Turkey’s new policy on the employment of foreigners and its impact on EU citizens

Turkey’s new policy on the employment of foreigners and its impact on EU citizens

The draft law on the employment of foreigners was forwarded to the Turkish parliament on Feb. 9, 2015. Without any doubt, we can say European representatives and managers of international companies as well as European investors will profit most from the amendments envisaged. Based on the idea that this group in particular contributes the most to the country’s development, this draft law guarantees not only simplification and more possibilities to achieve a better legal status but also various special conditions to this group.

Additionally, this draft law includes some promising paragraphs for foreigners who are married to Turkish citizens but who are not allowed to hold dual citizenship according to the citizenship law in their country of origin. This new draft law states their applications for work permits won’t be evaluated according to the decision of the Foreigners’ Employment Policy Board (§ 9 and 11). However, foreign brides and fiancées should not rejoice prematurely because, although it has been made possible by the current legislation (§8), obtaining work permits has not been made easier for foreign spouses. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection, which recently came into force, actually made the situation worse for foreign spouses! According to former regulations, even though it was possible for this group to obtain a residence permit for up to five years, the new law guarantees only permits up to two years!

Not unlike the Law on Work Permits of Foreigners, the draft law distinguishes between three types of work permits: definite, independent and indefinite work permits. Definite work permits are granted for a maximum period of one year at the beginning. After the legal working duration of one year, these permits may be extended for the same job and enterprise for two years and later on additionally for three years. The applications for that work permit are to be evaluated according to the criteria of the employment policy of foreigners and are to be based on a scoring system. Similar to the current legislation, the situation in the business market and the developments in the labor market will play a crucial role for the positive or negative evaluation of the applications.

Independent work permits are issued to foreigners who want to start a business in Turkey and who work independently. According to the new employment policy for foreigners as outlined in this draft law, this permit will primarily be granted to managing directors of foreign investments and professionals. The period of validity is planned just as it is regulated for definite work permits.

Indefinite work permits provide foreign nationals the most possible freedom of action in the Turkish labor market. According to the Law on Work Permits of Foreigners, which is currently still in force, holders of that type of permit are allowed to work for five years in any job, company and profession despite conditions of the business market and the developments in working life (§ 6). Only foreigners who have resided in Turkey legally for at least eight years or who have legally worked for a total of six years are allowed to apply for this work permit. However, it is not very easy to obtain an indefinite work permit. For example, in 2013 only a total of 94 indefinite work permits were granted. For that reason, some paragraphs of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection gave hope to long-term residents in Turkey. Paragraph 44 states: “… foreigners holding a long-term residence permit shall benefit from all the same rights as accorded to Turkish citizens.” However, the draft law extinguished their hopes. It indicates, “As the indefinite work permit grants foreign nationals important rights, their number of holders should be kept small.” The legal reasoning further states indefinite work permits should be mainly granted to foreigners who make investments and are highly qualified, who strive toward scientific and technological progress, etcetera.

To summarize, although this draft law was made within the EU-harmonization process, it does not contain anything new for ordinary EU citizens. However, as an EU citizen who feels ashamed of the EU’s policy on Syrian refugees, let me conclude with a last a remark - at least this draft law has no negative effects on them! 

*Assoc. Prof. Dr. Barbara Pusch is Mercator-IPC Fellow, Istanbul Policy Center (Sabancı University)