Immigration Law in Turkey | Overview

Turkey's Immigration Status And Fundamentals Of Immigration Law
Immigration Law in Turkey | Overview
Table of Contents

Turkey’s Immigration Status And Fundamentals Of Immigration Law

Immigration law is the branch of law that regulates the rights and obligations of foreigners entering, leaving, or residing in a country. Immigration law is based on different sources at both national and international levels. At the national level, each country has its own immigration legislation. At the international level, various treaties and documents exist to protect immigrants.

Some key concepts frequently used in immigration law include:

 

RESIDENCE PERMIT:

A document that indicates a foreigner’s right to live in a country for a specified period. Granting a residence permit is subject to the discretion of the competent authorities of that country. Generally, to obtain a residence permit, the applicant needs to have a valid passport, health insurance, sufficient financial means, and sometimes a criminal record check. When the residence permit expires, it needs to be renewed or the individual must leave for another country.

Types of residence permits are determined based on foreigners’ purposes and durations of stay in Turkey. According to the Law on Foreigners and International Protection No. 6458, the types of residence permits are as follows:

Short-term residence permit: Granted to foreigners who wish to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days but cannot obtain a long-term residence permit. This permit is usually given for tourist, commercial, educational, health, research, sports, or cultural activities. The maximum duration of a short-term residence permit is two years.

Long-term residence permit: Granted to foreigners who have held a short-term residence permit in Turkey for at least 8 years and meet certain conditions. This permit allows foreigners to benefit from rights granted to Turkish citizens. The long-term residence permit is indefinite.

Family residence permit: Granted to the spouses and children of foreigners holding a long-term residence permit or having a work permit for at least one year. This permit enables family members to live together in Turkey. The maximum duration of a family residence permit is three years.

Student residence permit: Granted to foreign students enrolled in an official or private educational institution in Turkey. This permit allows students to stay in Turkey during their period of education. The maximum duration of a student residence permit is one year.

Humanitarian residence permit: Granted to foreigners whose applications for international protection have been rejected or canceled but who cannot be deported or should not be deported from Turkey. This permit enables foreigners to stay in Turkey in a manner consistent with human rights. The maximum duration of a humanitarian residence permit is one year.

Residence permit for victims of human trafficking: Granted to foreigners identified as victims of human trafficking or suspected of being victims in Turkey. This permit provides protection and rehabilitation services to foreigners. The maximum duration of a residence permit for victims of human trafficking is six months.

WORK PERMIT:

A work permit is a document granted to foreigners who want to work and reside in the Republic of Turkey, providing them with the right to work and reside. It is illegal for foreigners without a work permit to work in Turkey and is subject to penalties. Work permit applications can be made online from within Turkey or from Turkish missions abroad, depending on the foreigner’s residence permit status. Work permits can be issued in different types: temporary, indefinite, and independent.

To obtain a work permit, you need to follow these steps:

First, you need to determine the type of work permit you are applying for. The types of work permits are as follows:

Temporary work permit: Granted for a maximum of one year for the initial application and a maximum of three years for extension applications. This permit is usually given for a specific employer or professional group.

Indefinite work permit: Granted to foreigners who have had legal work permits for at least eight years or who have a long-term residence permit. This permit allows foreigners to benefit from rights granted to Turkish citizens.

Independent work permit: Granted to foreigners who have had a work permit for at least five years, were born in Turkey, or came to Turkey before the age of 18. This permit allows foreigners to establish their own businesses or practice freelance professions without being tied to any employer.

 

Next, you need to determine where to apply for a work permit. The application methods are as follows:

Application from abroad: Foreigners apply for a work visa at the Turkish representation (consulate or embassy) in the country of their nationality or legal residence. For this application, a passport, a letter of application, a photograph, and a sample employment contract are required. After receiving a reference number from the application, the employer or their representative in Turkey must submit a work permit application through the online system within 10 business days.

Application from within Turkey: If the foreigner has a residence permit for more than six months, they can directly apply for a work permit through the online system in Turkey. Required documents for this application include a passport, photograph, health insurance, and other necessary documents.

Finally, you need to complete your work permit application. Your application will be reviewed through the online system, and if any documents are missing, you will be notified. You must complete the missing documents within 30 days, or else your application will be canceled. If your application is approved, your work permit card will be sent to your address.

