Turkey: Consequences Of Violating Immigration Law In Turkey

Last Updated: 11 June 2019
Article by Maria Lianides Çelebi, Tugce Isikara and Derya Şenkan

In Turkey, there are consequences to both the employer and the employee if the correct work authorization and visa requirements are not met. Possible sanctions are governed by the new Law on International Workforce (2016, No. 6735) ("Law"). Accordingly an employer may be penalized in the following manner:

Worksite Inspection:

Article 23 of the Law allows inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security ("Labor Ministry"), at any time and without notice or cause, to review whether foreigners and their employers are fulfilling labor law/immigration law obligations. They can send an inspector to conduct an on-site inspection. An inspection can be random or triggered by an event, such as notification by a third party (often a disgruntled worker) or another government agency such as the Foreigner's Police Department.

There has been a significant increase in the number and types of government workers who may conduct worksite inspections in the last eight years; the purpose of this has been to make inspections and implementation of administrative fines easier to realize. There is also a tendency for government agencies to jointly track these issues, whether it is the Labor Ministry or Migration Directorate conducting an on-site visit, or those agencies notifying the local police to investigate unauthorized workers.

Penalties:

Monetary Fines

Article 22 of the Law states that employers of foreign workers must notify the Labor Ministry within 15 days of commencement and termination of employment, but in practice this is often overlooked by employers. The Law imposes penalties on work places and/or foreign employees who fail to comply with the Law. Penalties as of 2019 under the new law are:

  • 587 TRY (Turkish Liras) imposed on an employer or a self-employed foreigner who does not fulfill the abovementioned notification requirement
  • 3527 TRY imposed on a foreigner employee who works without a work permit
  • 8821 TRY imposed on an employer (or employer representatives) for each foreign employee illegally employed
  • 7057 TRY imposed on a self-employed foreigner who works without work permit and his/her work place will be closed down.

If a second violation is made by the foreign employee or the employer, the applicable penalty fees will double for the second offence. Under Article 23(9), employers are also liable for the travel, accommodation and medical expenses for the illegal worker and his/her dependentswith regards to deportation.

From April 2014, work and residence permit holders must also complete an address registration with their local Population Registry (Nufus Mudurlugu) within 20 working days of entry to the country on a work visa. Population Services Law, Article 68/c, states that a delay or default in completing the residence address registration results in a penalty fee of 71 TRY. A penalty of 1469 TRY can be issued for providing incorrect or misleading address information. These penalty fees apply to all nationalities as there is no distinction between Turkish citizens and foreigners.

A work permit holder's failure to complete the address registration may also lead to other issues as the Interior Ministry has it in their powers to impose additional subsequent penalties or consequences.

Non-Monetary Sanctions/Consequences

The fines stated above are not the only risk to an employer using unauthorized foreign workers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if the Labor Ministry is aware that an employer has abused work permit laws, the employer can be "blacklisted". Immigration noncompliance also often results in social security, labor and tax violations which generate their own administrative fines, penalty and late fees which usually accumulate to much higher amounts than immigration penalties. Also, labor law violations (including those related to work authorization) may disqualify an employer from special corporate tax benefit programs, such as those provided in the Foreign Direct Investment Law and social security incentives. This can eliminate valuable tax benefits and social security exemptions to an employer who violates such laws, which can be far more onerous than the fines indicated.

Deportation

From April 2014, a foreigner can be deported if found to be working without authorization (Law No.6458, Article 54(1)(g)). The 2016 Law also reiterates that "foreigners who are detected to be working without a work permit are forwarded to the Interior Ministry to be deported" (Article 23(9)).

Also, overstaying in Turkey beyond the time authorized can result in a fine and/or "ban measure." If a foreigner is found in violation of status or out-of-status, they can be taken into custody, issued an exclusion order (often called a "ban measure"), and forcibly removed. This will prevent return to Turkey for a defined period in addition to being deported, unless a waiver is granted by the Migration Directorate prior to applying for a new visa at a consulate abroad.

If, however, the foreigner's overstay is not caught until departure from Turkey, this will be flagged by the passport officers. The foreigner will be referred to the visa violation office at the port of departure which will determine the fine amount. The amount of fine, though at the discretion of the officer, will be influenced by the length of overstay, and whether it is a repeat offense. If the foreigner refuses to pay the fine imposed, the officer will usually issue an exclusion order.

Regardless of payment of the fine at departure, the foreigner is not allowed to return as a visitor for 90 out of 180 days unless special dispensation is granted by the passport officers at the attempted re-entry port. This dispensation may be granted at the discretion of the passport officer if the foreigner signs a document promising to promptly apply for a residence permit. After being granted that dispensation to re-enter, if the foreigner departs without having obtained a residence permit, an exclusion order will be issued.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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