Turkey is a popular destination for expats seeking residence and work, particularly its beautiful city of Istanbul and its capital, Ankara. If you are interested in working in tourism and hospitality, the tech industry or English teaching, you will find suitable vacancies in Turkey, but the country’s economy has recently taken a downturn and you may not find as wide a range of jobs as was previously available. There are a number of bureaucratic steps you will need to take if you are planning to relocate. Please read on for further details.
In order to work in Turkey, you must first secure a job offer, as your employer must apply for your work permit – you cannot apply yourself.
They can do so in two ways. Either they must apply through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security online, via the “e-devlet” service – this method is best if you are already in the country and have a valid residence permit – or by applying to the nearest Turkish embassy – this method is best if you are still in your home nation.
You will need to submit:
• a copy of your passport
• your visa application form
• a letter of sponsorship from your employer
• one biometric photo
You may also be asked for:
• a return ticket and proof of accommodation
• bank statements for the last several months
• evidence of health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay in Turkey
• your personal tax records for the last several years
• your up-to-date police clearance document
Your employer will also need to submit some documentation, including taxation documents.
If you are applying from outside Turkey, note that a work permit is equivalent to a residence card, so you will need to pay an entry visa fee, work permit certificate fee and residence fee respectively. You will need to register your residential address within 20 business days following your arrival in Turkey with the Directorate of Populations Registry (Nufus Mudurlugu) and/or Migration Directorate (Göç İdaresi).
You can apply for a work permit individually if you are self-employed, but in practice, these are rarely granted, and then only to people who have been a resident in Turkey for over five years. A new kind of visa, called a Turquoise Card, is supposed to be implemented to cover self-sponsorship in exceptional cases, such as some forms of entrepreneurship and investors, but this is still pending at the time of writing.
The Turkish government has restricted some professions to Turkish citizens only. Therefore, as an expat, you will not be able to work in the legal, medical or mining sectors.
However, you are likely to be able to find work in tourism and English language teaching. You will need a TEFL certificate for the latter and ideally a university degree.
You may also wish to consider the possibility of secondment from your existing employer, or to approach one of the UK multinationals that currently has a base in the country. For example, Marks & Spencer, HSBC, Vodafone and BP all have Turkish branches. Google, Colgate-Palmolive and Red Bull also have bases in the country.
It is not essential to speak Turkish, especially if you are applying to an international company, but it is advisable that you pick up the basics of the language.
Businesses open from around 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m, or later in the case of retail. The legal working week is 45 hours, but in practice this is often not adhered to.
Annual leave will depend on how long you have worked for a company. You will be entitled to 14 days of annual leave if you have worked for an employer for between one and five years. There are nine public holidays.
If you become pregnant, you will be entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, split evenly between before and after the birth.
The minimum wage is currently set at €422.30 per month.
Your spouse will need to be registered for a residence permit for the same length of time as your work permit. They will not be permitted to work as your dependant, but must apply for a separate work permit.
You can make speculative applications and, as above, there are a number of multinationals in the country.
There is a wide variety of job boards and recruitment agencies for specific sectors, such as TEFL. There are also several agencies that cover summer jobs, if you are interested in seasonal work in Turkey.
A standard CV/resume is acceptable, and if you are applying for work in the hospitality industry (for example, as a barman) you may not even be asked for one. If you are applying to a Turkish-speaking organisation, however, it is advisable to have your CV/resume translated into Turkish.
Under Turkish law, discrimination on the basis of gender, race, colour, language, religion, belief, sect, philosophical and political opinion, ethnic origin, wealth, birth, marital status, health status, disability and age is prohibited.
If you are applying to a Turkish-speaking organisation, it is a good idea to have copies of your qualifications and training translated into Turkish. You may also wish to have your qualifications apostilled.
Many foreign nationals will need a visa to enter Turkey. The standard Turkish tourist/visit visa is valid on a multiple-entry basis for a period of up to 90 days in a 180-day period. Some cruise ship passengers, who arrive at sea ports to visit as tourists, may be exempt from needing a visa, assuming they have an eligible passport and are staying for less than 72 hours.
You can apply for your visa at your nearest embassy or consulate, or you can obtain an eVisa online. An eVisa costs around $35, plus a small service fee, which can be paid by credit or debit card. If you decide to apply for an eVisa, you must do so at least 48 hours, and up to three months, before you travel. It is always advisable to carry a printed copy of your eVisa, in case there are any technical errors.
