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Work And Live In Turkey: A Complete Guide

Living in Turkey

There are many reasons to move to Turkey, not least of which include the fact that it has a fabulous climate for much for the year – particularly along the southern coastline.

If you’ve got your heart set on a relocation to Turkey, this report covers everything you need to know ahead of your move: from understanding residency and work permits and visas to knowing how to import your household goods.

The first things you need to think about however, are how you’re going to fund your move and afford your new life in Turkey.  If you’re going to be living anywhere other than the largest cities and doing anything other than a professional job, you need to face facts that Turkey’s is a low wage economy.  Even if you are a professional and want to relocate to work in Turkey, you need to be aware that your skills, qualifications and experience may not simply directly translate in Turkey.

For example, a British trained accountant or teacher may have to jump through quite a few hoops to prove their qualifications are at least equal to those of Turkish colleagues before they can be allowed to take up employment.  What’s more, anyone looking to work in public facing roles will need to speak a high level of Turkish…unless they believe they have found a niche where they will only deal with those who speak their native tongue!

This is why many Britons of working age who relocate to Turkey end up working illegally and in some very menial roles in the tourist resorts that the British holidaymakers frequent.  If you choose to work illegally you risk a fine and deportation, and being blocked from re-entering Turkey for up to 5 years…not a risk worth taking!

If you want to legitimately work in Turkey you will need a work permit, a work visa and a residence visa.  What’s more, there is a strict list of professions in which non-Turkish citizens are not permitted to work.  Believe it or not the list includes jobs as diverse as a vet and a waiter!

According to the Turkish embassy in London the current list of banned professions is: –

Diving, maritime navigation, working on ships, extracting wreckage, exportation of fish, other sea creatures, sand and pebbles and mining.  Working as executive director in travel agencies or working in the following professional occupations:  medical doctor, nurse, midwife, dentist, vet, carer, pharmacist, optician, executive director in hospitals, judge, lawyer, prosecutor, security guard or notary.

Your work visa will only be issued after your work permit has been approved.  A work-related residence permit will only be issued after you have your work permit and then your work visa.

How to Obtain a Turkish Work Permit

If you’re applying for a work permit before you enter Turkey this is the process; –

You have to have an offer of employment.  You and your prospective employer apply for your work permit in what is a double application procedure.  You apply to the Turkish embassy in your home nation and your employer applies to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Department for Work Permits for Foreigners.  Note: your applications must be made within a maximum of 3 days of each other.

It can take up to 2 months for your application to be processed, and then you have a maximum of 3 months in which to go to the consulate/embassy (or submit your passport to them) to have the work permit stamped into your passport.  Note: it can take up to 3 working days to get the stamp, so many people leave their passport with a stamped addressed envelope for its return.

You can then enter Turkey and take up your offer of employment, but you have only 30 days to apply for your residency visa to complete the extremely long, drawn out process of legalising your presence in Turkey.

Of course, if you’re already legitimately living in Turkey when you’re offered work then the process is slightly different!  Assuming you have at least 6 months left to run on your residency visa, you can apply for a work permit to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Department for Work Permits for Foreigners.

Note: whether you’re in Turkey or not, you cannot apply for a work permit unless you have a firm offer of employment.  I.e., you cannot speculatively get a work permit and then go and seek employment.

Fees are payable for the application, the work permit and your residence permit.

Obtaining a Residency Visa to Live in Turkey

Whether you’re going to be working in Turkey or not, you will need a residency visa to live there legitimately and full time.  Obtaining one is almost as complicated as obtaining a work permit!

Firstly it’s worth noting that British passport holders can enter Turkey for up to 90 days on a multi-entry tourism visa.  You get this visa when you arrive at the airport/port/border crossing and it currently costs £10.  This can give you the breathing space you need to get your application for residency processed.

The bottom line consideration when your application is assessed is whether the authorities believe you have enough capital behind you to support yourself for the duration of your proposed stay in Turkey.  You will need to supply bank accounts showing proof of savings and/or income.

If you’re already in the country on your tourism visa apply to the local police station to start your residency permit application.  Don’t leave it until the last day or even week of your visas validity – do it as soon as you can after arriving in Turkey.  Whilst we will now detail the official process, you may find it differs in your individual case.

This is because bureaucracy in Turkey may be complex, but the people employed in public office often have their own interpretation of the rules!  Note: it can really help to have a local person assist you with your application for residency.  You can employ the services of a Turkish speaking ‘runner’ to help you.  When you go to the police station you can ask them whether there is anyone they recommend to help you if you haven’t already met people and made friends with anyone locally who may be able to assist.

Note: in the past many expats who wanted to avoid the complexity of getting residency took advantage of the fact that you could leave Turkey for 24/48 hours, before returning and once again being granted a 90 day tourism visa.  This loophole has now been firmly closed.  So no more visa runs to Greece: if you want to live in Turkey you have to legitimise your stay.

In terms of the amount of money that you need to have behind you, it’s a general rule of thumb that you need to show you have 250 euros in your bank account for every month you wish to stay.  So say you want to apply for a 5-year residency visa (that’s the maximum allowed – although most first time applicants are only granted one for a maximum of 3 years) you will need 15,000 euros in your account.

Note: it is generally accepted that this money needs to be in a Turkish bank account.

You will also need to take up to 10 passport sized photos of yourself, 4 copies of your passport’s photo page and 4 of the page with your visit visa stamp, a copy of your bank statement, (or if you’re in receipt of a regular pension income, proof of that), a copy of your title deeds or your rental contract to prove where you live, your passport, plenty of cash and your existing residency permit if you’re renewing it.

The Antalya police department has taken the trouble to publish a list of the documentation they will require if you’re living locally and applying for residency, however, this can differ from police station to police station so only use it as a loose guide.

You will also need a tax number, and if you haven’t already got one just take your passport to the local tax office and ask for one.

You will have to fill in an application form which includes you answering why you want to live in Turkey – and this application form should be typed not handwritten and it can be found online or ask at the police station for the Ikamet Tezkeresi Istek Formu.

You will be directed by the official at the police station about how the application process will proceed.  They may ask you to return with additional documentation, or they may simply issue you with a receipt for your passport, (which you must keep safe in case questioned in the meantime about your presence in Turkey), and tell you to return in about a week or so to collect your passport and residency permit.

Everyone’s experiences are different however!

Importing Personal Effects in to Turkey

If you’re moving to Turkey lock, stock and barrel, chances are you’re going to want to import at least some of your personal effects.  The rules have recently changed, and according to current Turkish customs information there is no duty (tax) payable on the import of household goods for new residents.

Having said that, there is a small fee payable locally on the import of TVs, hi-fi equipment and video or DVD players (and you’re supposed to need the serial numbers for each item when you go to do the paperwork for the release of your goods).  Theoretically only one of each type of electrical item is allowed, although there is usually some (limited) leeway with this rule depending on the customs official you deal with.  Ultimately you don’t want your customs official to think you’re importing tonnes of these goods for the purpose of resale!

Your personal effects must arrive within 6 months of your own arrival in Turkey.  Theoretically also, if you’re living in Turkey on a work visa you can only import your goods duty free under the understanding that you will export them again when you leave, but this rule ceases to apply after you’ve lived in Turkey for five years.

You have to have your residency permit in place (or proof of application for such) in order to get the goods through customs.  You will also need your passport, and if you’re working in Turkey you’ll need so-called ‘guarantee documents’ from your employer.  Finally you will need a detailed inventory of everything you’re importing.

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