Asylum seekers may apply for a work permit after 6 months following the lodging date of their international protection application.
The principles and procedures governing the employment of applicants or international protection beneficiaries shall be determined by the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services in consultation with the Ministry of Interior. On that basis, the Regulation on Work Permit of Applicants for International Protection and those Granted International Protection adopted on 26 April 2016 confirms that applicants may apply to the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services for a work permit through an electronic system (E-Devlet) after 6 months from the lodging of their asylum application.
Applicants must hold a valid identification document in order to apply, meaning that those applicants who do not hold an International Protection Identification Card – due to Admissibility grounds or the applicability of the Accelerated Procedure – are not permitted to apply for a work permit. In any event, it would be difficult for these categories of applicants to obtain a right to access the labour market given the general 6-month waiting period to apply for a work permit.
An exemption from the obligation to obtain a work permit is foreseen for the sectors of agriculture and livestock works. In these cases, however, the applicant must apply for an exemption before the relevant Provincial Directorate of Family, Labour and Social Services. The Ministry of Family and Social Services may introduce province limitations or quotas in these sectors. More generally, the Regulation entitles the Ministry to impose sectoral and geographical limitations to applicants’ right to employment, without providing further detail as to the applicable grounds for such restrictions. In addition, applicants cannot be paid less than the minimum wage.
In the Cohesion Strategy and National Action Plan (2018-2023) priorities for the labour market, include:
- Providing reliable and standardised information on labour market;
- Research on professional qualifications of migrants and access to the labour market;
- Protection of right to work as well as information on rights and working conditions.
The action plan includes:
- A website with information on conditions for access to the labour market depending on status;
- Awareness raising on rights and working conditions;
- Strengthening recognition of migrants’ qualifications.
As mentioned above, most initiatives were suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and implementation in 2021 is unclear.
In an interesting case, İstanbul Magistrate Court examined the situation of a person who had a deportation decision who was found to be working without a work permit. An administrative fine of 249 TL had been charged. In its judgment the Court noted that the person had to survive and to do that had to work. Although there had been a violation of a specific law from the constitutional perspective there was no violation as the person had to survive. The fine was cancelled.
In 2020 a total of 123,574 work permits were issued including 62,368 to immigrants from Syria, 4,015 to citizens of Iran, 1,794 to citizens of Iraq and 1,921 to citizens of Afghanistan. Figures are not yet available for 2021. Applicants for international protection continue to face widespread undeclared employment and labour exploitation in Türkiye, similar to temporary protection beneficiaries (see Temporary Protection: Access to the Labour Market).
The Regulation also foresees the possibility for applicants to have access to vocational training schemes organised by the Turkish Job Agency (İŞKUR). In practice, Public Education Centres under provincial Governorates and İŞKUR offer vocational courses to asylum seekers in many localities.
A new project was launched in early 2020 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on creating accelerators for entrepreneur refugees in Türkiye. According to research, in the nine years since the Syrian crisis, over 10,000 companies have been established in Türkiye by Syrians that have created around 100,000 jobs and Syrian businesspeople have invested over 1,5 billion TRY in Türkiye.
In 2020, the Leather, Textiles, and Footwear Workers Association released a report documenting the abuse of refugees’ rights who work in the İzmir leather, textile, and footwear industries. Out of 100 surveyed employees the most predominant problem was underpayment due to informal employment practices. 60% of the participants stated that they were paid below the minimum wage and Turkish workers get paid 200-250 Turkish lira more per month. 65% of the refugees stated that they worked 11-12 hours every day without getting paid overtime. A textile worker also added that employers threaten to fire them when they complain about long working hours. 77% of the refugees said they worked longer hours compared to Turkish citizens. Lastly, refugees working in these industries were likely to be exposed to ill-treatment, discrimination, and hate speech. One Syrian leatherworker explained that refugees are subject to degrading treatment by employers which makes the existing biases towards Turkish workers even worse.
COVID-19 had a huge impact on work opportunities in Türkiye, including for refugees and asylum seekers. Due to the type of work typically undertaken by refugees, their poor economic situation and a lack of access to public services such as healthcare, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic affected refugees to a greater extent, deepening already existing income inequality. Since Türkiye’s economy depends a great deal on temporary workers, refugees’ declining labour force participation during the pandemic had a negative impact on the economy. 64% of migrant households in Türkiye experienced a sharp decrease in their monthly household income during the pandemic, in 56 % of these households debts increased and their access to food and hygiene decreased.  Research conducted by NGO ASAM with 1,162 temporary protection and international protection status holders showed that after the COVID-19, breakout unemployment rates among refugees went up substantially from 18% to 89%. In İstanbul interviews were conducted during the COVID-19 period, and it was found that more Syrians and Afghans work in the textile sector than Turks. The salaries of workers without a work permit were higher than those of formal workers; therefore, people tended not to get a work permit. On the other hand, obtaining work permits for qualified personnel is quite long and tiring and applications mostly get rejected. 
According to a report from 2021, it is not possible for asylum seekers, who are in “irregular” migratory situation because their legal stay has expired or because they have already entered illegally, to work in a formal job. Refugees who have to meet their basic food and other needs to live are employed in various jobs without any rights or guarantees. Since they accept salaries far below the minimum wage, they have to work more. Practices such as long working hours, low wages, the possibility to be dismissed at any time, humiliation, insults and failure to get payment are common. Children are also employed as apprentices in industrial sites for very low wages, almost in condition of enslavement.
 Article 89(4)(a) LFIP.
 Article 89(4)(ç) LFIP.
 Articles 6-7 Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 Article 6(1)-(2) Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 Article 9(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection. Provisionally, however, these applications are lodged with the Ministry of Family and Social Services: Provisional Article 1 Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 Article 9(2) Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 Article 18(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 Article 17 Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 İstanbul Marmura Magistrate Court decision 2018/8, date 2 February 2018.
 Article 22 Regulation on Work Permit for Applicants for and Beneficiaries of International Protection.
 More information is available at: http://bit.ly/3aZ4CiF
 Leather, Textiles and Footwear Workers Association, Deri, Tekstil ve Kundura İşkolunda Çalışan Mülteci İşçilerin Yaşadığı Hak İhlalleri Raporu, March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3fXrULy, 13.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 14.
 Ibid., 19.
 ASAM/ COVID-19 Salgınının Türkiye’deki Mülteciler Üzerindeki Etkilerinin Sektörel Analizi, Sectoral Analysis of The Impacts of COVID-19 on Refugees In Türkiye, 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3scBehq, 14.
 Information from a stakeholder, May 2022.
 Kosar, M. A., Refugees Human Rights Violations in Van. Association of Equity Studies (ECD), September 2021. Available in English at: https://esitlikcalismalari.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Report-English1-1.pdf