An eVisa is only valid for the purpose of travel, tourism, and commerce. Be wary of using unauthorised websites, which could charge additional fees or issue fake eVisas. You can visit the official government website here.
If you are planning on remaining in Turkey for a period of more than 90 days, you can apply for a long-stay visa before you travel. Alternatively, once you are in Turkey, you can obtain a residence permit from the local authorities, so long as you do so before you have been there more than 90 days.
If you are entering Turkey by crossing a land border, be sure to check that your passport has a dated entry stamp, before you leave and continue your journey. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you enter Turkey, and that there is a full blank page available for the entry and exit stamps.
There are several visa categories in the Turkish visa system, each of which covers a number of circumstances. These are:
The tourist/business visa category encompasses:
• Touristic visits
• Single transits
• Double transits
• Business meetings/commerce
• Sportive activities
• Cultural artistic activities
• Official visits
• Visits to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
An official visa is for someone who is visiting Turkey in an official capacity. This type of visa is most commonly used by diplomats, but can also be used by those assigned for duty and couriers.
The student/education visa doesn’t just cover those studying at university. It also covers:
• ERASMUS internships
• AISEC internships
• Turkish language courses
• Other education courses
• Studying in a certified education institute in Turkey
• Studying in a certified education institute in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
A Turkish work visa is essential for those wishing to legally work in Turkey. It supports a variety of careers and trades, such as:
• Lecturers and academics
• Approved sportspersons
• Assigned artists
• Free Zone workers
• Assigned journalists
• Montage and repairman purposes
• Other special conditions of employment
There are a few visas available for those entering Turkey that fall under a miscellaneous category, labelled “Other”. Such purposes include:
• Archaeological excavation and/or exploration
• Researching and filming documentaries
• Persons working as a tour operator / tour representative
• Medical treatment
• Family reunification
• Freight visas
• Seafarer visas
For all visas other than those issued for tourist, business or commerce purposes, which can be done online, applications must be made at your local embassy or consulate.
Every foreigner who intends to work in Turkey will require a valid work permit. Work permits are issued by the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security (a.k.a. the MLSS). In order to obtain a work permit, you will need to submit an application to your nearest embassy or consulate in your home country prior to travel, and your employer will file a submission with the MLSS.
In some circumstances, you may be able to apply for a work permit while you are in Turkey. Usually, foreigners who have already been issued a residency permit, which has at least six months’ validity left on it, will be able to apply for a work permit from within Turkey. Foreigners visiting for tourism purposes will not be eligible.
You will need to have an employment contract or job offer in order to be approved for a work permit.
If you have continuously and legally worked in Turkey for a minimum of five years, you will be eligible to apply for an independent work permit. An independent work permit will allow you to work as a self-employed individual. These types of permits must be applied for at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Ankara.
Eligible foreigners intending to be in Turkey for more than a 90-day period can apply for a temporary residence permit; this must be done within 30 days of arrival.
In order to be considered eligible for permanent residency status in Turkey, foreigners must have legally and continuously resided in Turkey for a minimum period of eight years.
You may also be able to apply for permanent residency if you start a business or purchase a property in Turkey. There is no minimum investment required to do this, you just need to show sufficient evidence that you legally own a property or are running a business, and that you have sufficient financial means to live in the country.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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There are several ways to rent accommodation in Turkey: through an estate agent (an Emlak), directly from an owner or via a specialised agency. Rental fees vary depending on the size of the property and its location. For example, a 85m2 furnished property can cost from around 2000 TL to 3,300 TL per month.
Expect to pay one month’s rent in advance and one to two months’ rent as a deposit. Any taxes or property repairs are normally paid for by the landlord. Standard rental agreements are for one year. The tenant may terminate the lease by giving notice 15 days before the end of the lease term. Written leases need to be notarised, and a tax applies.
Renting through an Emlak usually means securing a one-year contract. The accommodation is usually unfurnished. You will be charged a fee – the equivalent of one month’s rent or 12% of the annual rent amount – as well as the deposit.