The required documents for obtaining a work permit may vary based on your application type and method. Generally, the following documents are required:

  • Passport or valid substitute document
  • Four biometric photographs
  • Sample employment contract
  • Valid health insurance
  • Receipt of payment for the work permit fee and card

 

FAMILY REUNIFICATION:

Family reunification is the application made by a foreign citizen to marry a person who is a citizen of the same country or for their child to live in the country. Family reunification aims to ensure and protect family unity. Foreigners applying for family reunification can obtain the right to reside and work in the country they applied to.

The answer to how to obtain family reunification may vary based on the immigration policy of the country being applied to. However, generally, you need to follow the steps below:

First, you need to determine if you are eligible for family reunification. Foreigners eligible for family reunification include:

  • Foreigners married to a person who is a citizen of the country they are applying to
  • Foreigners who are the spouse or child of a person who is a citizen of the country they are applying to or has a permanent residence permit
  • Foreigners who are the parent, guardian, or sibling under 18 of a person who is a citizen of the country they are applying to or has a permanent residence permit

Next, you need to determine where to submit the family reunification application. Family reunification applications are generally submitted to the relevant representation of the country (consulate or embassy). In some countries, applications can also be made through an online system.

Finally, you need to complete your family reunification application. You must prepare and submit the required documents accurately and completely. Additionally, you may need to fill out an application form, make an appointment, and attend an interview.

The required documents for family reunification may vary based on your application type and method. Generally, the following documents are required:

  • Passport or a valid substitute document
  • Four biometric photographs
  • Family record book or marriage certificate
  • Birth certificate or official population register extract
  • Passport or ID card of the person who is a citizen of or has a permanent residence permit in the country you are applying to
  • Residence permit document of the person who is a citizen of or has a permanent residence permit in the country you are applying to
  • Documents proving the relationship between you and the person who is a citizen of or has a permanent residence permit in the country you are applying to (such as marriage witnesses, joint bank account, joint bills, joint travels, etc.)
  • Documents showing that you can sustain your life in the country you are applying to (such as income statement, rental contract, health insurance, etc.)

 

VISA

A visa is an authorization document required from the competent authorities to enter and exit a country. Visas can be obtained from the consulate of the country you wish to travel to, visa application centers, airports, or border crossings. In some countries, visa applications can also be made online. Different types of visas are available based on the purpose of your travel. The types of visas are as follows:

Student Visa: Issued to students who wish to travel abroad for education purposes.

Work Visa: Also known as a work permit. Issued to those traveling abroad for work purposes.

Tourist Visa: Issued to those who wish to travel for tourism reasons.

Transit Visa: A short-term visa issued when traveling to one country and needing to transit or transfer in another country.

Official Duty Visa: Issued to officials sent to another country for diplomatic duties.

The required documents to obtain a visa can vary from country to country, depending on the purpose of travel and passport type. Therefore, it’s necessary to contact the consulate of the country you intend to visit to receive a list of required documents. Generally, the following documents are commonly requested during a visa application:

  • Passport
  • Biometric photograph
  • Family registration paper
  • Health insurance
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of employment
  • Proof of residence
  • Marriage certificate (for married individuals)

The processing time for a visa application can range from 3 to 15 days after completing the necessary steps. Remember that obtaining a visa is not a right, but a sovereign decision of the respective country.

 

Visa Conditions, Visa Application

1) Foreign nationals who wish to reside in Turkey for ninety days or more apply for a visa from the consulates of the country of their citizenship or the country where they legally reside. The residence period provided by the visa or visa exemption in Turkey cannot exceed ninety days within any one hundred and eighty days.

2) Visa applications must be completed accurately for evaluation.

3) A visa does not grant an absolute right of entry to Turkey.

4) Visas are issued by consulates and, in exceptional cases, by the governorships responsible for border gates. Visa applications submitted to consulates must be finalized within ninety days.

