Turkish Citizenship Law numbered 5901 indicates the procedures regarding the regulation of principles relating to the acquisition and loss of Turkish citizenship and the implementation of citizenship services in Turkey. Turkish citizenship can be acquired both by birth or after birth. This article provides an overview of some of the alternatives through which Turkish citizenship can be acquired after birth, namely through investment in Turkey and buying property in Turkey, as well as a new practice called the Turquoise Card, enabling certain foreigners to live and work in Turkey.
Although it had been possible to acquire Turkish citizenship through investment before 2016, there were no certain criteria for those who were planning to invest in Turkey. After the second half of 2016, by issuing the International Workforce Law No.6735 and amending the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, as well as the Regulation on the Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law, the required amount of investments and the minimum price of real estates have been clarified for potential investors/buyers to acquire Turkish citizenship. In addition to that, a new practice named Turquoise Card has been introduced, which provides foreigners the opportunity to obtain work and residence permits for an indefinite period of time. These regulations explained below could be regarded as a means to attract foreign investors and skilled foreign labor to Turkey.
According to the amendments in the implementing regulations of the Turkish Citizenship Law which was published on 12.01.2017 in the Official Gazette, foreigners who are eligible to obtain Turkish citizenship are those that:
- realize a fixed capital investment of at least USD 500.000 or equivalent foreign currency or equivalent Turkish Liras in Turkey (which must be confirmed by the Turkish Ministry of Industry and Technology), or,
- purchase a real estate valued at least USD 250.000 or equivalent foreign currency or equivalent Turkish Liras provided that he/she does not sell it for three years (to be annotated in the land registry records); or, where the property is subject to a property ownership or a construction servitude, purchase the real estate property based on a preliminary sale contract executed before a notary public, and at least USD 250,000 or equivalent amount of foreign currency or Turkish Liras is paid in advance, and such notarized preliminary sale contract is recorded at the relevant title registry with an undertaking not to transfer or assign the agreement for a period of three years (which must be confirmed by Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation), or,
- generate employment for at least 50 people and this situation is confirmed by Turkish Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, or,
- Deposit cash in the amount of at least USD 500.000 or equivalent foreign currency or Turkish Liras to banks operating in Turkey provided that he/she does not withdraw it for three years and this situation is confirmed by the Turkish Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency, or,
- purchase public bonds in the amount of at least USD 500.000 or equivalent foreign currency or Turkish Liras, provided that he/she does not sell them for three years and this is confirmed by the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, or,
- invest in real estate investment funds or venture capital investment funds in the amount of at least USD 500.000 or equivalent foreign currency or Turkish Liras provided that he/she does not sell them for three years and this situation is confirmed by the Capital Markets Board.
According to Article 11 of the Law on International Workforce No. 6735, the foreigners, who are granted the “Turquoise Card” can also obtain Turkish citizenship, together with their foreign spouses and dependent children subject to certain conditions specified in the Regulation on Turquoise Card. Turquoise Card allows foreigners to obtain certain substantial rights, especially work and residence permits for an unlimited period of time. The foreigners who can be granted Turquoise Card are chosen based on the foreigner’s level of education, contribution to science and technology, professional experience, and the contribution of his/her investment to Turkish economy and employment.
As per the Turquoise Card Regulation published in the Official Gazette dated 14 March 2017 and numbered 30007, Turquoise Card may be granted to foreigners who;
- a) are considered as qualified workforce due to their educational level, wage, professional experience, contribution to science and technology and similar qualifications,
- b) are considered as qualified investors due to their contribution to science and technology, their level of investment or export value, and the volume of employment they provide,
- c) are scientists and researchers who have internationally recognized studies in the academic area, and who are distinguished in science, industry and technology areas which are deemed as strategic by Turkey,
- d) are internationally renowned for their successes in cultural, artistic or sports activities,
- e) contribute to the promotion of Turkey or its culture internationally, acting in favor of the matters concerning Turkey’s national interests.
Turquoise Card applications in Turkey are made directly through an electronic system called the Foreigners Application, Evaluation and Monitoring System. The applications abroad must be made to Turkey’s embassies and consulates in the foreigner’s country of citizenship or legal residence.
When making the application through the system, the following documents must be uploaded to the system:
- a) Letter of application,
- b) Copy of foreigner’s passport or the documents that substitute passport,
- c) Certificate of conformity, if any,
- d) Depending on the groups of foreigners;
d.1) foreigners considered as qualified workforce: diploma, employment contract, CV, letter of appointment or assignment, internationally recognized documents and the like, certifying professional experience and foreign languages other than the native language,
d.2) foreigners considered as qualified investors: documents certifying the level of investment, the volume of employment, export value, financial capability, the field of operation, region, sector and business,
d.3) scientists and researchers: diploma, documents concerning academic career and title, academic studies, licenses, trademarks or patents,
d.4) reputable foreigners at the national and international level in cultural, artistic or sports activities: documents certifying their successes,
d.5) foreigners contributing to the promotion of Turkey or its culture internationally: documents related to activities performed internationally as a Turquoise Volunteer, documents certifying literary and artistic works, publicity activities and its duration and sustainability,
In the assessment of Turquoise Card applications, a point-based system is used, based on the criteria determined by the Directorate General of International Workforce. Accordingly, foreigners who get sufficient points are assessed positively. As per the Regulation, foreigners whose applications are found suitable by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security upon the recommendation of International Workforce Policy Advisory Committee, are granted the Turquoise Card. If the application is granted, the applicant’s spouse and dependent children, also obtain a certificate indicating their relation to a Turquoise Card holder. No work permit and residence permit fees are charged from Turquoise Card holders, and no residence permit fee is charged from the relatives of Turquoise Card holders.
Turquoise Card holders benefit from the same rights granted to permanent work permit holders. In particular, Turquoise Card owners;
(a) have no obligation of compulsory military service,
(b) have no right to elect and be elected or to enter into public service,
(c) without prejudice to acquired rights with respect to social security, are subject to the same provisions in benefiting from these rights,
(d) are subject to the same processes withTurkish citizens relating to residence, travelling, investment, commercial activities, inheritance, acquisition of movable and immovable properties .
During the transition period which consists of 3 years, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security is to investigate the information and documents that constitute the grounds for granting the Turquoise Card. Therefore, the grounds must remain valid throughout this period. As long as the foreigner as well as his/her family have the Turquoise Card, they reserve the right to apply for Turkish citizenship based on the recent amendments made to the Regulation on the Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law.
In conclusion, the introduction of regulations which enable the acquisition of citizenship through investment can be considered a significant step in attracting both investors and qualified workforce into Turkey. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that the above outlined citizenship processes can be lengthy and detailed, which require competent legal assistance by experienced Turkish lawyers, who can expertly guide and support foreign clients in their Turkish citizenship applications.