Renting directly from an owner is sometimes simpler. The properties are frequently furnished and often include all utilities. Contracts should still be agreed and notarised, and a duration of tenancy agreed. Rather than hand the deposit directly to the landlord, you should set up a rent deposit joint account with them, and then you can pay into this. The bank must then return it to you upon your request three months after you vacate the property, unless the landlord has lodged an active lawsuit against you for damages.
You can secure furnished serviced apartments for leases of one month and upwards through specialised agencies.
Rental property websites to check include:
The Turkish government has removed many of the hurdles that once made buying property in Turkey more difficult for foreign nationals. Therefore, if you are looking to purchase a home there, you can now do so just as easily as a Turkish citizen could. Military clearance, for example, while still required in some areas, is no longer needed in many parts of Turkey, including in Mugla, where foreign property ownership is high. As well as speeding up bureaucratic processes, the new laws provide new opportunities for buyers. For example, they allow them to participate in auctions and buy repossessed properties.
Although you do not need a residence permit to buy a property, you will need your Foreign Identity number (your Yabanci Kimlik number), which you can get, free of charge, from the foreigners departments of the Turkish National Police (TNP). A recent change in law means that property buyers are now eligible for residency with any property purchase, and those who spend more than $250,000 on a Turkish home are eligible for citizenship.
It is strongly recommended that buyers obtain the services of an independent lawyer, before they commit themselves to purchasing property, or to paying a deposit. The lawyer should have no connection with either the seller or an agent of the seller. Their fees will be in the region of £1,000.
After signing a contract, the process should take around four weeks to complete. Your appointed lawyer will make all the necessary checks on the property, including title check and municipality check, to guarantee that the property is freehold registered in your name.
Your solicitor is responsible for overseeing the applications for the Tapu (title deed) and the Iskan (habitation licence), as well as for dealing with contracts. The Iskan is a technical passport for your real estate, which holds information about your property, such as the number of floors it has and its indoor infrastructure. The Tapu is an official document that shows property ownership.
The Tapu will include your photo, as well as an official stamp and signature. It is vital that the Tapu is checked for authenticity, by making sure that the name on it matches the seller’s. Your solicitor will check all of this for you, and will make sure that the Tapu does not come with any debts, and that it matches the property in question.
On completion of the contract, you will be required to leave a holding deposit to secure the property – the minimum holding deposit accepted is £1,000 or the equivalent. At this point, a date will be set for you to pay the full deposit, which is usually 1% to 2% of the property’s purchase value.
Once all the paperwork is in place, you will pay the remaining balance on your property, and your solicitor will sign over the deeds.
If you require a mortgage, then Deniz Bank is one of the leading banks providing mortgages to foreigners in Turkey. It also has more moderate lending rates – the mortgage loan can be up to 70% of the value of the property.
In order to acquire the title of a property, an application must be submitted to the Land Registry Office local to where the property is situated. After carrying out necessary searches and checks for the above-mentioned requirements, the transfer of the title is done by the Land Registry Office.
In Turkey, it is legally compulsory for both sides (the seller and the buyer) to be present at the entry in the property register during the transaction. The proofs or the documents, concerning the transfer of the full purchase price into Turkey, must be presented to the Land Registry Office.
It is at the point of deed transfer that all taxes and charges will be paid. This includes the purchase tax (stamp duty), which amounts to 3% of the assessed value of your property. The assessed value is normally around 60% of the purchase price, so your purchase tax will be 3% of 60% of the value of your property.
As a new property owner, once the purchase process is complete, you will receive your Tapu. You will need to register with the local tax office, and must open a Turkish bank account – Garanti Bank and Yapi Kredi are popular options with foreign nationals. Once the bank account is opened, you will be given a dedicated tax number, and you must register the fact that you now own the property with the local municipality.
Once you have the keys to your new home, you will need to pay one off connection fees for utilities, such as electric, gas and water. You will also be required to purchase earthquake insurance.
Annual property tax is collected by the municipalities at the rate of 0.3% for land and 0.1% for a house. Costs can vary slightly depending on your municipality, and in the big cities these figures are double. All properties are subject to revaluation every year for tax purposes. If you are buying off-plan, you must complete an affidavit and submit this to the municipality, for tax purposes, within three months of completing the construction.
Popular property websites include:
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Turkey health insurance
If you are working for an employer in Turkey you should be registered by your workplace with the SGK, but check to see if they have done this. Otherwise you can register yourself: you will need to go to the local SGK office. These are regionally governed so the application process might differ slightly from area to area, depending on where you are based, but you will need your passport and any ID cards, as well as proof of your residency in the country.
