Accessing healthcare services in Turkey as a foreigner
Health insurance and accessing healthcare services are some of the biggest concerns you'll have when moving to a new country. Let this serve as a guide for all things healthcare in Turkey.
Do I have social security/healthcare rights in Turkey?
The social security rights of foreigners are protected by the constitution of the Republic of Turkey. The law on social insurances and general health insurance also addresses this issue:
"Except for the nationals of countries with which international social security contracts have been drawn up based on reciprocity, foreign nationals working on a contract of employment/service are deemed to be insured according to clause 4 / an (SSK)."
Note: Ambulances and walk-in emergency medical services are free for foreign tourists on a short-term visit to Turkey at both private and public health care institutions. Even if any insurance does not cover you, you can access health services free of charge in emergencies.
What is a bilateral social security agreement?
Bilateral or multilateral social security agreements regulate the citizens of signatory countries' social security rights and obligations.
So, if you happen to be from a country with whom Turkey has signed an agreement, you'll mutually have many social security rights contingent upon the agreement's clauses.
Turkey has signed agreements with the following countries: Germany, Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Czechia, Denmark, France, South Korea, Georgia, Croatia, The Netherlands, England, Iran, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Montenegro, Kyrgyzstan, The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Libya, Luxembourg, Hungary, Macedonia, Mongolia, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Tunisia.
What does this mean for me?
Foreigners must inform the Social Security Institution (SGK) in Turkey when they start working. If your home country is a party to such an agreement, and you are insured in that country, you are considered insured in your country, not Turkey, for the amount of time specified by these agreements. For example, this period is 24 months for German citizens.
The first thing you need to do when you come to Turkey
However, suppose you are under the age of 18 and will be enrolled at a Turkish educational institution or language course or are over 65. In that case, you do not need to have health insurance before you make your appointment, as the Turkish state will automatically cover you.
If you are aged 65 or older, it is strongly recommended that you have complementary health insurance, especially since 2017, when the SGK said it would not cover the costs of treatments and medicines for pre-existing conditions.
Various insurance companies are operating in Turkey, offering multiple health insurance plans, differing in coverage and premiums. Just like with universal health insurance (GSS), you will need to pay a monthly premium to the insurance company, and in return, use pre-listed health services free of charge.
The (GSS) insurance premium rate for foreign nationals is 24% of the national minimum wage, which changes annually. This rate drops to 4% for international students.
Tip: After obtaining a residence permit, you can apply for GSS by canceling your previous private insurance.
Universal Health Insurance – Genel Sağlık Sigortası (GSS)
GSS is the Turkish government's compulsory insurance scheme offered for Turkish people.
But if you:
- have a residence permit,
- have health insurance solely from Turkey or
- have been living in Turkey for longer than a year and applied for GSS after this period
You can benefit from GSS.
If your granted GSS,
- Your legal spouse,
- Child or children under 18,
- Unmarried children under the age of 20 if they have a high school diploma or the equivalent,
- Unmarried children under the age of 25 enrolled in a higher education institution,
- Unmarried children considered disabled by law, regardless of age,
- Your mother and father, if you are the caretaker and can produce financial proof,
They can also benefit from health services in Turkey. Likewise, if you are married to a Turkish citizen, you can be added to their insurance policy.
Turkey's social security system
After living in Turkey for a year, you can opt to pay into Turkey's Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK) system. The SGK comprises two elements: healthcare and social security benefits (pensions). Once you are in the SGK system, you are entitled to healthcare in Turkey, and most of your health problems, operations, and pregnancy, will be covered.
To apply for GSS, you need to make your application in person to your nearest social security center (Sosyal Güvenlik Merkezi), of which there are over 550 in the country. You must submit the following documents:
- Residence permit,
- The original or photocopy of the letter showing your social security status for healthcare purposes, obtained from the relevant social security institution in your home country or labor attaché,
- Commitment letter/contract (Taahhütname)
If you are applying with your spouse, you will be asked to provide a translated and notarized copy of your marriage license and birth certificates of your children if you use them for them.
***Those insured by the SGK are entitled to receive free medical treatment in public/state hospitals (Devlet Hastanesi), reduced payment for prescriptions, and even some discounts at select private medical institutions.
If you have a dental emergency or would like to receive dental care while in Turkey, you have three options:
- Private health insurance
- Private clinics
Oral and dental healthcare clinics, operating as part of public hospitals across Turkey, offer appointments and services free of charge for Turks and foreigners with GSS (universal health insurance). It includes both state hospitals (Devlet Hastanesi) and university research and training hospitals (üniversite eğitim ve araştırma hastanesi). You can make an appointment at these institutions by phoning 182 or the internet through the Centralized Doctor Appointment System (Merkezi Hekim Randevu Sistemi - MHRS).
Note: Some private hospitals also offer a discount for those with GSS but ask before signing anything.
If you have private health insurance, you can receive dental services at private or public healthcare institutions listed in your policy, depending on your plan's coverage.
Your last option is to visit a private dental clinic, which operates outside of the public and private insurance realm, have their own set of prices and fees for their services.
Are you planning on moving to Turkey? Do you need private health insurance for your residence permit application?
View our international private health insurance plans for individuals, professionals, students, and families.