival in Turkey with the Directorate of Populations Registry (Nufus Mudurlugu) of their place of residence (Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection).

Applications filed in Turkey with the Labour Ministry. To file a work visa application in Turkey, the applicant must already possess a residence permit issued for a minimum of six months. The documents that must be filed with the Ministry are the same as for an application first filed at a Turkish consulate abroad (see above), but with the addition of a copy of the residence permit.

 

Requirements for sponsors

6. What are the requirements for becoming a sponsor of employment-based migrants and what are the role and reporting duties of sponsors?

Requirements to become a sponsor

Employers that wish to sponsor a full work permit must meet certain conditions, which include:

  • Being a legal entity under Turkish law.

  • Having at least five Turkish citizens employees per sponsored foreign applicant and per worksite, as evidenced by payroll records (subject to certain exceptions).

  • A paid-in share capital of not less than TRY100,000. Alternatively, the employer can show gross annual sales amounting to TRY800,000 or exports for a gross annual value of US$330,000 (subject to certain exceptions).

  • Offering a salary commensurate with the applicant's position.

An employer must provide evidence that these conditions are satisfied for each work permit application that it sponsors.

Role of sponsors

Sponsors are local employers and must comply with the terms of the work permit.

Reporting duties of sponsors

Sponsors are responsible for filing work permit applications and have no additional reporting duties to the Ministry of Labour, provided that the foreign national stays employed at the same location, in the same position and for the term specified in the work permit.

 

Civil and criminal penalties for sponsors

7. What are the types of civil and criminal penalties that sponsors may face for non-compliance with the rules?

Monetary penalties

Employers and/or foreign employees who fail to comply with immigration laws and regulations are subject to the following penalties (for 2016):

  • Employer or self-employed foreigner who does not comply with the applicable notification requirements: TRY417.

  • Foreign employee working without a work permit: TRY835.

  • Employer (or employer representatives) employing illegal foreign workers: TRY8,381 per illegal employee.

  • Self-employed foreigner working without a work permit: TRY3,350 (in addition to closure of his place of work).

These penalties are doubled in the event of a second violation.

The above fines are not the only risk when using unauthorised foreign workers. Non-compliance with immigration rules often also entails breaches of social security, labour and tax provisions. These are subject to specific administrative fines, penalties and late fees, which often result in much higher amounts than immigration penalties.

Non-monetary consequences

Anecdotal evidence suggests that an employer can be "blacklisted" if the Labour Ministry is aware that it has abused work permit laws. Additionally, labour law violations (including those related to work authorisations) can disqualify an employer from special corporate or social security tax benefit programmes, such as those provided in the Foreign Direct Investment Law. This can eliminate valuable tax benefits and social security exemptions for employers in breach, which can be far more onerous than the applicable monetary fines.

A foreign employee who remains in Turkey after the expiry of his work visa, or is engaged in activities inconsistent with his visa category, can be fined and/or banned from returning to Turkey for a period of time. When a foreign national overstays for more than 15 days, this will be noted by the passport exit control authorities, which have discretion to fine the foreign national and/or bar him from re-entry. The time for which a person can be barred from re-entry is at the discretion of the officer, who will be influenced by the length of overstay and whether the person is a repeat offender.

 

Common issues or concerns for business immigration

8. What common issues or concerns may arise under business immigration in your jurisdiction?

Not applicable.

 

Dependants

9. What persons qualify as dependants (for example, family members)? What are the general requirements and restrictions for bringing dependants into your jurisdiction for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?

Persons qualifying as dependants

Under Turkish law, only lawfully married spouses and children under the age of 18 qualify as dependants.

General requirements and restrictions

Once a foreign employee and his dependants have entered Turkey, the employee must obtain a residence permit for his dependants within 90 days of arrival. While a foreign employee receives his work-residence card from the Ministry of Labour, residence permit applications for dependants are filed with the Migration Directorate under the Ministry of Interior. The dependants' residence permits will be issued for the same period as the employee's work visa, provided that their passports remain valid for 60 days after the expiry of that period.

To apply for a dependant residence permit, the foreign employee must file the following documents:

  • Residence permit application form (available on the online system).

  • Four passport-size photographs.

  • Passports of the employee and dependants.

  • Translated and notarised marriage certificate and/or birth certificate (for children).

  • Copy of the work-residence card of the principal.

  • Evidence of local health insurance coverage.

  • Police clearance certificate for the principal for the last five years issued by the country of origin and residence (and police clearance relating to the spouse if the application is for a child).

  • Power of attorney given by the applicant authorising a law firm (if any) to pursue the application.

Applicants do not need to be present when filing the application. Residence cards are posted to the applicant's address of residence within about three weeks from the application filing.

 

Settlement and citizenship

10. What is the general time frame and processes for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship in your jurisdiction for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?

General process and time frame for obtaining permanent residence

The Residence Permit Law 2014 created a new residence permit category for long-term residency. To be eligible, the applicant must have continually and legally resided in Turkey under residence permits for at least eight years. However, this long-term residence permit does not act as a work authorisation (that is, a work permit must still be obtained to work in Turkey).

In very limited circumstances, it is possible to obtain a work permit with no expiration date To be eligible, the applicant must have had continuous Turkish work permits for the prior eight years (Article 6, Law No. 4817 on Work Permits for Foreigners).

General process and time frame for obtaining citizenship

The process for the acquisition and loss of Turkish citizenship is regulated by the:

  • Turkish Citizenship Law No. 5901, which came into force on 12 June 2009.

  • Regulation No. 27544 regarding the Application of the Turkish Citizenship Law, dated 6 April 2010.

Turkish citizenship can be acquired in any of the following ways:

  • By birth or adoption.

