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Doing Business in Istanbul

If you are interested in working in Istanbul, be prepared. The city offers great opportunities for expats, if they can land a job beforehand. Job hunting on location reduces your chances, due to widespread unemployment. Our guide shows you what to expect of working in Turkey’s largest city.

Networking in Istanbul

Networking is an extremely important part of job-hunting in Istanbul. As mentioned in our article on working in Turkey, doing business is considered a highly personal endeavor there. Turkish people often do not like hiring or doing business with anybody they do not know or trust. That’s why jobs are often given to friends of friends or acquaintances.

Visit our expat community in Istanbul and begin by building and expanding your network there. This will help you get in touch with other expats in Istanbul. Your chances of finding work can thus improve significantly. Try to also brush up on your Turkish before moving abroad. After all, multilingual employees have far better chances of finding a job.

Work Contracts and Annual Leave

Many work contracts are only put down in writing if the employment lasts more than one year. Most of them include a probation period of about three months.

The annual minimum of paid leave is rather low in Turkey as compared to many EU countries. Vacation days are not calculated by the number of work days. Instead, they are based on the employee’s age and the number of years he or she has been working for the company:

  • 1–5 years = 14 days
  • 5–15 years = 20 days
  • Over 15 years = 26 days

Additionally, employees are entitled to paid vacation in case of family obligations such as weddings, funerals or circumcisions.

A Small Business World in a Metropolis

Although Istanbul is a huge metropolis, its business world is rather small. Everybody knows each other, and keeping secrets is quite difficult. Human aspects of professional relationships are very important. The same applies to family ties and personal relationships, which often intersect with business contacts.

Most business is done via verbal agreement rather than written contracts. Due to the personal nature of business deals in Istanbul, these agreements are extremely significant and always binding. It is often said that the value of a handshake is a businessperson’s every pride.

Joint Ventures

Most investors establish joint ventures to gain entry into the new foreign market and to benefit from the business partnership. Although foreigners may own 100% of a business, many choose the joint venture to benefit from a zero customs rate and the market know-how of their Turkish business partners.

In turn, Turkish investors reduce their shipping costs by investing in a joint venture and thus get a chance to compete with European companies. The Undersecretariat of Treasury oversees the licensing process in Turkey. Companies with foreign capital have to turn in their annual monitoring forms to this office.

Representative Offices

Foreign companies or investors have the option of establishing a representative office if it is designed for market research or feasibility studies. Some investors also use this office to acquire new investment opportunities for their company.

However, you cannot undertake commercial activities with only a representative office in Istanbul, as you will also need the permission from the General Directorate of Foreign Trade. You may establish a representative office for three years, with the option to extend your activity in Istanbul.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Sven Baudach

"My business partners, also mainly expats, and me, we always use the wonderful InterNations Events as an informal get-togethers."

Maggy Roswick

"With all the great information and contacts provided by InterNations, it was no big deal to get settled in Istanbul."

Global Expat Guide