Under normal circumstances, the easiest way to receive a work permit or a work visa is through a Turkish company or employer that will sponsor you as a foreign employee. But what if you want to be your boss as a self-employed entrepreneur or are a digital nomad?

An independent work permit cannot be issued to any foreigner, and you will need to meet specific requirements. The permit cannot be granted indefinitely, and it will only be valid for a definite period.

Your application as an independent worker will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Your level of education
  • Your professional capacity and experience
  • The contributions you will make to science and technology
  • How your investment/work will benefit the national economy
  • The capital you will invest in Turkey if you are a shareholder of a foreign company

How to Apply

To be able to apply for an independent work permit as a foreigner in Turkey. You will have to have resided in Turkey legally and uninterruptedly for at least 5 years. Your work will have to positively impact employment in Turkey and create added value in terms of economic development. Subject to the matters specified in article 9 of the Law on Work Permits for Foreigners. While evaluating the "added value" your work will create on Turkey's employment, related authorities' opinions are taken into consideration.

Foreigners who hold a valid residence permit for a minimum of 6 months, excluding residence permits for educational purposes, can apply directly to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

****While evaluating whether the residency condition of these 5 years has been fulfilled, Turkey, unfortunately, does not count the periods you have spent as a student in Turkey.

However, if you came to Turkey with your spouse and children and all of you resided and received an education here within that said timeframe, the time they spent in Turkey as students are counted towards their residence permit. ***

After submitting the necessary documents, the ministry will evaluate your application, and you should hear back within a month.

If your application and your work are deemed appropriate to be granted a permit within this category, you will be issued an "Independent Work Permit Application Document". This certificate will be valid for 3 months from the date of its issue.

You will, in the meantime, be asked to establish your workplace. After you submit your trade registry records to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, you will be granted your independent work permit.

If your application is rejected, the authority in charge of keeping trade registry records and provincial police departments will be informed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. They will be assessing your situation with regards to residency to prevent unauthorized stays in the country.

Do I Need a Residence Permit If I Have a Work Permit?

Your independent work permit will also act as your residence permit for the duration that your work permit is valid for, as long as the nature of your work does not change.

The permit's duration is determined accordingly to the legislation on the residency and travel of foreigners in Turkey by the Interior Ministry.

Suppose you are not granted an extension on your residence permit when the time is up, according to your independent work permit. In that case, the police directorate will inform the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of the situation. You will have 10 days to leave the country or apply for another type of residence permit.

Documents You'll Need

To evidence legal and uninterrupted residence in Turkey for 5 years, you will need to receive a paper from the police stating so. This document shall be included among the papers you will submit to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security as part of your application package.

While your application is evaluated, authorities may ask for documents proving that:

  • Your work/business activities will contribute to the national economy
  • You have sufficient income to carry out said business activity/scope of work

As wether supporting and identity documents to submit to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

Suppose your work line is included within the scope of "professional services" (mesleki hizmetler). In that case, you will have to submit a document obtained from the relevant authorities detailing your qualifications and the professional services you plan on providing.

*If you are to carry out work in healthcare or education, you will have to obtain prior authorization from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Education.

Remote Work, Freelancing and Being a Digital Nomad

If you are a full-time remote worker and your company is located abroad, and hence you receive your salary from abroad, you are only subject to tax in that country. You will not have to pay separate income tax in Turkey.

Similarly, if you are a digital nomad and the company or companies you work for are not based in Turkey, you will not be subject to tax in Turkey. Still, you may be liable for income tax in your home country, depending on the amount you earn and its laws and regulations.

If you are employed by a Turkish company and want to do some freelancing on the side, you can only do so if it is based outside Turkey. The work permit issued by your Turkish employer only covers the work you do for them. You cannot have an independent work permit and a definite work permit from a Turkish company at the same time.

Things to Consider + Benefits

When applying for your work visa, you will have to consider the social security and healthcare premiums you will pay every month, paid to the Turkish government's Social Security institution SGK. Ensure you remain active in the labor system, are insured under state medical insurance, and your future retirement and pension rights are protected under the law. It's a prerequisite to working in Turkey legally.

Once you have completed five years (60 months) of uninterrupted work and have made the necessary contributions to the SGK system throughout that time, you can apply to get a Turkish passport and Turkish citizenship.

Additionally, the Government of Turkey has incentives for entrepreneurship. The relevant information can be accessed here.