Remote Work as a Visitor in Turkey during Covid 19
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many employees have been forced to work remotely from their home and in some circumstances from another country. A common question regarding Turkish Immigration is whether Turkey allows foreigners to work remotely for their employer abroad while residing in Turkey under visitor status.
When a foreigner engages in “remote work” in Turkey, regardless of whether there is no sponsoring entity in Turkey, or the foreigner is not doing any productive work that benefits a local entity, ideally the foreigner would be able to obtain an independent work permit in Turkey. Turkish regulations do have a category of “independent work permit” however this category requires 5 years lawful residence in Turkey.
The Law on International Workforce Law No 6735 Section 3 Article 6 (2) specifically states that “Foreigners are …. Forbidden to work or be employed without obtaining a work permit.” The question here is if remote work that doesn’t benefit a local person or entity and is not compensated in Turkey is allowed under the regulations. Unfortunately the regulations do not specify this issue nor have any exemption from the main premise in the Law on International Workforce. As would be suspected, a tourist visa or a short term touristic residence permit (RP) specifically do not grant work authorization. In fact the applicant can be requested to evidence their financial ability to support themselves (or by their spouse) for the duration of the validity of the RP.
Nevertheless, assuming the individual strictly maintains the validity of his/her tourist status and/or residence permit, works remotely from a hotel or private residence, does not engage in any activity that could be considered beneficial for a Turkish entity or person, does not meet with locals for any work related purpose, not involving any local connections or business development, where all compensation (including benefits) are provided outside Turkey, that the individual does not represent the employer abroad in Turkey in any way, the risk of immigration authorities being concerned with the individual’s activities are not high. However, both the individual and the employer must consider the risks and consequences of not complying with Turkish Immigration Law if the authorities conclude that individuals under this circumstance are working in Turkey without authorization.
On a separate note, there are often important tax consequences of an employee’s remote work in Turkey. A Turkish tax counsel’s advice should be sought regarding if this circumstance impacts the employer’s tax obligations particularly if the individual wishes to remain until the pandemic settles.
It is unfortunately not possible to conclusively state that remote work is clearly authorized, this remains as one of the grey areas in Turkish immigration practice.