(Excerpt from forthcoming book chapter. All rights reserved.)

Activities of Foreign Civil Society Organizations in Turkey is primarily regulated within the scope of Law no 5253 on Associations[1] and Regulation on Associations[2]. Foreign CSOs are subject to legislation applicable to local CSOs.[3] A Foreign Civil Society Organizations as per Turkish law defined as associations with their headquarters abroad and non-profit organizations other than associations and foundations. [4]

Foreign associations might carry out direct activities in Turkey, cooperate and open representations or branches, establish associations or supreme committees or join existing associations or supreme committees in Turkey upon permission of Ministry of Interior, in consultation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with other relevant authorities, if needed.[5] Permissions for carrying out direct activities and cooperation may be granted for certain periods, maximum for 5 years.[6]

In line with article 27 of regulation “The foreign associations make their applications concerning cooperation, setting up representative offices or branches, establishment of associations or supreme organizations, participation in the existing associations or supreme organizations and carrying out direct activities in Turkey by submitting the forms specified in Annex-6 (Foreign CSO Application Form) of Regulation.” Furthermore, in the applications for setting up representative offices or branches, the statute including the information in the template statute in Annex-9 (Statute Template) must be submitted. Beside Branches, all named types of Foreign Civil Society Organization activities can be initiated with one person. Only branches can be opened by at least three persons, both branches and representations pursue activities of their Head Quarters as their subsidiaries but branches, should register members, establish their organs such as executive, auditing board and general assembly within six months after establishment.

Failing to receive required statutory permissions before engaging in activities in Turkey, might lead an administrative fine as per article 32 (g) of Law on Associations. The representations and branches which are opened illegally are closed.

As per article 25 of Regulation on Associations, foreign CSOs are obliged to submit an annual activity report (Annex 8) concerning their activities to the governorate responsible for the region where organization is located by the end of every April. Foreign CSOs are required send one to each of their written and visual publications related to their activities to the relevant governorates.

In their activities, foreign CSOs are required to comply with statutory notification procedures in as described in Regulation. As per article 18 of Regulation on Associations, Foreign Associations may receive cash or in-kind aids from individuals, organizations and institutions abroad on the condition that they give prior notice. It is obligatory to receive monetary funds via banks. Financial Aid received from the headquarters is also subject to notification through submission of Annex 4 to the governorate responsible for the region where foreign CSO is located.

In accordance with article 38 of Regulation on Associations, associations should actualize all expenditures for the purchase of goods and services with relevant invoices, retail sales receipts or self- employment receipts. For the purchase of goods and services from the non-tax liable persons, for the payments within the scope of article 94 of the Income Tax Law , expense voucher should be issued in accordance with article 213 of Tax Procedure Law . If the payment is not within the scope of article 94 of abovementioned legislation, Expense Receipt (Annex 13) or Bank Receipt should be used as expense document.

Furthermore, as per article 38 of Regulation on Associations, associations’ delivery of in-kind aid to individuals, organizations and institutions is subject to notification through submission of Annex 14. As per the same article of Regulation on Associations’ receipt of in-kind aid from individuals, organizations and institutions is subject to notification through submission of Annex 15.

In accordance with article 32 of Regulation, Associations required to keep Statutory books. Foreign CSOs, in compliance with article 32, should kept following books to pursue activities in Turkey. Decision books serve as the official record of decisions made and actions taken by management board or legal representatives. All incoming and outgoing documents, such as letters, official correspondences should be recorded in Document recording book with the date and the sequence number. The original copies of incoming documents and outgoing documents are filed. Incoming or outgoing electronic mail is stored by retrieving the output. operating account book should be kept registering income of expenditures. When representation’s gross income exceeds the rates stated in article 31 of Regulation (Above five hundred thousand Turkish Liras) and in revaluation rates determined and announced by the Ministry of Finance; the representation must keep a general Journal and a general ledger instead of an operating account book according to balance sheet basis starting from the next accounting year.

