Known as the gateway between West and East due to its geopolitical position and the centuries-long history of international diplomacy and trade, Turkey has long embraced the influx of foreign workforce, including skilled migration, from all corners of the world. Apart from the country’s climatic appeal, especially that of the Mediterranean and Aegean coastal regions, Turkey lures expats with a significantly lower cost of living compared to Western and Northern Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, and a range of Asian countries. Those relying on income from abroad enjoy significantly greater purchasing power in Turkey than in their home countries and can access higher-quality accommodation, healthcare, private education facilities for children, and other services that improve the overall quality of life.

Turkey for expats

However, painting a realistic picture of expat life in Turkey also means acknowledging its current political and economic challenges that result in surging inflation (expected to reach 58% by the end of 2023) and outward migration of the native population. Another important factor to consider is that individuals relocated to Turkey by foreign companies and therefore depending on income that is far above the nationwide average will have a drastically different experience from those competing with local job seekers. Also, opportunities vary greatly from field to field: while specialists in IT and hospitality are in high demand, foreign professionals may find it difficult to secure employment in healthcare, real estate, or the public sector.

With this said, let’s take a comparative look at the key positives and negatives of moving to Turkey for work and find out who may benefit from this decision, and who should consider otherwise.

Post-inflation cost of living is still relatively low

Despite the ongoing increase in prices for rent, utilities, basic services, and consumer goods, Turkey remains an affordable destination for international employees and digital nomads. The average housing cost for a 3-bedroom apartment in Istanbul, the country’s most popular urban destination among expats, varies from 800 to 1300 USD per month depending on the district (as of 2023). An average food basket at a local supermarket or grocery store will cost approximately 30 USD, and dining out is an affordable daily option, not an occasional luxury. Children of relocating professionals can benefit from international kindergartens and schools providing high-quality education in English and a range of other languages at a much lower rate than in many European countries, North America, and East Asia.

The immigration procedure is uncomplicated

To receive a work permit in Turkey, a potential relocator needs to submit a relatively short list of documents which includes:

Once submitted, the application is processed for a maximum of 30 days.

This process can be further simplified if the employee is relocated via the EOR procedure – in this case, the provider company takes over the administrative burden.

There are rigid boundaries between expats and local communities

Turks from major urban hubs and coastal regions of the country are used to a steady flow of international tourists and treat foreigners with cordiality and hospitality. However, one should not equate recreational experiences with permanent residence – overall, Turkish society is not particularly open to outsiders due to strong traditionalism and religious influences, and many vacancies remain reserved for local professionals only. The unemployment crisis has made it even harder for foreigners to enter the labor market (unless, as previously mentioned, one is hired by an international company and simply becomes a tax resident in Turkey). Limited opportunities to work directly with Turks result in the social alienation of expats: many find it difficult to network and establish meaningful connections with the locals. The language gap may become another issue outside big cities or resort areas.

Outward migration drains the country of talent

As of 2023, Turkey has seen five major migration waves in its republican history. According to a 2022 GIGA article, the current fifth wave ‘includes diverse groups, ranging from asylum seekers to wealthy businesspeople, all seeking to make a fresh start elsewhere’. Common groups of outward migrants include degree-seeking students, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, and prominent business leaders who choose to transfer their financial savings overseas. These tendencies indicate an increasing level of skepticism about the economic and political situation in the country, resulting in the loss of many progressive and impactful minds.

In conclusion

If you are planning to relocate to Turkey with the intention of on-the-spot job seeking, we recommend doing thorough field-specific research and making sure your expected salary aligns with a realistic cost of living. If you are employed with an international company and relocating to Turkey with a secured contract, the transition is likely to be easier for you, but it is wise to inform yourself in advance on must-knows such as medical insurance, housing options, and local bureaucratic requirements. This applies not just to Turkey, but to any country: moving abroad for work is often a life-changing decision, and the more informed you are, the less stressful your first steps at a new place will be.

Are you a business representative looking for a fast, compliant, and hassle-free way to relocate talent to Turkey? Save time, headspace, and resources delegate this task to a competent third party. As your EOR provider, Acvian handles all administrative steps of relocation, including work permit acquisition, visa application, on-site support with registration, and visa renewal in case of a prolonged contract. Employment agreements crafted with our help are perfectly attuned to each individual case and serve your best interests. We also manage taxes and payroll in Turkey and ensure 100% compliance with the local law at all stages of employment. To get in touch with us, submit your request here or schedule an immediate meeting.