Under the Social Insurance and General Health Insurance Law (GHI), Turkey suffers from something of a catch-22 situation in that you cannot gain residency status unless you have approved health insurance, but conversely you will not be able to sign up to the SGK unless you have residency.
You can take out private coverage initially – however, note that although this will be recognized by Turkish hospitals, it may not be recognized by immigration if you are planning a longer stay. Thus your applications for residency and the SGK will overlap and both offices should issue you with a provisional document to take to each of the other departments. If you need to update your residency permit, make sure that you inform the SGK.
You will need all or some of the following documentation, depending on your local office’s rules:
• an application form
• a copy of your passport
• your residency application
• a health assessment carried out by an approved doctor
• proof of your address issued by the local Nufus office (this is the department which monitors the population)
Either your employer will deduct your contributions from the payroll, or if you are making your own contributions as a self-employed person, you will need to pay these in monthly, online or via a Turkish bank.
You should also check whether your home nation has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Turkey: France and Germany do, for example, but the UK does not. If this is the case, you will automatically be covered under the public healthcare system but will need to make your presence known to them.
Turkey has a certified currency known as YTL (the new Turkish lira). Some time ago, the Lira was a very unsteady currency. However, the currency has now stabilized significantly thanks to various monetary policies that reduced the zeroes from Turkish bill values and the current economic growth. The currency instability in Turkey caused foreign currency investments to be undervalued in the country for a long time. Nevertheless, today many Turkish banks will provide you with the option of opening up an account with the new Turkish lira or with a foreign currency. Garanti Bankası, Türikiye İş Bankası (Isbank), Yapı Kredi Bankası-Koçbank and Akbank are some of the major banks in Turkey. Expats can open different types of bank accounts with foreign-owned and local banks in Turkey.
Garanti Bankası is popular with expats because it has English-speaking staff in most of its branches. Most EU expats prefer Isbank because it has a number of European branches, making it highly suitable for them. In addition, Turkey has several foreign banks including J.P. Morgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, and Deutsche Bank.
Islamic banksTurkey has two main Islamic banks, namely Türk Arap Bankası and Turkish Bank. These banks conduct their operations in adherence to the Islamic laws. Islamic banks do not pay or charge interest (faiz) on loans or accounts. In addition, they do not invest in companies associated with gambling, pork, or alcohol. These banks also buy homes and sell them at higher costs, but the purchasers are allowed to pay in installments.
Opening a Turkish bank account
You must register for a Tax Number before you are allowed to open a bank account in Turkey. Many banks demand a residency permit from applicants before they are allowed to open an account in the new Turkish Lira. However, some may make an exception, especially for customers with large investments. Even if you do not have a residency permit or fail to negotiate with the bank staff, do not give up because many banks will happily open up an account for you in other currencies including the US dollar, British Pound, or Euro. The only drawback with foreign currency accounts is that they offer little or no interest.
Generally, you will be required to fill in an application form and provide your tax number before you can open an account in Turkey. Consider opening a current account first because it allows you to deposit and transfer cash. Many banks in Turkey do online banking, which allows you to conveniently pay for utility bills. Alternatively, you can open a savings account. However, it is important to know that a savings account is charged fifteen percent withholding tax. All interest rates are inclusive of the withholding tax.
Many Turkish banks open between 9:00 hrs and 17:00 hrs. The banks remain open during lunch, but avoid banking at this time of the day because you might have to wait a long time for service.
Cash, cards and ATMs
Ensure that you always carry cash while in Turkey because some shops and restaurants do not accept debit and credit cards. Normally, only big and popular stores accept credit cards. Apply for an ATM or debit card as soon as you open a bank account. Use the card to withdraw money from your account. You should be able to use any Cirrus card, Switch or Maestro with any ATM in the country. However, you might also find some ATMs that cannot work with your card. When applying for your ATM card, confirm with your bank for ATM transaction charges. Most transactions are usually charged at a fee.
It is important to know that Turkish banks do not provide overdrafts. Therefore, ensure that you are aware of your balance to avoid being denied access to cash or debit money. Lastly, avoid carrying around huge amounts of money, especially if you live in a city. Carrying large amounts of money may attract criminals.