 

Visa Exemption

The following individuals do not need a visa to enter Turkey:

  1. a) Nationals of countries that are exempt from visas based on agreements to which the Republic of Turkey is a party or by decision of the President.
  2. b) Those who have a valid residence or work permit as of their date of entry into Turkey.
  3. c) Holders of passports with a visa stamp issued under Article 18 of Passport Law No. 5682, dated 15/07/1350, which has not expired.
  4. d) Persons who have lost their Turkish citizenship by obtaining an exit permit under Article 28 of Turkish Citizenship Law No. 5901, dated 29/05/2009.

The following foreign nationals may not need a visa to enter Turkey:

  1. a) Individuals arriving in a coastal city as passengers in vehicles that are obliged to use Turkish airports and seaports due to force majeure.
  2. b) Persons who come to seaports for tourism purposes and visit nearby cities or provinces, provided that they do not exceed seventy-two hours.

 

Reasons for Visa Cancellation

  1. a) Detection of forged documents.
  2. b) Prohibition of the visa holder’s entry into Turkey.
  3. c) Abuse of visa or visa exemption.
  4. d) Strong suspicion that the foreigner may commit a crime.
  5. e) Possession of a forged passport or an expired passport or a substitute document for a passport.

 

DEPORTATION

Deportation refers to the removal of foreign nationals from our country in cases defined by law, accompanied by a ban on reentry for a certain period. Deportation is regulated between Articles 52 to 60 of Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection. Deportation decisions are made by the governorates and are concluded within a maximum of 48 hours.

 

Foreign nationals subject to deportation include:

  • – Those sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more.
  • – Leaders, members, or supporters of terrorist organizations or criminal organizations formed for profit purposes.
  • – Those who used false information or counterfeit documents for entry, visa, or residence permits.
  • – Those who sustain themselves through illegitimate means during their stay in Turkey.
  • – Individuals posing a threat to public order, public security, or public health.
  • – Those who exceed the visa or visa exemption period by more than ten days or whose visas have been canceled.
  • – Those whose residence permits have been canceled.
  • – Those with residence permits who violate the permit duration by more than ten days without acceptable reasons after the expiration of their permit.
  • – Individuals found working without a work permit.
  • – Those who violate Turkey’s legal entry or exit requirements.
  • – Those identified as having entered Turkey despite being banned from entry.
  • – Those whose international protection applications have been rejected, those excluded from international protection, those whose international protection applications have been deemed inadmissible, those who have withdrawn their international protection applications, those for whom international protection status has ended or been revoked, and who no longer have the right to remain in Turkey according to other provisions of the law after the final decision.
  • – Those whose extension applications for residence permits have been rejected and who have not exited Turkey within ten days.
  • – Individuals assessed by international institutions and organizations to have connections with defined terrorist organizations.

It is possible to appeal a deportation decision. The foreign national, their legal representative, or their attorney can appeal to the criminal court of peace against the deportation decision. The criminal court of peace can decide to continue the deportation or to release the foreign national after conducting the necessary examinations.

 

Cancellation of residence permit decision:

 The cancellation of a residence permit decision refers to rendering the documents that allow foreigners to reside in Turkey invalid. The cancellation of a residence permit decision is regulated within Articles 33 to 37 of Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection. The cancellation of a residence permit decision is made by the governorates and is notified to the foreign national.

The situations in which a residence permit decision may be canceled are as follows:

  • – Providing false information during a residence permit application or using counterfeit documents.
  • – Failing to exit Turkey within 10 days from the expiration of the residence permit period or failing to make a new residence permit application.
  • – Engaging in activities that are not in line with the type of residence permit granted.
  • – Creating a danger to public order, public security, or public health.
  • – Circumstances arising that prevent the issuance of a residence permit.

It is possible to appeal a residence permit decision. The foreign national, their legal representative, or their attorney can appeal to the administrative court against the residence permit decision. The administrative court can decide, following necessary examinations, whether to cancel or uphold the residence permit decision for the foreign national.

 

What To Do If The Residence Permit Application Is Rejected

After the rejection of the residence permit application, the foreigner must leave the country within ten days after the expiration of the visa or visa exemption. If there is no visa or visa exemption, the foreigner must leave the country within ten days of the announcement of the rejection decision.

The foreigner’s objection to the rejection decision does not suspend the ten-day deadline to leave the country. If the foreigner does not leave the country within the specified ten-day period, the decision of deportation will be.

