The Turkish Passport Law that outlines the conditions under which foreigners can obtain entry visas states that those who want to live in Turkey must enter the country legally. Additionally, some foreign citizens must possess an entry visa. However, until recently, citizens of more than 40 countries did not need to obtain a visa to enter the country, and nationals of more than 30 countries could obtain one at the border. Moreover, regardless of their continuing participation in irregular migration, citizens of Iran, Morocco, and Tunisia still enjoy three-month visa exemptions.
The major legal instrument that decides the residence and working status of foreigners in Turkey is the Turkish Law on Foreigners (Law No. 5683, dated 15 July 1950). It states that foreigners must apply for a residence permit that is issued by the local police department after a detailed investigation. There is also the Law on the Residence and Travel Activities of Foreigners (Law No. 7564), which regulates the conditions for the residency and settlement of foreigners. Frequently, a work permit or proof of sufficient financial resources is a prerequisite for a residence permit. In addition, the applicant must demonstrate hat he/she has no intention of disturbing public order in the country. Only after the fulfillment of these conditions may a residence permit be issued. It is valid for one year, then renewable for a period of three years and then again for a period of five years.
The new Law on Work Permits for Foreigners (Law No. 4817, dated 15 March 2003) is the most important legislative change regarding the economic activities of foreigners. The new Law nullified the discriminatory Law on Activities and Professions in Turkey Reserved for Turkish Citizens (Law No. 2007, dated 16 June 1932) that barred foreign citizens from practicing certain professions. The new Law reflects the attitude that work permits for foreigners be allocated on the basis of labor market demands, not nationality. It gives foreigners easier access to work in Turkey by allowing work permits to be issued to individuals rather than companies, and institutionalizes the process by making the Ministry of Labor and Social Security the only authority in charge.
Local authorities in some municipalities where migrant communities are clustered, such as Zeytinburnu in Istanbul, have begun to develop integration policies and practices towards migrants, but their impact has been rather negligible without backing from Ankara, the capital. At the national level, integration policy is not yet on the political agenda.