In our previous articles, we touched upon many questions relating to working in Turkey as a foreign national. From the basics of searching for a job and statutory employee rights to the professions foreigners are not allowed to have, we gave insight into the working climate in Turkey.
This week, we delve into the consequences of illegally working in Turkey, both as an employee and an employer.
The Consequences of Illegally Working in Turkey
According to the International Labor Law, regulation no: 31738 published in the Official Gazette on Feb. 2, 2022, all foreign workers who are not exempt from applying for work permits (such as Turquoise cardholders or foreign national from countries Turkey has signed bilateral or international agreements with) have to have a valid permit before they officially start work.
If you are found out to be illegally working in Turkey, both you and your employer will face monetary fines and non-monetary penalties, including deportation.
Note: If you are making an application for a work permit from within Turkey or from abroad, you must start work within one month of arriving in Turkey, and in any case, within six months from the start of the work permit, by fulfilling your obligations under the relevant legislation.
In case the notification date of the work permit to the employer and the start date of the work permit is different, the notifications made to the Social Security Institution (SGK) within one month from the date of notification of the work permit to the employer shall be deemed to have been made within the prescribed period.
Pursuant to the International Labor Law No. 6735, it is obligatory for employers to obtain a work permit from the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services to employ a foreign national. Failure to do so is subject to administrative fines and action.
For the year 2022, the monetary fines for illegal foreign workers are as follows:
- Employers who employ foreigners who do not have a work permit will be fined TL 16,066 for each foreign employee.
- The foreign national who works within a company without a work permit will be fined TL 6,423.
- The foreign nationals working independently without a work permit will be fined TL 12,854.
- Foreigners, whether they work for a company or independently, and employers who do not notify authorities (with regard to the work permit) in due time are also subject to fines. The foreign national is fined TL 1,067 and the employers must pay the same amount for each foreign employee.
If there is a repeat of these acts, the administrative fines increase one-fold.
Illegal working in Turkey is an act punishable by deportation.
Law No. 6458 states that foreign nationals found to be working without a valid work permit are notified to the provincial directorate of migration administration by the provincial directorate of labor and employment.
Upon being reported to the Ministry of Interior, procedures for deportation are initiated.
After being reported, you will not be able to return to Turkey for a defined period of time (90 days out of 180).
On the other hand, if the ministry is aware that the employer has abused work permit laws, they may decide to “blacklist” them. Noncompliance, especially if a repeated offense, also may result in social security, labor, and tax violations, which incur administrative fines. The employer may also indefinitely lose its special corporate tax benefits, incentives, and exemptions.
The relative law also states that all costs and expenses for the deportation, including medical expenses when necessary, of the illegally working foreign employee and their family (spouse and/or children) to return to their country must be covered by the employer.
If these expenses are covered by the budget of the Directorate of Migration Management, the amounts paid will be collected from the employer or employer's representative.
How to Find a Legal Job in Turkey
The best place to start looking for a legal job in Turkey is via a quick Google search.
You will come across multiple job listing sites and platforms. Often, you will get an immediate feeling of whether these job postings and the companies behind them are legitimate.
Kariyer.net, which is only available in Turkish, or other platforms such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn are good places to start.
The most surefire way to see legal jobs is to use İşkur, the website of the national employment agency of Turkey.
You should always do a background check for the company or employer listed in a job ad. If there are terrible reviews online, it is best to stay away.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security website is also good to use as a reference when in doubt.
The best way to ensure a job is legal and the company will sponsor your work permit is to communicate with them, preferably via writing (e-mail) so that you have a paper trail.
What to Ask Your Employer
On that note, here are some questions you should ask your employer to ensure you are not falling for a scam or believing in false promises.
First and foremost, you must ask your employer if they are familiar with the work visa/work permit process. Although a “no” does not mean a dead-end, working for a company used to handling such processes will make you feel safer and more at ease.
You must also make sure that they state their intention to apply for a work permit (preferably in writing) before you sign any papers or the contract. If their behavior and correspondence feel evasive or they refuse to apply for a permit, you should look elsewhere.
In addition, you could ask them if they are aware of the fines and penalties imposed on foreign workers and their employers who are found to be illegally working in Turkey. If they act nervous or try to brush over these concerns saying nothing will happen, exercise caution.
Foreigner or not, you must also make sure your employer intends to pay your social security premiums to ensure you have access to SGK benefits. Many companies often promise this to unsuspecting employees who work in seasonal jobs, but later refuse to pay them.
This is illegal and the employer will be subject to fines for doing so.
Having a written contract that lists all your rights and benefits should be a non-negotiable in this process.