There are labor laws in Turkey designed to maximize Turkish citizens' employment opportunities, which restrict employers from hiring too many foreigners.
The Main Rule
A Turkish employer can't hire a foreigner to do a job that an unemployed and qualified Turkish citizen can do unless the employer has already hired five Turkish citizens.
This restriction doesn't apply if the job requires specific skills only a foreign employee can do, for example, speaking or teaching a foreign language. It also doesn't apply to foreigners with an unlimited work permit or a Turquoise Card.
You Can't Take a Job that a Qualified Turk can Do
Because of this law, unless your employer has already hired five Turkish citizens (see below), you won't be able to work as a barman, barmaid, waiter, mechanic, or a similar job since Turkey has an abundance of people qualified to do these jobs.
When your employer applies for your work permit, the Aile, Çalışma ve Sosyal Hizmetler Bakanlığı (Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services) will check a central employment database to see if any unemployed Turkish citizens can fill the position.
So the most common jobs for foreigners in Turkey are teaching a foreign language, or jobs requiring liaison and cooperation with foreign companies, as a native speaker of the required language.
But there's an exception in this law. It's the "one for five" exception.
One Foreigner for Five Turks Exception
The one for five exception states that if the employer has already hired five Turks, they can hire one foreigner. So, if there are already five Turks working there, you can get a job, and it doesn't matter if a Turk could fill that job or not. When the employer hires another five Turks, they can employ one more foreigner, and so on.
Unlimited Work Permit and Turquoise Card Holders Don't Have These Restrictions
The Unlimited Work Permit may be issued to a foreigner who has lived in Turkey for at least eight years and has a long-term residence permit, or has worked in Turkey for at least eight years. It allows the foreigner to work for any employer, for life, without restriction.
Learn more about the unlimited work permit.
The Turquoise Card is similar to the Unlimited Work Permit, except that it doesn't require the eight-year period of residence or work before it is issued. It's given to those who have talents, skills, and abilities which will benefit the Republic of Turkey. It also allows the foreigner to work without restriction, but the foreigner must continue to do the type of work for which they received the Turquoise card.
Learn more about the Turquoise Card.
There are also some professions in which foreigners may not work, regardless of the type of work permit they have.
Learn about Turkey's professions which are prohibited for foreigners.
Assistance and Support
The Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Services: They also have a national customer service number, which, from within Turkey, is 170. From outside of Turkey, call +90 216 170 1122. There is an English option.
Work Visa and Work Permit Forums: If you have questions about work permits, search our work permit forums, or open a topic. We have quite a few expat members who have already been through the work visa and work permit process who can help.