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Moving to Turkey
A comprehensive guide to moving to Turkey
Becoming an expat in Turkey is your chance to experience a unique country with a rich heritage that dates back to antiquity! Get a glimpse of what Turkey has in store for you: our guide covers everything you need to know before relocating, including visa and permit info, and a country profile.
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Relocating to Turkey
Turkey is located between the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Seas, sharing its borders with Bulgaria and Georgia as well as Syria and Greece. It forms a connection between Asia and Europe, allowing expats to experience a crossover between Eastern culture and the Western world.
A Look at Turkey
Turkey is a member of the UN and the NATO as well as an associate member of the European Union. Political reforms of the last 10 years have strengthened the democratic process and the Turkish economy and made the country an interesting option for many expats. The Turkish government is a republican parliamentary democracy. The country celebrates its national holiday, the Republic Day, on 29 October. As the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, it gained its independence on this very day in 1923.
Most people who move to Turkey relocate to bigger cities such as Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir. However, the percentage of foreign employees is still quite low. 70–75% of the residents are Turkish, 18% are Kurdish, and only 7–12% belong to other groups, including ethnic minorities such as the Armenians or expats.
An Economy of Industry and Services
Most expats moving to Turkey find work in the industry and services sectors. The latter in particular have become a highly important branch of Turkey’s national economy. They provide a wealth of job opportunities, especially in import-export, banking, finance, and insurance. The traditional agriculture sector is responsible for only 8.2% of Turkey’s economic income. The textiles and clothing industry is another big contributor to the Turkish economy. Other industries like electronics, automobiles and construction are gradually gaining ground as well, and might be a considerable future incentive for expats moving to Turkey.
You may also find work in one of the sectors which recently have gone through the changes of privatization. The government has reduced much of its involvement in basic industries, banking as well as transport and communications.
Do’s and Don’ts in Turkey
Many Turkish people are Muslims who refuse to drink alcohol or eat pork. However, this might also apply to those who do not practice their religion. Upon moving to Turkey you might have to readjust a bit when inviting your Turkish friends over for dinner. Try to serve lamb, chicken or fish, until you know more about their individual beliefs and preferences.
Hospitality is an important aspect of the Turkish culture. However, many expats are shocked to find out the boundaries of personal space can easily be crossed. Especially those used to greater personal distance may need some time to adjust to this. It is important that you try to find a balance between being hospitable without allowing friends or neighbors to invade your personal space.
In conversations, avoid talking about political issues. The relationship with Cyprus or the Armenian and Kurdish minorities in particular are sensitive topics for many Turkish people. Therefore they may not be fit for a chat over business lunch or a dinner conversation with casual acquaintances.
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Work Visas and Residency Permits in Turkey
What Do You Need for a Work Visa?
Before you move to Turkey, you must visit the nearest embassy to apply for a work permit and a work visa (calisma vizesi). You will need to bring the following in order to fulfill the application requirements for your work permit application for Turkey:
- one copy of your passport (with translation if not in the Latin alphabet)
- one copy of your residence permit
- official translation of your diploma
- completed work visa application form
- one copy of your work contract
After your work permit has been approved, you must submit the following documents (in person) to the same embassy:
- valid travel document with your work permit
- non-refundable work visa processing fee
- non-refundable work permit processing fee
The required fees are between 181 TRY and 910 TRY, depending on the duration of validity of the permit. However, requirements and fees are often subject to change. Contact your nearest Turkish embassy for current information.
Types of Work Visas
Temporary work visas are usually issued for one year for a specific company and occupation. You can, however, have your visa renewed for another three years of working for the same company in the same occupation. A second renewal will be valid for six years. Your accompanying family members receive a work permit after living in Turkey for five years.
Unlimited work visas are not issued unless you have been living in Turkey for eight years or working there continuously for six years. These are, however, only granted if there are no treaties between Turkey and your home country stating otherwise.
The government will only grant a work visa to self-employed people after five consecutive years of living in Turkey.
Finalizing Your Move with a Residence Permit
After arriving in Turkey, you must apply for a residence permit to receive a “pink book” from the alien branch of the local police department (Emniyet Mudurlugu Yabancilar Subesi). Your employer may take care of this. Otherwise, you need to submit the following documents within 30 days after your arrival:
- residence permit application form
- work permit and visa
- your original passport and a copy
- two or four passport sized photos, depending on the length of your stay
- a letter describing your situation (i.e. employment, education, marriage, etc.)
- processing fee
The processing fee is often raised and you should make sure to contact the local department for proper information. You will then receive your residence permit after 3 or 4 working days. This enables you to leave and reenter the country as often as you please without an entry visa.