Working in Turkey as a Foreigner

I received a great question from a reader a couple weeks ago, and thought it’d be good to answer it here.  I hope my answer isn’t too discouraging.

I was just wondering if you think Adana Turkey is a good place for an American to move for employment. Are there many opportunities for Americans or otherwise English speakers? Whether it be for employment or partnerships? I used to live on Incirlik Air Base. I miss Turkey a great deal and would love to have a business in or with Adana, Turkey. That way I can go visit often but have a purpose as well. Anyways, thanks for your time and opinion. :-) LLT

Dear LLT,

Thanks so much for reading A Foreign Perspective, and thanks for your great question.  You ask a question that you’ll have a hard time getting a straight answer for.  The reason is that many folks who have relocated to Adana really struggle to find sustaining, legal employment.  My observation is that people who come to Adana to work, don’t stick around long unless they have a powerful reason to stay (like a Turkish significant other or a strong sense of calling to Adana.)

Turkish hospitality is in amazing thing, but sadly the ministry of labor is much less than hospitable.  From everything I hear, they are very reluctant to grant work permits to foreigners, unless they are either A.) Teaching English at a very professional institution or B.) Creating a significant number of jobs for locals.

Turkish Labor Ministry... don't expect a red carpet

Teaching English in Adana

If you have a four-year university degree, you could very likely find a job teaching English at a private primary or high school or university.  If you’re actually a trained teacher, there are very professional teaching positions in all subjects at an American High School in Tarsus.  Other than these, there are opportunities to find cash jobs teaching English, which are risky/illegal, and it’s an unstable income.

Teaching Opportunities Do Exist in Adana and beyond

My Advice

Here’s my advice.  If you have the skills or connections, try to find an “Office Job” in the United States that can be done from home, or start a freelance business doing something from your computer.  This would allow you to live in Adana without depending on finding a job from the Turkish economy. This has worked great for me.  I’m an American, working from home for an American company in America.  I just happen to spend most of the year “traveling.”  I make my money in America and spend it in Turkey and live here as a Tourist.  I think this is the most bullet-proof method of living in Turkey and still being gainfully employed. As former military, you also may be able to find civilian work at Incirlik (although few who seek it actually find it… jobs at Incirlik, that is.)  I’d recommend picking up The Four Hour Workweek as well and seeing if it helps you to generate a good idea for a home based business that you could do from Adana.

I hope this helps!

Check out the “Turkish Travel Blog” for another sober article about working as a foreigner in Turkey.

I hope this helps.  If you’re a foreigner in Turkey, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

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  • Ulu Yabancı

    Here’s a link to an article about how the Ministry of Education here wants to hire 40 000 foreigners (English native speakers) as English teachers the next few years. I don’t know very much more about this yet. But if they are serious, they are going to have to really streamline the application process for work permits.

  • Ulu Yabancı
  • Joe Skeptic

    From what I read on the web, employment in Turkey is hard to come by for foreigners. Personally, I would consider a small business and hire one or two natives depending on how much business is generated. However, I read somewhere that foreigners starting a business in Turkey must hire a minimum of ten Turkish citizens which defeats the whole notion of “small” business. Not sure how accurate the information is but I would not start a business if I have to hire ten employees in any country. Talk about an invitation to lose one’s shirt and life savings.

  • Angelika Pawlitschek

    Hi, I am following with interest. It was just the same 50 yrs. ago. My husband worked for an American Company at Incirlik AFB, but I was not able to work in Adana. There were many spouses from Europe with good English, but nobody could get a working permit. On the other hand there were many open jobs with the Air Force which they could not fill, like office work or sales people. Also at the time the company had to employ 7 Turkish people for one foreigner. So not much has changed since then.

    Later in 1966 my husband got employed at Wheelus AFB in Libya. This country had a different policy at the time and I was able to work at an office on the Base.

  • Duke Dillard

    Good word. I agree with what you say (living in Ankara). I do have friends who have received work permits and others doing very similar work who have been denied. I’m not sure if anyone truly understands the process. They do spell out the requirements and have made promises in the last year about changes so maybe things will, in fact, be different. We can always hope. I agree with your ideas about finding a job that allows you to live in Turkey doing work that is not officially “in” Turkey. I have friends who do this as well; both the kinds of work you speak of as well as corporate work, like training/consulting, based in Europe that allows them to live in Turkey. I know one thing that has helped my friends who have work permits with smaller companies is to hire a “specialist” in Ankara to take care of the process for you. These guys know the ins and outs and what is required and how to get things done. They charge a pretty penny but seem to get the job done.

  • The Farmers Wife

    I live in Didim, Altinkum. Its a thriving tourist resort with many expats and a lot of them work although none of them have work permits! Some in offices (mainly Estate Agency) and quite a lot of them end up doing cleaning and property rentals which they advertise and organise from home. I have lived here for 6 years and I have yet to meet anyone with a work permit.

  • jools

    Well I am coming to Adana for an interview on Monday, for Teaching, as it seems to be the only thing available to expats these days. I am currently in Antalya and Turkey has been home for the past 4 years. Work permits have always been promised, but it can take a year or more, and by that time said Teacher has moved on. I hope I will like Adana. From what I have seen on the web, it looks a beautiful city. Although I was surprised that there are no expat websites, as here in Antalya, we have some very good resources for expats.

  • Siti Nur’ain

    Hello, I am a Malaysian. I have a Diploma in Early Childhood Education. I am interested to work in Turkey. Is it difficult to get a job there as a foreigner? I need an opinion.

    • Guest

      definitely difficult

    • Guest

      definitely difficult. Unless you’re a native English speaker and from a country Turks consider to be so, it’s just really hard.

  • itasaf

    Hi. I’m from Indonesia, have a Bachelor degree in English Language and Literature. Can I work in Turkey. I already learned Turkish and currently join Arabic language course.

  • Erik

    We need a private, native speaking english teacher in adana for my 9 years old cousin. If you re interested please get in touch with me via