Business travel to Turkey accounts for a significant proportion of the millions of people who visit the country each year. Important cities like Istanbul and Ankara are business hubs, with many opportunities for foreign companies and businesspeople.
As a foreign national traveling to Turkey for business, what paperwork is needed to enter the country? What do you need to know about doing business with Turkish companies? What is the difference between traveling for business and traveling to work in Turkey?
This guide answers all the questions you might have about business visits to Turkey.
What Is a Business Visitor?
A business visitor is an individual that travels to another country for international business activities but does not directly enter that country’s labor market.
In effect, what this means is that a business visitor to Turkey may attend meetings, be a part of business negotiations, conduct site visits, or undergo training related to business on Turkish soil, but will not actually work in Turkey.
People traveling to Turkey territory to find a job are not considered business visitors and will require a work permit.
What Kind of Activities Can a Business Visitor Do While in Turkey
Individuals making a business trip to Turkey may engage in a number of different activities with business partners and associates in the country. These include:
- Business meetings and/or negotiations
- Attending industry conventions, fairs, and congresses
- Courses or training at the invitation of a Turkish company
- Visiting sites owned by the visitor’s company or sites they are planning to buy or invest in.
- Trading goods or services on behalf of a company or foreign government
What Does a Business Visitor Need to Enter Turkey
People traveling to Turkey for business reasons will need the following documentation:
- A passport valid for 6 months after the date they arrive in Turkey
- A valid business visa or e-Visa for Turkey
Business visas can be obtained by applying in person at a Turkish embassy or consulate. Part of the documentation required for this is an invitation letter from the Turkish company or organization hosting the visit.
Citizens of eligible countries have the option of submitting an online visa application for Turkey. This eVisa comes with several advantages:
- A faster and simpler application process
- It can be submitted from the comfort of the applicant’s home or workplace, rather than traveling to an embassy
- No queuing or waiting at embassies or consulates
Doing Business in Turkey
Straddling the boundary between Europe and Asia, Turkey is a country with an interesting mix of cultures and attitudes. With close ties to Europe and other Western countries, large Turkish cities like Istanbul have similar atmospheres to other major European cities. That said, Turkish traditions extend to business, and it is important to be aware of what is expected.
Turkey Business Culture Customs
Turkish people are known for their courtesy and hospitality, and the world of business is no exception. They customarily offer visitors a glass of tea or a cup of Turkish coffee, which should be accepted to start things off on the right foot.
The keys to establishing a successful business relationship in Turkey are as follows:
- Be courteous and show respect
- Get to know the people you do business with
- Engage in friendly conversation before beginning to discuss business
- Exchange business cards
- Do not impose deadlines or use similar pressure tactics
- Avoid sensitive historical or political issues, such as the partition of Cyprus
Taboos and Body Language in Turkey
For a business relationship to work, it is important to understand Turkish culture and how this can affect conversation. Certain topics and gestures are considered taboo. Conversely, practices common in Turkey may seem unusual or even uncomfortable for foreign visitors, so it is good to know what to expect.
Firstly, it is important to remember that Turkey is a Muslim country. While it is not as conservative as some other Islamic nations, it is important to respect the religion and its customs.
Family is considered sacred, so it is imperative not to show any disrespect towards any of your business partner’s relatives.
Some gestures and body language that may seem innocuous to the visitor may be offensive in Turkey. Examples include:
- Pointing a finger at someone
- Putting hands on hips
- Putting hands in pockets
- Showing the soles of your feet
Visitors should also bear in mind that Turkish people tend to stand very close while talking to you. While it may seem uncomfortable to have such little interpersonal space, it is normal in Turkey and is nothing to worry about.