  • By marriage to a Turkish citizen.

  • Based on long-term residency.

  • Based on exceptional circumstances.

  • By voluntary reacquisition.

The process and time frame for obtaining citizenship is determined by the type of application and the location where the application is filed. As applications must be filed at the local office of the Interior Ministry where the person resides, the timelines fluctuate significantly. An applicant who resides abroad can file an application for citizenship with the Turkish consulate of his country of citizenship, depending on the application category.

Although persons who previously held Turkish citizenship or are of Turkish origin can apply for citizenship, applications are most commonly filed by non-Turkish origin persons for acquisition by marriage, or based on long-term residency.

With regards to acquisition based on residency, a foreign national can acquire Turkish citizenship, at the discretion of the competent authority, if he meets the following conditions (Article 11, Turkish Citizenship Law No. 5901):

  • Mental capacity under his own country's laws, or under Turkish law if he is stateless.

  • Five years' continuous residence in Turkey prior to the application (and no cumulative absence of 180 days or more).

  • Intention to settle in Turkey, supported by relevant evidence.

  • Absence of disease that constitutes a danger to public health.

  • Good morals.

  • Sufficient level of Turkish.

  • Income or profession that provides for his own needs and those of any dependants.

  • Does not pose a threat to national security and public order.

The documents required for a citizenship application vary greatly depending on the category and the location of filing. The initial filing location is the police station of the place where the person resides. The documents below are commonly requested for a citizenship application following five years of residence in Turkey:

  • Application form (form VAT-3).

  • Certified translations of passport and other identity documents.

  • Notarised and apostilled copies of birth, marriage and divorce certificates.

  • Notarised copy of the most recent work or residence permit, valid for a minimum of six months beyond the application date.

  • Notarised copy and translation relating to any criminal arrests/convictions.

  • If the applicant has first or second-degree ancestors who are Turkish citizens, proof of their civil registrations in Turkey.

  • Certification of the applicant's ability to speak Turkish, issued by the Ministry of Education, or any document certifying his education in an institution affiliated with the Ministry of Education (discretionary).

  • Medical certificate confirming the applicant's good health and the absence of any infectious diseases that may endanger public health (discretionary).

  • Evidence of continuous residence in Turkey for five years before the application date. This consists of a document issued by the local police authorities showing entry and exit dates from Turkey and other documents certifying residence for five years in Turkey.

  • Evidence of financial means, proving that the applicant's income is sufficient for himself and any dependants (which can include a copy of the applicant's work permit).

Once these documents are presented to the relevant local office of the Interior Ministry, the relevant officer will review them and will often request further documentation. A commission is then convened to make a final decision on the application.

A citizenship application is generally processed within about four to 12 months.

 

Present climate and future legislation

Present climate and trends

11. What are the recent trends, both political and social, that have impacted your jurisdiction with regard to immigration policy and law?

Since 2010, the Labour Ministry or Interior Ministry have increasingly tracked work authorisations issued by government agencies through conducting on-site visits. In 2011, 1,000 additional inspectors were authorised and the number of government workers who can conduct worksite inspections has been increased. The aim is to facilitate the conduct of inspections and the imposition of administrative fines.

In the last several years, there has also been an increased burden on employers to evidence compliance with social security requirements relating to foreign employees. Although it is not part of the adjudication process for work permits, social security compliance documents are shared with the Social Security Directorate, which is also under the authority of the Labour Ministry. The Social Security Directorate is quite active in auditing and assessing penalties for non-compliance with social security requirements relating to foreign employees.

 

Future legislation

12. Are there any anticipated changes in the immigration laws of your jurisdiction?

The Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection was implemented in 2014. This Law introduced significant changes to residence permit eligibility and procedures, including the:

  • Application of the "90 out of 180 days" rule to business visitors (that is, a person who stays cumulatively 90 days in Turkey within a 180-day period without a residence permit must stay abroad until there are less than 90 days within the past 180 days before entering back into the country).

  • Creation of the Migration Directorate, which is now competent to adjudicate on applications for residence permits.

  • Launch of an online visa filing system (in 2016).

  • Creation of new categories of residence permits, including for persons who will open a business or buy real estate in Turkey.

Additionally, this Law introduced harsher procedures, such as deportation and a ban on re-entry for foreign nationals who outstay their visas. This Law also creates new procedures for the admission of refugees, victims of human trafficking and stateless people, among others.

 

Online resources

Consular of the Republic of Turkey

W www.konsolosluk.gov.tr/be/en/start.aspx

Description. This website provides information on visa applications for each Turkish consulate.

Electronic visa application system

W www.evisa.gov.tr/en

Description. This website provides information on filing an application for an electronic visa.

Migration Directorate

W www.goc.gov.tr/main/Eng_3

Description. This website provides information on residence permits.

Ministry of Labour

W www.csgb.gov.tr/En

Description. This website provides information on work permits.

Visa application page

W www.visa.gov.tr

Description. This website can be used to submit a visa application to a Turkish consular office.

Residence permit application forms

W https://e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr/

Description. This website provides access to residence permit application forms.

Work permit application forms

W www.calismaizni.gov.tr

Description. This website provides access to work permit application forms.

Work visa application forms

W www.mfa.gov.tr/consular-info.en.mfa

Description. This website provides access to work visa application forms.



Contributor profiles

Maria Çelebi

Bener Law Office

T +90 (212) 270 70 50 / ext 106
F + 90 (212) 270 68 65
E maria.celebi@bener.com
W www.bener.com

Batuhan Sahmay

Bener Law Office

T +90 (212) 270 70 50 / ext 111
E batuhan.sahmay@bener.com
W www.bener.com


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