If you’re lucky enough to be skilled in the right field, you might find it relatively simple to get a working permit – if not, and if your heart is still set on it, a professional will be able to give you advice as to proceeding.
Just to be clear, this guide does not apply if you merely wish to come to Turkey on a business trip: to meet clients, investigate the market, hold meetings etc. For those purposes you may visit on a simple tourist visa.
Otherwise, whether you just want a summer job in Turkey or you wish to settle down and work there for good, you’ll need a work visa/permit. Unfortunately, as I’ve said, work visas in Turkey are not very easy to obtain. There is a fairly high level of unemployment in Turkey (11.2% in November 2017) and much higher youth unemployment. So, naturally, the government wants to protect the employment of its own people.
However, if you have skills that are needed – say, a teacher of French, a nanny or a seasonal worker in a hotel who speaks a language that is in demand – getting a visa is still fairly simple. If you have work skills that are already widely available in Turkey (e.g. a motor mechanic) it is almost impossible to obtain a work visa.
Video guides to visas/residence permits for Turkey
You can learn about immigration and visas in Turkey by watching our series of video interviews with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun. You can also scroll down for her detailed guide, or read our other written immigration guides for Turkey.
Can I get a working visa for Turkey?
Each job for which a visa might be obtained has an eligibility criteria list and a minimum permitted wage.
The length of your visa depends upon the length of your contract: say, three months for a summer post in a hotel or 12 months for a teacher. Few companies offer contracts over 12 months, although it is allowed.
Each work permit is job-specific. It is not a general permit to work in Turkey. So, for example, you might obtain a work permit to teach French at a particular college. You cannot simply change jobs and work somewhere else; even as a French teacher. You (and your new employer) would need to apply for a new work permit.
If you have held a work permit for seven years you will no longer need to renew it: you can be given a permanent residence permit as a working resident. You are then free to change jobs as you please.
In addition to your visa allowing you to work in Turkey, you will also need a residence permit (see below).
There is a general type of working visa (which applies to almost all situations), but there are also special types of working visa.
These include visas for:
- Work involving maintenance and installation of equipment
- Academic visas for teachers
- Scientific research
- Archaeological excavation
- Academic research
- Lorry (truck) drivers
- Business visits, conferences and seminars
The requirements for each of these visas can be found on the Turkish government’s visa website or, in slightly more detail, on the Turkish consular website for your own country. For example, for those travelling from the UK, see here.
To apply for a general visa, you start off with the Pre-Application System (PAS). This is an online system, under which applicants enter all of their details and, once the application has been accepted, receive an appointment to visit their local Turkish consulate for the rest of the process to be carried out.
Once your application has been accepted, you will have to apply for an appointment to visit your local Turkish consulate.
It is important that the information in the documents you provide (below) and the information in your online application is exactly the same. If it is not, your application will be rejected and you will have to start all over again. The application must be made before the proposed start date for your employment.
How can a foreigner apply for a Turkish work permit?
The process of applying for a work permit is in two stages. The application must be made in person.
You will make an appointment to attend your consulate. The appointment will be confirmed to you by email. At that appointment, you will need to produce the following documents:
- A printed and completed application form. The form should be completed in capital (upper case) letters.
- No relevant field should be left empty, even if it’s not specified as “required”.
- Any mistakes, including spelling mistakes, will void the application – you’ll have to start again.
- The “duration of stay” must be filled in as 90 days, even if that’s not the length of your job offer.
- A job offer letter, properly printed on letterheaded paper and with the employer’s details and signature.
- Your employment contract, signed both by you and your employer.
- A clear, legible photocopy of your passport – this must be valid for the duration of your visa, plus 60 days.
- One RECENT passport-style photograph (make sure it’s not crumpled, folded or otherwise damaged).
- If you’re not a UK citizen, and are applying in the UK, a residence permit for the UK.
One the first stage has been completed – and your forms accepted – you’ll be sent a visa reference. This will take about ten days. You should forward this reference onto your prospective employer.
The employer must then lodge the employment application with the Ministry of Labour (via their website) within ten days. If the employer misses this deadline, you’ll need to start all over again.
The Ministry of Labour will assess your application and respond (either to you or your employer) in four to six weeks. If you were successful, you can then pick up your visa from the Turkish consulate in your country.
Duration of visa and fees (2017)
- Work visa – up to six months – £150
- Work visa – up to one year – £432
Can you claim social security on a working visa?
As a person working in Turkey, you will be paying tax and social security payments in Turkey.
You will be entitled to Turkish social security and other benefits on the basis of the payments that you’ve made.
Can you use state healthcare on a working visa?
Once you registered with the Turkish Social Security as an employee, healthcare is automatically covered by your Social Security payments.
However, you may want to consider supplemental private healthcare, especially if you are going to be living somewhere remote.
Can your family or children claim state healthcare on a working visa?
Your family will be covered via your social security rights.
How long does it take?
Obtaining a work visa is, theoretically, doable in two months, but we highly recommend that you start the process at least three months in advance. Delays happen. Often.
Applying for a work visa is always complicated.
The rules are restrictive. An application expressed one way can fail; whereas an almost identical application, put in a way that takes full advantage of the rules, can succeed.
The application forms are also far from clear (particularly for someone who is not a native Turkish speaker) and the way they are interpreted will vary, sometimes significantly, from consulate to consulate.
It is, therefore, strongly recommended that you seek the advice of a specialist in immigration law before you complete and submit your application for a visa. This will make it much less likely that you make a mistake in the application (and so have to start the process all over again) and it can save you a large amount of time and frustration.
It could also open your eyes to some immigration possibilities you had previously not known about, and so not considered.