Turkey: New Foreign Labor Law Passed

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By Jenny David

Sept. 29—A comprehensive new law on the “international labor force” will, once detailed through bylaws, significantly alter the application process and assessment criteria for foreigners requesting work permits in Turkey.

The new law also introduces a “Turquoise Card” system granting permanent employment rights to foreign nationals considered of strategic importance to the Turkish economy and clarifies permit requirements for those working in specified fields, including company directors.

As detailed codes are defined and legislated through bylaws, International Labor Force Law No. 6735, published in the Official Gazette on July 28, 2016, will replace Law No. 4817 of 2003 on Work Permits for Foreigners.

But for now, practitioners urge caution.

“At this stage, even if there are certain regulations concerning foreign employment, we believe that bylaws should be awaited for a better understanding, since the articles give only a general frame on the matter” and do not regulate “essential matters such as evaluating criteria on work permit applications, types of work permits and exceptions,” Göknaz Engin of Istanbul-based Baspinar & Partners said in a statement. In particular, the “conditions and benefits” of the new Turquoise Card “are not clearly regulated.”

Legal Update Required

According to its preamble, the new law was developed to prevent illegal employment and to attract a qualified workforce to Turkey after the previous code was deemed “inadequate for regulating dynamic and ever-changing migration, employment of foreign nationals and workforce migration management.”

The law empowers the Turkish Ministry of Labor and Social Security to issue work permits after taking into consideration the decisions of the Immigration Policies Committee and a yet-to-be-established International Labor Force Policy Advisory Board, as well as regional developments, industrial and economic changes and social, cultural and economic relations between Turkey and the applicant's country of origin.

The new law defines three types of work permits:

  •  ordinary work permits for a specific workplace or economic sector valid for one year and renewable for a second and third year,
  •  independent work permits of defined duration for those working with multiple entities and
  •  permanent work permits available to foreign holders of a long-term residence permit or another work permit for at least eight years.

Holders of permanent work permits will be granted rights similar to those of Turkish citizens, except for the rights to vote, be elected or work as a civil servant or the duty to perform military service.

Turquoise Card Grants Permanent Rights

The new law also introduces a fourth category, more quickly granting the benefits of a permanent work permit to recognized academics, investors and highly trained professionals. After a three-year trial period, Turquoise Card holders will have permanent working rights, and their spouses and dependent children will have permanent residency rights in Turkey.

The Labor Ministry will issue the card to foreign nationals whose level of education, professional experience and contributions to science, technology and foreign investment will “create employment and contribute to the development of the Turkish economy,” the law states.

Applicants for Turquoise Cards must be nominated by the International Labor Force Policy Advisory Board.

The new law also clarifies the cases in which company directors require work permits: directors who are shareholders in limited liability or joint stock companies and those who are active partners in trusts whose capital is divided into shares require work permits, directors of joint stock companies who are not resident in Turkey and shareholders who are not acting as directors do not.

Foreigners applying for or undertaking internships, foreign students, foreign vocational trainees, foreign nationals who employ or wish to employ foreigners and temporary workers (cross-border service providers) whose activities do not exceed 90 out of 180 days must also request work permits.

In another significant change, the new law for the first time allows work permit applications to be submitted through authorized intermediaries, whose qualifications will be established through bylaws.

Completed work permit applications should be ruled on within 30 days, and applicants will have 30 days to appeal a rejection. Recipients must enter Turkey within six months of the approval of their work permits, and extension requests must be made 60 days before an existing permit expires (compared to the current 15 days).

Foreigners wishing to work in the fields of health and education should obtain pre-authorization from the ministries of health and national education, since such fields require professional competence determination.

Oversight, Fines, Exceptions

The new law also foresees the ministry's establishment of an International Labor Force Directorate to oversee foreign employment and a Foreigner Application, Evaluation and Monitoring System to receive and evaluate work permit requests and monitor the impact of Turkey's foreign labor force.

Fines will be imposed for illegal employment of foreigners, on both workers and employers, ranging from 400 to 4,800 Turkish lira ($134 to $1,610) per incident. The original fine will be doubled for repeated breaches.

Exceptions to the new policies—for foreign individuals seeking international protection or applying for conditional immigration, for example, and for foreign engineers and architects—will be defined in secondary legislation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David in Jerusalem at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the new law is available in Turkish here.

For more information on Turkish HR law and regulation, see the Turkey primer.

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