Credit and debit cards
Even though debit cards are not accepted in some shops, you can apply for one to enable you to withdraw money from ATMs. Credit cards eliminate the inconvenience of having to go to the bank whenever you need cash.
You are required to be a Turkish citizen to apply for a Turkish credit card (kredi kartı). However, exceptions might be made, especially if you have significant funds to deposit in a bank account. However, this may affect your credit.
Many credit cards are activated by phone. The PIN is also set during the telephone call. You may also activate your card online. Research the activation process and have all the required details ready before you start the activation process.
Checks (çek) are available in Turkey but its best if you avoid using them altogether because many businesses in Turkey do not accept them. When you pay for items using a check, the shop owner has to verify that the check has cleared before handing you your goods. Your merchandise is kept in reserve until the check has cleared. Due to the slow check processing procedure, checks are used in commercial transactions and for expensive purchases only.
Travelers’ checks are also inconvenient. Many merchants and banks do not accept them and those that do will force you to visit a particular branch to be served. Moreover, you might be charged up to 20% of the check’s value for it to be cashed. Therefore, it is wise to stick to credit, cash, and debit
Foreign-Owned Banks in Turkey
Tel: (212) 355 08 00
Fax: (212) 274 79 93 – 266 93 00
Eurobank Tekfen A.Ş.
Tel: (212) 371 37 37
Fax: (212) 357 08 08
Tel: (216) 524 50 00
Fax: (216) 524 50 50
Deutsche Bank A.Ş.
Tel: (212) 317 01 00
Fax: (212) 317 01 05
Expats can open bank accounts with the banks in their home countries or with Turkish banks.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Turkey is a popular destination among expats. If you are intending to live and work in the country, you may be asking how easy it will to communicate with your colleagues and local people. Will you need to master the official language, and what is it? What other languages are spoken in this country? Can you get by in English during your stay in Turkey? We will answer some of your questions below.
The national language of Turkey is naturally Turkish, part of the Turkic language family. In 1928, Ottoman Turkish, which used a lot of Arabic and Persian words, was replaced by the form of the language spoken today, and the alphabet was changed from Arabic to the Latin alphabet. The modern form of the language uses fewer Arabic words and there are a number of loan words from other languages such as French and English.
Turkey is an international crossroads, reflected by the fact that Istanbul itself is a city which straddles Europe and Asia. It therefore has a rich linguistic heritage, demonstrated by the tapestry of languages that you will find here, including:
• Balkan Romani
• Northern Kurdish
Although English is taught in Turkish schools, and you will find English spoken in the cities, such as Ankara and Istanbul, beyond urban areas English is not widely spoken. Around 17% of the Turkish population are estimated to speak English to some degree, although they may not be fluent. Tourist centres such as Sultanahmet, Cappadocia, or the resort towns on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts will also have a higher number of English speakers. Overall Istanbul has the highest proportion of people speaking English with a degree of fluency. Younger people are likely to speak more English than the older generation.
It is therefore recommended that you do not rely on English alone if you are resident in the country. If you are working for a multinational company, it is likely that the lingua franca for doing business is English, but it would be unwise to rely on this if you are working for a smaller company. Thus it is sensible to learn some Turkish, especially if you are intending to travel more widely in the country.
Turkish is not an easy language to learn if you are a native English speaker: it is completely different to European languages. You will, however, find plenty of opportunities to learn Turkish, both online and in language schools once you are in the country. You will find most language schools are based in Istanbul but there are also classes available in Ankara, Izmir and Antalya. Schools will offer classes at all different levels from elementary to advanced. Craigslist and the Turkish Daily News are just two of the places where you can find details of Turkish language classes. You may also be able to team up with a language exchange buddy who is willing to ‘exchange’ languages. Istanbul has a large expat community, too, so check out their forums online for information. You can also ask your employer if they have affiliations with a language training organisation or offer in-house classes.
Some schools offer homestay possibilities and the Turkish Language Centre offers hotel stays in conjunction with your language classes. Business Turkish is also on offer.
If you are travelling beyond Istanbul, you can use digital translation methods, but take a good phrasebook along as well in case you find yourself in a region with limited wifi or mobile phone reception.
