New law on foreign workers, Turkey
On 1 February 2012, a new law on the residence and travel of foreigners in Turkey came into force. This law brings to an end the so-called ‘visa runs’ by foreigners living in Turkey without a residency. For foreigners working in the undeclared economy in Turkey, this new law represents a significant obstacle to continuing their activities.
A large number of people from eastern European countries, the Caucasus and central Asia work in Turkey without registration. This is especially common in sectors such as construction, child care and older people. Before the implementation of the new legislation, many of these foreigners were able to carry out what is referred to as ‘visa runs’ where they exit Turkey after their 90-day visa ends and then immediately re-enter the country with a new 90-day visa. This is a real problem: Prime Minister Tayyip Eroğan recently declared that approximately 170,000 Armenians are currently living in Turkey, making it necessary to update legislation.
The objective of this policy is to tackle undeclared work carried out by foreign workers.
The new law, prepared by the Ministry for Labour and Social Security, states that foreign citizens who stay in Turkey for 90 days in any period of 180 days without a working visa are required to stay in their home country for 90 days before re-entering Turkey. Alongside this measure, the fine of not declaring a foreign worker is €660.
The Law on Residence and Travel of Foreigners in Turkey took effect on 1 February 2012. To ease the effects of this measure, foreign citizens who arrive in Turkey by means of a tourist visa and later obtain a work permit will be allowed to extend their stay in the country for a year or more. However, they will then be obliged to pay a hefty premium of MKD 400, while they will also be barred from obtaining employment in a sector where Turkish citizens demand work.
Lessons and conclusions
Achievement of objectives
The new regulation has introduced a significant barrier to re-entry. It will hinder foreign undeclared workers from re-entering. But it is also a burden for expats living in Turkey making use of the ‘visa-runs’ to renew their visa. The law came into force on 1 February 2012. It is too early for evaluations of the measure.
Obstacles and problems
A high number of Armenian and Georgian people working in Turkey are leaving the country in the wake of the implementation of this law that complicates working permits for foreign people. While workers complain of extreme financial difficulties, the Ministry for Labour and Social Security announced exceptions in the case of Armenian, Kyrgyz and Gagauz domestic workers. These workers will pay the same premiums as a Turkish citizen and will be allowed to continue working even if a Turkish citizen demands the same job.
This measure, with adjustments, is transferable to other economies with high proportions of undeclared work being carried out by foreign workers. The measure is bringing Turkish visa legislation more in line with the Schengen Agreement.
The Supplement for the Decision 2011/2306, published in the Official Gazette on 24 October 2011.
Ziflioğlu, V (2012), ‘Foreigners leave Turkey amidst new residence law’, 27 January, available at http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/foreigners-leave-turkey-amid-new-residence-law.aspx?pageID=238&nID=12391&NewsCatID=339.