Let's start with this: You cannot work in any job in Turkey without obtaining a work permit first, and officially you cannot work until your work permit has been approved. If you're found to be working illegally in Turkey, you will be punished and may be detained or deported.
Work permits are employer-specific, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security is the one that oversees all cases and procedures.
How to Obtain a Work Permit
Before you even think about applying for a work visa or permit, you must already have an agreed contract with your prospective employer.
Unless you are applying as a self-employed professional, your employer applies for your work permit and will collect the necessary documentation to support this application.
You can obtain a work permit while in Turkey or apply from your country of residence.
- Applying for a work permit from Turkey
If you hold a valid residence permit* and at least 6 months of validity left, you can directly apply to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in Ankara.
*This excludes residence permits issued for students.
You and your employee will make an online application to the ministry with the necessary documents, which will have to be submitted within 6 days of application.
After careful review, you will receive an electronic and written response within 30 days.
Note: You should also apply for a residence permit specifically for working purposes within 30 days of the date of your arrival.
- Applying for a work permit from outside Turkey
Suppose you do not have a valid residence permit or are on your tourist visa, or are not yet in Turkey. In that case, you will have to apply to the Turkish consulate in your country of residence or country of citizenship, along with your passport, a photo, and a copy of your work contract/ job offer. Before applying for a work permit, you will need to inquire about a work visa and take this application form to the consulate.
If applying directly to the ministry, your employer has 10 days (6 days if online) to make an application after you have contacted the consulate. Your application will be approved in 30 days when all documents have been submitted in total.
Types of Work Permits
There are three types of work permits you can obtain as a foreigner in Turkey: those for a definite period, those for an indefinite period, and other types of work permits.
Definite work permits are the type you'll be awarded at first, for one year at most. When the time comes for a renewal, you may receive a work permit valid for up to 2 years upon your first renewal and up to 3 years for the following extensions/renewals.
After working at the same place for 3 straight years, your definite work permit can be extended for up to 6 years.
*If your employer changes, this will not be considered a renewal or extension.
If your wife or children came with you and have stayed in Turkey for 5 years, they may also be able to receive a definite work permit.
If you have continuously resided in Turkey for 8 years or worked for 6 years, you will be granted an indefinite work permit.
One important point to note is that once you quit, your work permit is canceled.
Applying for a Work Permit When You Are Self-Employed
To apply for an independent work permit as a self-employed worker, you must have lived in Turkey for at least 5 years. You will be asked to submit a detailed business plan and evidence of how your entrepreneurial initiative will benefit the economy.
If you are a shareholder or manager of a trading company in Turkey, you will also have to apply for a permit as solely being a shareholder or board member does not permit you to work.
The Turquoise Card falls under the other types of work permits category and was introduced in 2017 for highly skilled workers (i.e., researchers, engineers, scientists, artists, athletes, etc.) or high-level investors. If you receive the score needed to be qualified for this scheme, you can obtain a residence and work permit for an indefinite period.
- Real estate
If the scope of your investment is considered suitable, you may be granted a Turquoise Card.
If you buy property in Turkey worth a minimum of $250,000, you also have the right to take part in the citizenship by investment scheme, giving you a permanent right to work and invest.
When Your Work Permit Expires
As your work permit also acts as your residence permit, when your work permit expires, you will have to leave the country in 10 days to not pay a penalty for illegally overstaying. If you would like to remain in Turkey you must apply for a short-term residence permit within 10 days of the last day worked.
Work Permit Fees
The fees for 2021 are TL 1017,80 for every year of work, with an additional TL 125 for your work permit card.
Taxes and Social Security – SGK
Your employer is responsible for arranging your social security and tax payments.
All employees must pay into the Turkish state's social security scheme, which is automatically deducted from your monthly pre-tax earnings (roughly 15%). Once you are in the SGK system, your spouse and children are also insured for illness, medical and pregnancy care.
If your country has a reciprocal agreement with Turkey, you may not have to contribute to the Turkish Social Security Fund (SGK) if you are already paying your home institution.
If you are self-employed or an agricultural or are receiving benefits from another organization in the system, you are not eligible for SGK benefits.
The national minimum wage for 2021 has risen to TL 2,825.90 (net income) and TL 3,577.50 (gross income) before tax and social security premiums.
Your Rights as a Worker
- Maternity leave
Pregnant women are allowed 8 weeks of prenatal and 8 weeks of postpartum leave, making up a total of 16 weeks. Some private companies may offer longer leave times or more flexible work options. If you have twins or more, this leave is extended to 18 weeks.
You will qualify for maternity benefit (receiving up to two-thirds of your salary) if you have worked at least 120 days within the last year.
- Sick leave
According to Turkish Labor Law, each employee is entitled to a maximum of a week of sick leave, provided that you can present a doctor's note or medical report. This period can be extended but will be on an unpaid basis.
Jobs for Foreigners
- Being a Nanny
To work as a nanny or caretaker in Turkey, the child to be looked after must be younger than 12 years old, and the older adult in need of care must be older than 65. Your employer will have to prove that they can pay you a fair wage and pay your insurance, a prerequisite for a work permit.
- English Teaching
One of the most common jobs foreigners apply for in Turkey is teaching English at a school.
Private colleges are always on the hunt for native speakers of English. To be considered for these roles, you will be asked to provide TEFL or TESOL qualifications, and you may be required to evidence previous experience. Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, and some districts in Muğla, such as Bodrum and Marmaris, have the most openings.
- Remote Work
Whether you are working in the creative field or can carry out your work remotely in Turkey, the only thing you need to worry about is the time you spend in the country. Because if you reside/stay outside of Turkey for more than 6 months in a calendar year, your work permit is automatically terminated.
Prohibited Careers for Foreigners
As a foreigner, you are barred from pursuing careers in dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, law, notarial services, or the maritime industry.
You cannot be a private hospital director, an attorney, a notary official, tourist guide, personal security guard, captain, mariner, customs broker, or a pharmacist if you are not a Turkish citizen.
Exceptions - Specialty Work Permit
When it comes to seasonal and short-term work, Turkish labor law can grant exceptions in some instances.
Producers who want to employ foreign personnel for hazelnut harvesting, foreign film companies, recruiting actors and crew for scenes filmed in Turkey, and companies that will use foreigners in the tourism sector can also benefit from exceptions when obtaining a work permit.
You may be inclined to accept an offer without a legal work permit in hopes of better pay, but this puts you in a terrible situation with no insurance and no guarantee of compensation, not to mention the potential of blackmail or abuse. If caught, you may be deported or asked to pay a hefty tax and social security bill and be pursued for them even when you have returned to your home country.
Suppose you suspect an employer of having illegal workers or failing to comply with other legal requirements. In that case, you can report them to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security's hotline "Alo 170". You can also contact this line if you have any disputes with your employer.