You may also be intending to come to Turkey in order to teach English. There is a high demand for English teachers here and it is a big market, although educational authorities suggest that you check your contract carefully. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools will prefer this although it is not a requirement in Turkey: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Salaries are in the US$990 range per month but the cost of living is comparatively low. Accommodation is sometimes included but the sophistication of this will depend on where you are based: you will fare better in Istanbul than in more remote areas.
If you are seeking work in translation or interpreting, you will obviously need to be highly proficient in Turkish, and will also need the relevant qualifications.
Turkey’s educational system is free and compulsory at certain levels. It is divided into stages:
• pre-school: up to six years of age (optional)
• primary: lasts for eight years (five years elementary, three years secondary), ages 6-14, mandatory
• secondary: four years of High School (Lise), or Vocational High School education, 15-17/18. Some schools may add a year of language study.
Secondary education itself offers a choice to students.
Public High Schools (Normal Liseler or Duz Liseler): students who successfully complete eight years of basic education progress to these schools. If graduates complete the nationwide University Entrance Examination (ÖSS) and are awarded a Lise Diploması they can go onto higher education.
Vocational High Schools (Meslek Liseleri): Some of these may take an additional year to complete. Students are automatically permitted to progress to two-year vocational colleges (Meslek Yüksek Okulları) if they so choose. Alternatively, if successful in the ÖSS, they can move onto four-year schools.
Anatolian High Schools (Anadolu Liseleri): one year of English study followed by three years of regular high school education, additional hours for English. Lessons at some Anatolian high schools are taught in either German or French, but maths and science may also be taught in English.
Super High Schools (Super Liseler): a high school curriculum but one extra year of English study. The language of instruction for maths and science courses is always Turkish and fewer hours are devoted to English lessons.
Science High Schools (Fen Liseleri): special public schools for those who have aptitude in the sciences. These are competitive and train students for higher education in STEM subjects.
There are also Anatolian Science High Schools (Anadolu Fen Liseleri), where STEM subjects may be taught in English.
Private High Schools (Ozel Liseler): the Turkish private sector.
There are also a number of faith schools, primarily Islamic, with a strong focus on religion (İmam Hatip Lisesi).
The Turkish educational system is complex, and it faces a number of challenges. There is inequality of provision between schools in the public sector and overcrowding, and critics of the system say that educational methodology relies too much on memorization and rote learning rather than critical thinking. The OECD PISA rankings reveal that Turkish students score below average across a range of subjects.
Given this, and the fact that much public education is obviously taught in Turkish, you may choose to focus on private education with English as the language of instruction during your time in Turkey. Unless your child is bilingual, they may find that the language is a barrier to their understanding. Most expats place their children in private education during their stay in the country.
You will find a range of international schools in Turkey, teaching a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, to the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, among others.
For example, the Istanbul International School has two campuses in the city and teaches a British national curriculum leading towards Cambridge Lower Secondary Checkpoint, IGCSE and A levels (AS+A2). Fees range annually from US$8K – 13K.
The Alfayez International School was established at the request of the Arab community in Turkey to teach their children Arabic and English. AFIS is the first Arabic International school to be officially approved by the Turkish Ministry of National Education and Cambridge International Examinations (British Curriculum), and teaches towards IGCSE and A Level. You will need to contact the school for its schedule of fees.
Istanbul American Schools is an international school offering an American curriculum from Early Learning to Grade 12. Again, you will need to contact the school for its fees. Similarly the Elite Academy in Istanbul teaches an American curriculum from KG to grade 12.
Gökkuşağı International School has a number of campuses for ages 3-18 in Istanbul and teaches towards the International Baccalaureate.
The Tas Private Elementary School teaches ages 4 – 14 and focuses on an IB curriculum.
The Istanbul Community School teaches students from 3-18 towards the IB. Fees are between US$15K – 31K per year and the school has two campuses in Istanbul.
You will also find a number of international schools in Ankara, such as the OASIS International School of Ankara (annual fees are in the region of US$10K) and the British Embassy School Ankara, which teaches a British national curriculum for around US$12K per year.
You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary so do check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.
Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). Some schools do not, however, impose entry tests. You can also check the accreditation of your selected school: for instance, with organisations such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools).
Homeschooling in Turkey is illegal for Turkish citizens but the law is somewhat more lenient when it comes to expats. However, it is still not commonplace in the country. Consult expat community groups if you are interested in home educating your child.