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Turkey: Regulation on Turquoise Card System for Skilled Foreign Workforce

(Apr. 3, 2017) On March 14, 2017, Turkey’s regulation on the Turquoise Card System was published in the country’s official gazette.  (Turkuaz Kart Yönetmeligi [Turquoise Card Regulation], RESMI GAZETE [Official Gazette], No. 30007 (Mar. 14, 2017), Mevzuat online legal database; Turquoise Card Regulation (Regulation) (Mar. 14, 2017), Turkish Labor Law website.) The new system seeks to better regulate skilled immigration to the country by “identifying immigrants who will contribute to Turkey in a more effective and objective way.”  (Sadik Sözer Cizmeci, New Turquoise Card of Turkey, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (Mar. 27, 2017).)

The regulation is based on articles 11 and 25 of the Law on the International Labor Force, which was enacted last year.  (Uluslararasi Isgücü Kanunu [International Workforce Law], Law No. 6735 (July 28, 2016), RESMI GAZETE No. 29800 (Aug. 13, 2016); International Workforce Law (Law) (July 28, 2016), Turkish Labor Law website.)  Article 11 is on the Turquoise Card; article 25 covers the subjects related to the Law that are to be determined by a regulation issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, including “details about eligibility criteria and a new point-based system as a selective mechanism for the Turquoise Card is put into practice.”  (Cizmeci, supra.)

Card Eligibility

A Turquoise Card is defined under the regulation as a document that grants a foreigner the right to reside and work permanently in Turkey and extends the right of residence to his relatives.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 4(1)(e).)  According to the Law, the foreigner’s spouse and dependent children (as defined by law) will be given a document that substitutes for the ordinary residence permit indicating that they are relatives of a Turquoise Card holder.  (Law, art. 11(3).)  Turquoise Card holders are to benefit from the same rights as those accorded to holders of permanent work permits under the International Workforce Law.  (Id. art. 11(4).)  A Turquoise Card can be limited or restricted to a certain time frame in regard to sectors, professions, or geographical areas.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 21(1).)

Foreigners to whom the card may be granted include:

  • highly skilled labor, qualified due to their educational level, wage level, professional experience, contribution to science and technology, and similar qualifications;
  • highly qualified investors, qualified due to their contribution to science and technology, the level of value they create through investment or exports, the volume of employment they provide, and similar qualifications;
  • scientists and researchers, who are internationally recognized in the academic arena or distinguished in science, industry, and technology, in areas of strategic importance to Turkey;
  • internationally successful foreigners in the fields of cultural, artistic, or sports activities; and
  • foreigners who contribute to the international recognition or promotion of Turkey or its culture, acting in favor of matters concerning Turkey’s national interest.  (Id. art. 5(1); Law, art. 11(5); Cizmeci, supra.)

Criteria for Obtaining a Card

Under the point-based system envisaged by the Law and established by the Regulation, applicants for the Turquoise Card will have to obtain the required number of points to qualify, under any of the five categories mentioned above.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 11(1); Law, arts. 7(6) and 25(1)f; Cizmeci, supra.)  Criteria to be used as the basis for preparation of the point system are also set forth in the Regulation.  For example, for highly skilled workers, the criteria are “educational level, prestige of higher education institution, wages, and the professional experience, foreign languages other than native language and the like showing qualification as a senior executive in high-graded jobs that requires expertness or in R&D fields.”  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 11(2)a; Law, art. 10(7).)

Application Procedure  

Similar to the procedure for applications for ordinary work permits, foreigners residing outside Turkey may apply for the Turquoise Card through Turkish representative offices, which are to transfer the relevant information and documents to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security electronically. Foreigners who are legally residing in Turkey may apply directly to the Ministry using their Turkish ID numbers.  Turquoise Card applications may also be submitted through intermediary institutions authorized by the Ministry.  (Cizmeci, supra; Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 6.)  

Rejection of Application

A Turquoise Card application may be rejected if, among other reasons, it fails to satisfy the requisite criteria, does not comply with the international workforce policy, includes false or misleading information and documents, is aimed at occupations and professions confined exclusively to Turkish citizens in other laws, is lodged by foreigners whose employ in Turkey is deemed objectionable “for public order, public security or public health reasons,” or is not submitted within the legal time limits.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 12(1); Law, art. 9.)

Time Period of the Card

The Turquoise Card is granted conditionally for a three-year transition period.  (Turquoise Card Regulation. art. 15(1); Law, art. 11(2).)  The Directorate General of International Labor may assign an expert to follow the Turquoise Card owner’s activities and commitments, in which case the expert will prepare follow-up reports at 12-month periods, with the format and content of the reports to be determined by the Directorate General.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 15(2) & (3); Law, art. 11(2).)

Subject to a favorable report of the expert and provided that the request to remove the transitional period restriction is made within 180 days before the date of expiry of the transition period, or in any case before the date of expiry (the wording of these two phrases seems contradictory), the restriction will be removed 30 days after the request was lodged.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 17(1) & (2); Law art. 11(2).)  If the final expert report is unfavorable, the Directorate General may make a determination to extend or to terminate the transition period and cancel the Turquoise Card.  (Turquoise Card Regulation, art. 17(3).)  If the card is not canceled and the request to remove the transition period restriction is found to be appropriate, the transition period restriction will be removed, and the Turquoise Card will become permanent.  (Id. art. 18(1).)