Legal regulations for foreigners employed in Turkey
In legal terms, an alien is a person who is not a citizen of the Republic of Turkey. After the implementation of a law in 2003, the employment and training of foreigners are now subject to prior permits.
The continued advances in technology mean we live in an ever-shrinking world where every capital and labor movement can create fluctuations in international employment and labor economies. This also has a socio-economic impact on our country’s labor environment that is based on the fine balance between several variables. The most visible effects include the rising unemployment rate and the increased number of illegal workers in the country. Many of these illegal workers are foreigners.
In legal terms, an alien is a person who is not a citizen of the Republic of Turkey.
The increasing difficulty in managing foreign workers has been caused in large part by the lack of standardization of controls among the institutions that have the power to grant permits as well as the need to comply with harmonization efforts to EU standards. The unfair competition caused by employment of illegal workers gave way to the adoption of Law no. 4817, which vested full authority in the Labor and Social Security Ministry with regard to the employment of foreigners in our country. After the implementation of this law in 2003, the employment and training of foreigners are now subject to prior permits. The same law also outlines details of alien permits and the principles governing their employment in Turkey.
This regulation is particularly important at a time when the number of foreign workers employed in Turkey is on the rise. However, despite the new law, there are still a substantial number of foreigners who are working illegally. The issue of illegal alien workers is so serious that while the number of workers employed under the new permit regulations is 26,097, the number of illegal workers is estimated to be several million.
Under the current legal arrangements, unless envisaged otherwise in bilateral or multilateral conventions Turkey is party to, foreigners are required to obtain a work permit ahead of their employment in the country. Under some rare conditions, the permit may be granted after the commencement of employment. Therefore, a foreigner seeking employment in Turkey should follow the steps described below:
First, he or she should file an application for a work permit through the relevant Turkish mission,
Second, he or she should obtain a visa in connection with the permit at the relevant Turkish mission,
Third, before employment, he or she should obtain a residence permit from the relevant security directorate for the purpose of employment.
The few exceptions to these steps are in the cases when there is no visa requirement, or if the employee is able to obtain the work permit in Turkey.
Which foreigners are not required to obtain work permits?
Those who dropped their native Turkish citizenship with prior approval may benefit from the labor rights enjoyed by regular Turkish citizens. They are not required to obtain a work permit, visa or residence permit for employment in Turkey.
Foreign reporters and press members do not have to obtain work and residence permits for employment in Turkey. However, the employer is obligated to inform the Labor Ministry of the most recent status of the relevant press member (i.e., commencement of employment, interruption of employment or its termination).
Foreigners employed by ministries other than the Labor Ministry are not required to obtain work permits or visas.
Foreigners who fall into the exemption category because of reciprocity, general principles of international law and European Union law do not need a work permit or visa for employment in Turkey. For instance, in the case of Turkey’s accession to the EU, the notion of alien will transform, so the legislation has already been harmonized to ensure adaptation for the future situation.
In addition to the above categories, the following groups of foreigners are entitled to employment in Turkey without obtaining a work permit subject to the compliance of their obligations under the relevant laws. It should be noted that their entitlements are considered a legally exceptional right.
a- Those who are exempted from work permit regulations under bilateral and multilateral conventions that Turkey is party to.
b- Foreigners with outside residence who come to Turkey for scientific, cultural or artistic activities that will last less than a month.
c- Those who are called in Turkey to give training on the use, assembly, maintenance and repair of imported machines and equipment, or to take delivery of equipment or to repair equipment broken in Turkey, with the condition that their stay should not exceed three months and the purpose of the trip should be proven via certified papers.
d- Those who are in Turkey for the purpose of giving training on the use of exported or imported goods and services, with the condition that their stay should not exceed three months and the purpose of the trip should be proven via certified papers.
e- Those who are in Turkey for a period of no more than six months as an attendant or performer in fairs or circus performances staged in Turkey.
f- Foreigners who are in Turkey for educational purposes, either in universities or public institutions. In this case, the stay is limited to the study period and subject to the submission of certified proof.
g- Those whose names are referred to the relevant authorities as major contributors to Turkey in the socio-economic, technological or educational fields, with the condition that their stay should not exceed three months,
h- Students who are in Turkey for internship opportunities provided within reciprocal practices or student exchange programs. The stay is limited to the internship period.
i- Foreigners who will work in national or international projects that will be implemented by consortiums or in compliance with bilateral or multilateral agreements Turkey is party to, or in international organizations, with the condition that their stay should not exceed one year.
j- Foreigners who are based in Turkey as tour operator representatives whose term does not exceed six months within one year.
k- Foreign soccer players or other athletes and their trainers whose requests are approved by the Turkish Soccer Federation or Youth and Sports General Directorate.
Foreigners who fall into one of the above categories are not required to obtain a work permit. However, they are required to notify the relevant local security authorities of their purposes for staying in Turkey, how long their stay will last and where they will be accommodated.