So, you’ve relocated to North Cyprus and you need to find work. Well, take a step back for a moment! Rules relating to foreigners getting a work permit have been in place for a long time, but until recently they were very infrequently enforced and nowadays, getting a work permit is not exactly straightforward. If you need to find a job to support yourself or your family in Northern Cyprus, then you ideally need to find work before you arrive.
We will detail the rules for obtaining work and a work permit as best we can, but please note that the rules do change quite frequently so it always better to seek government advice for regular updates. For example there are currently rumours circulating that a foreigner will only be able to hold a work permit for 4 years and will then have to leave for 10, before they can get another one! A work permit will entitle you to reside legally in North Cyprus and work here, and it will need to be renewed on a regular basis during your working life on the island.
Foreigners coming to the TRNC do not have the automatic right to work, earn money or run a business without first obtaining a full work or business permit. Most of the European workforce here in North Cyprus is either employed by the real estate and construction sectors, or by the tourism and hotel industry, so this is where most job vacancies arise should you be wondering about what types of jobs are most readily available.
There are no employment agencies on the island at the present time, and the most common way for people to find work is either by word of mouth, or you may sometimes find the odd job advertised in the local Cyprus Today newspaper or on some of the North Cyprus web forums.
As the rules stand at the time of writing, a foreigner must be given permission to be employed by a company, only after a government search has been done to ensure that no local Turkish Cypriot citizen can do the job required. This means that ideally a reputable employer who has offered a job to a foreigner has already exhausted the local employment market.
Once government permission is given accepting that no locals can fill the required vacancy, the employer is then free to advertise the job or bring in a foreigner that he may already have in mind by way of a letter of invitation. The employer, normally through his accountant, will start the process of obtaining a temporary work permit for their new employee.
The process will involve plenty of form filling, you will need to go for a medical test, visit a local police station and be registered at various government departments such as social security. Your employer should handle most of the process for you that does not require your personal attendance. It’s important to note that the employee at this point is still not allowed to work until a full permit has been issued.
Under current rules, employees are required to have a euro denominated bond held in a local bank account which is blocked for the duration of their work permit. Amounts payable differ depending on your home country, but the bond is basically to ensure that should your employer go bankrupt and you are left with no money, the amount is enough for you to be able to return to your country of domicile. Who pays this amount is actually dependent on your employer, and we have heard of employees actually being asked to pay this, but employers should pay it and most do.
The process to obtain a work permit can take two to three weeks to complete, and a full permit is normally issued for between 6 months and a year. Every time the permit expires then the same process has to be repeated each time. Subsequent permits can then be issued for two years at a time, lessening the frequency of the process.
Beware also that once a permit has been issued it is solely the property of the employer. Should you be sacked or terminate your employment then this permit is not valid for any other job or company, and if you start a new job then you need to start the whole process again. If you are unable to find another job and your work permit has expired then you are required to leave North Cyprus within 7 days of the date of expiry and then return to be given another 30 day visit visa. Within this time you need to find another job or start the process of transferring to a temporary residency permit.
Each month your employer will additionally pay your social security contributions which will entitle you to free state healthcare, and can be an important source of income should you need to draw on your contributions in the future when you are not working for six months or more.
You should receive a medical card which will need stamping every six months at your local social security office, to prove that your contributions are up to date and give you continuing free state healthcare, as well as a general employment card which should be updated every time you move company with your new employer details. Note though, that as of 2009/2010 foreigners are no longer allowed to contribute to the state pension system, so that is something to bear in mind also. If you have been working for some years and you move job, then you will then be unable to continue contributing but are entitled to reclaim your contributions to date.
Finally, it is important to mention that there is a black market economy in North Cyprus, with many foreigners working without the above process in place. More and more we hear of people who have been deported and fined due to them having been found to be working illegally, so it’s really important to seek legal employment as the fines currently stand at 1,190 YTL per day! However, there are times of the year when the government issues an amnesty allowing illegal workers to leave the country with lower fines.
So, please do your homework before thinking of relocating to North Cyprus if you need to supplement your budget with a regular income, as it can be a stressful situation to be in should you find yourself without work or having to work illegally.