New law on the international labor force in Turkey

New law on the international labor force in Turkey

Sadık Sözer Çizmeci
On Aug. 13, 2016, Law No. 6735 on the International Labor Force was published in the Official Gazette. The law makes important changes to the work permit system in Turkey and outlaws the existing Law No. 4817 on Work Permits of Foreigners. 

The new law will be the main legislation regulating non-Turkish citizens’ entry into Turkey’s labor market. The new law is not as procedural as its predecessor. Rather it regulates foreigners’ entry into the Turkish labor market in a more extensive and disciplined way. Although there is no significant change in terms of work permit/visa procedures, some flexibilities for specific categories of professions are introduced in different sections of new law.  

One of the main motivations behind the introduction of a new law for the management of international labor immigration is to introduce an effective tool to achieve the right balance between the protection of local employment and the relaxation of barriers to high-skilled foreign labor. In that sense, on the one hand the new law takes the different realities of various sectors in the Turkish labor market into account, while on the other hand it aims to be an effective, transparent and predictable legislation that reduces uncertainties in front of foreign investment. However, it is remarkable to note that in the new Law on the International Labor Force, although foreign labor is defined in a more comprehensive way, the discretionary power of the Labor Ministry is still behind the wheel. 

One of the most important innovations of the new law is the introduction of a new international labor force policy for Turkey: A selective policy toward managing which immigrants will enter the Turkish labor market. As per Article 4 of the new law, a Turkish International Labor Force Policy Council will be established to define the country’s international labor force policy. Additionally, Article 7 (7) of the new law mandates the Labor Ministry to define criteria for the establishment of a points-based system in the assessment of work permit applications.  

It should be noted that the new law adopts a hybrid labor immigration system: Both employer-led and points-based system features are underlined in the respective articles of the new law. In this regard, a new type of work permit is initiated. As per Article 2, a Turquoise Card could be granted to foreigners as an indefinite work permit. The Turquoise Card would be granted through the recommendation of the Turkish International Labor Force Council by considering several factors such as the education level of the applicant, their professional experience, their contribution to science and technology, and the impact of activities and investments in Turkey on the economy and employment. 

The new rules on posted or seconded foreigners are among the most welcomed and long-awaited labor immigration tools introduced by the new law. Unlike existing international treaties on social security or double taxation, there was no specific recognition of temporary international seconded workers under any Turkish legislation. Thus, even for a temporary period of time, an international assignee was regarded as a full-time permanent employee under Turkish law. The new law introduces a new concept of cross-border service provider: A foreigner who lives in Turkey temporarily to render any service and is paid by a source within or outside Turkey. Although posted or seconded workers are recognized within the scope of new law, the rules and procedures regulating their entry into the Turkish labor market are not clearly defined by the International Labor Force Law. The implementation regulation of the new law in the coming days will surely shed more light on how seconded and posted workers will be regulated.  

The new Law on the International Labor Force theoretically brings many new innovations to Turkey’s labor immigration System. Especially after the introduction of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, the development of a more systematic and flexible system was inevitable for the achievement of a well-founded immigration policy. The establishment of a more selective labor immigration system is no doubt a revolutionary cornerstone in Turkish law in terms of achieving the right balance between protecting the local labor market and removing barriers to the international mobility of labor. The main impact of the new law in terms of procedural efficiency could be discussed in the near future with the introduction of the forthcoming implementation regulation on the Law on the International Labor Force.