Immigration & Visas in Turkey

Immigration into Turkey has changed a lot in recent years. Generally, it's easier. We have a more settled system with only one department - the Department of Immigration - in charge. Thank goodness. A great deal of information is now available online. All of this is a huge change from only ten years ago!

The Turkish government does not set undue obstacles to employers wishing to hire foreign workers. However, we are keen to preserve jobs for our locals, and so there are certain fields in which it’s nearly impossible for a foreigner to work in.

If you want to move to Turkey and not work, it’s very easy. Retiring to Turkey is as simple as getting a residence permit (see below).

Although the system is easier than many countries, it is important to get your application right – and get it right the first time. If you’re missing a document it can delay your visa for months. If you’re rejected entirely, it’s very hard to get authorities to change their mind. That’s why we recommend seeking professional advice when applying for a visa to Turkey.

Highly skilled people (“Turquoise Card”) – New in March 2017

This new Turquoise Visa (turquoise being the national colour of Turkey) was announced on 14 March 2017. See our Guide to the Turquoise Visa for information and updates.

Studying in Turkey

Turkey is host to a fair amount of international students, although their arrival has been fairly recent. Most come from from Turkic countries (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) or regions (Western China). Turkish education is known in those places as being of particularly high quality.

See our Guide to Coming to Turkey as a Student for more information.

Working in Turkey

Getting a work visa for Turkey depends hugely on the field in which you want to work. As with most countries, this is one of the harder visas to obtain.

See our Guide to Coming to Turkey to Work for more information.

Residence permits in Turkey

A person wishing to live in Turkey will, in the cases mentioned above, need a special visa authorising entry to the country. However, in other cases, they will merely need a residence permit.

Any person who wishes to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days in a 180-day period requires a residence permit. This is the case whether they wish to stay in Turkey to study, to work, or simply to pass their time during retirement as people who are ‘economically inactive’.

This need for two documents is merely a reflection of the way in which the Turkish visa system is organised. In practical terms, in both cases you will need to produce the required documentation and show that you have a valid basis to be in the country.

However, it’s important to realise that if you are a person who requires a visa to enter the country (whether to work or to study) you will also need a residence permit.

See our Guide to Residence Permits in Turkey for more information.

Seeking Asylum in Turkey

Turkey has different laws depending on the country you’re coming from. Refugees from, say, Syria are subject to a separate set of rules from the (very rare) refugees from Europe. See our Guide to Asylum Seekers/Refugees in Turkey.

Children born in the country

A child born in Turkey is entitled to stay in Turkey for as long as the parent or until they reach the age of 18.

Such children are not automatically entitled to Turkish citizenship at birth. This right depends upon the mother of the child being a Turkish citizen or the father (as declared on the child’s birth certificate and married to the mother) being a Turkish citizen. A Turkish father of a child born to a non-Turkish mother may be granted citizenship for the child if the bloodline is proved through the courts.

Similar rules apply to adopted children.

The child may apply for nationality (as may any adult resident in Turkey). They will need to show:

  • They are mentally competent
  • They have been resident in Turkey for a period of five years immediately before the date of application.
  • Intent to be a long-term resident in Turkey
  • Some knowledge of Turkey
  • They have no serious disease of danger to others
  • Good character
  • They can speak ‘sufficient’ Turkish – this is open to interpretation
  • They have enough income or ability to earn to support themselves and their dependants
  • The grant of citizenship is “conducive to public good”.

Becoming a citizen of Turkey

A person born of Turkish parents can apply for citizenship (see above).

A person married to a Turkish citizen may apply for citizenship after three years. They do not need to have been resident in Turkey during this period.

Any other person over 18 who has legally been living permanently in Turkey (meaning for at least 183 days in each year) may apply for Turkish citizenship. This will, usually, be after five years. Such a person needs to prove that:

  • They speak ‘sufficient’ Turkish
  • They show an intention, by their behaviour, of wanting to be a part of Turkey
  • They have a basic understanding of Turkish history and culture
  • They are of good character: basically, you have no criminal convictions or debts and you have paid your taxes
  • They are mentally capable
  • They are in good health – or, at least, not suffering from diseases that pose a danger to others
  • They have enough income (or the means of earning it) to support themselves and any dependants
  • Granting citizenship should not pose a risk to public order

Professional advice

Getting a visa application right – and getting it right first time – is a challenging endeavour, especially if Turkish is not your first language. Mistakes can delay or even void your visa application, which could mean disaster if your move is time sensitive. See a lawyer that specialises in immigration law.


This is a really brief overview of immigration in Turkey – please click on the relevant links to learn more about your specific situation.


Leave a Reply