Legislation and international agreements in Turkey: Turkey’s international obligations regarding immigration and refugees, and how these obligations are implemented. Turkey’s role in international agreements, such as the Istanbul Convention and the Geneva Convention, and how these agreements are integrated into local laws.

Turkey is a participant in key international treaties that uphold fundamental rights and freedoms, including the seven core United Nations human rights treaties.

Additionally, Turkey has established reliable and effective internal legal and institutional frameworks for the protection and promotion of human rights. These frameworks are regularly reviewed and adjusted to meet current needs. On the territory of Turkey, there is Law No. 6458 “On Foreigners and International Protection,” regulating the legal status and stay of foreigners in the country. The law was enacted on April 11, 2014, to improve Turkey’s migration policy while respecting human rights and freedoms.

This law defines the rules of the country’s visa regime, procedures for obtaining permanent residency, grounds for deportation, and rules for international protection. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection in Turkey was approved as part of the implementation of the national program to align Turkey’s legislation with the legislative basis of the European Union. Being a significant country of origin for refugees for an extended period, Turkey has also become a transit and destination country due to its geographical location and improved economic situation. Moreover, Turkey has encountered various waves of immigrants arriving on its territory due to specific incidents. As a result, immigration to/through Turkey has become a long-standing aspect of the country’s life associated with migration.

Foreign citizens have the right to apply for refugee status, conditional refugee status, temporary protection, and subsidiary protection in Turkey.

Turkey accepted the 1951 Geneva Convention, using its right to choose the place of application, provided in Article 1, with the condition of “Geographical Limitation.” Accordingly, a conditional refugee is a person who seeks international protection in Turkey with the intention of subsequently moving to asylum in a third country, claiming refugee status due to events happening outside European countries.

To obtain refugee status in Turkey, a person must:

  • Have objective fears for their life and safety due to armed conflict, humanitarian crisis, or other forms of persecution while staying within their country of citizenship.
  • Be outside the borders of their country of citizenship, particularly in Turkey.
  • Be unable or unwilling to seek protection in any other country.

Asylum in Turkey grants a person the right to:

  • Receive social assistance and access services available through the Social Assistance and Solidarity Fund at governorates.
  • Attend primary and/or secondary school.
  • Obtain social and general health insurance.
  • Receive additional allowances if recognized as needy.

A refugee in Turkey has access to the job market and is entitled to hold any position except those restricted to foreigners. According to the provisions of the Geneva Convention, returning a refugee to the country from which they came to seek protection is grounds for revoking their refugee status. As the grant of asylum is linked to a threat to the person’s life in their country of citizenship, their return to that territory confirms the disappearance of danger.

The regime of temporary protection is defined by the Law on Foreigners and International Protection.

A person who had to leave their country of citizenship due to persecution can apply for temporary protection in Turkey. This decision is applied in cases of a constant mass influx of applicants, allowing assistance to asylum seekers without the time-consuming individual examination of cases. The main rules for granting temporary protection in Turkey include:

  • Admission of foreigners to the country in accordance with the policy of open borders.
  • Adherence to the principle of non-refoulement.
  • Meeting the basic needs of arriving individuals.

A foreigner under temporary protection can stay in the country until they find another solution.

Both internationally and temporarily protected individuals are eligible for social benefits provided by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). In case any person cannot be classified as a refugee or conditional refugee but cannot return to their country or country of residence, due to:

  1. a) Being sentenced to death or facing execution.
  2. b) Being subjected to torture or other inhuman treatment.
  3. c) Facing a threat to their life due to situations of armed conflict in the country or on the international stage.

This person is assigned the status of a person under subsidiary protection. This status is also granted to individuals who cannot avail themselves of the protection of their country or country of residence in the mentioned situations, or who do not wish to use such protection due to the aforementioned threats, or stateless individuals, after completing the necessary formal procedures.

The Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe, aimed at combating violence against women and domestic violence. It was opened for signature on May 11, 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkey became the first country to ratify the convention, followed by 37 other countries and the European Union from 2013 to 2023.

Article 4 of the Istanbul Convention prohibits several forms of discrimination, stating: “The implementation of the provisions of this Convention by the Parties, in particular measures to protect the rights of victims, shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status.”

 

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