In order to carry out activities in Turkey, following documents are the common documents required to seek permission from Ministry of Interior.  The list below is not exclusive. [7]

  1. Apostilled statute of foreign CSOs in its original language and Notarized Turkish translation of the foreign CSO’s statute (The approval of Turkish Consulate in relevant countries is accepted).
  2. Original and notarized Turkish translation of Board Decision taken by the competent organ of the foreign CSO stating the decision to pursue direct activities or to cooperate or open representations or open branches or establish associations / supreme committees or join existing associations / supreme committees in Turkey and the persons authorized to represent the foreign CSO.
  3. Application form enclosed in (Annex-6) of Regulation on Associations. Each page must be signed by the authorized persons of the foreign CSO
  4. Statute prepared in accordance with sample statute form enclosed in (Annex-9) of Regulation on Associations.
  5. Originals of Residence (Work Permits) of foreigners who are authorized to represent foreign CSO.

Amendments to the Law on Associations

On December 26, 2020, Bill on Prevention of the Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), deliberated and enacted during the 40th plenary session of 4th Legislative Year of the 27th term of the Grand National Assembly.   New law aiming to regulate the procedures and principles for the implementation of the resolutions of UNSC regarding the prevention of the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In order to enhance legal and corporate capacity to combat financing of terrorism and money laundering, new law produced certain changes in the relevant legislation including, Law no 2860 on aid collection, Law no 5549 on the prevention of laundering of proceeds of crime, Law no 6415 on the prevention of the financing of terrorism, Criminal procedure act (No. 5271), Turkish commercial code (No. 6102) and Law no 5253 on associations.

Amongst other changes in the relevant legislation, with new law, substantial measures against to abuse of associations acting as conduits for financing of terrorist activities as well as for unlawful money laundering activities are introduced. New amendments clarified and expanded the scope of Law on Associations by removing confusion regarding the applicability of law over the foreign foundations. New restrictions as well as measures are introduced in the fight against the laundering of proceeds of crime and financing of terrorism, including enhancing authority of the Minister of Interior to suspend activities of associations or to dismiss relevant personal as a temporary measure to prevent the use of these associations for the financing of terrorism. New notification formats established for aid delivered abroad, new auditing terms based on risk assessment of Associations are defined and penal provisions re-regulated to ensure deterrence, the amount of sanctions are increased.

Accordingly, article 1 of the Law on Associations has been amended in the way that including foreign foundations, just like foreign associations within the scope of law. Furthermore, applicability of provisions of Law on Associations under article 36, re-defined to encompass branches of associations, supreme committees of associations and foundations, branches or representative offices of foreign non-profit organizations, associations, and foundations whose headquarters are registered abroad and permissions for activity or cooperation in Turkey.  It is noteworthy that, foundations with their registered head offices in Turkey are not subject to new amendments.

An additional paragraph to the article 3 of Law on Associations which is regulating “Right to Found an Association” has been introduced to regulate restrictions in the appointment of members to the bodies of associations.  Those who are convicted by certain crimes listed under article 3, even in case of the lapse of periods prescribed in Article 53 of the Turkish Criminal Law or even if pardoned, are restricted to be appointed in the bodies of associations except for the general assembly and in case of conviction from these crimes after being selected, they will be removed from their duties. In this respect, crimes within the scope of Law No. 6415 on the Prevention of the Financing of Terrorism, crimes within the framework of prevention of laundering of proceeds of crime prescribed under Turkish Criminal Law and crimes associated with production and trade of drugs prescribed under Turkish Criminal Law are considered and listed under article 3. In line with new article 30 (a), in case of any prosecution regarding the relevant personnel due to the crimes committed within the framework of the activity of the association, the relevant persons, or the bodies, in which these persons are appointed, can be dismissed by the Minister of Interior as an interim measure. Furthermore, Minister of Interior on condition of immediately applying to the court, may temporarily suspend the association from activity. Appointment in place of the bodies dismissed and members of these bodies is regulated by the article 27 of Law on Associations and the relevant articles of Turkish Civil Code.

New law further structured the rules on the auditing of associations by making additions to the article 19 of Law on Associations and it is ensured that based on risk-based approach, the periodical audits shall be conducted by public personnel appointed by Minister of Interior or Local Governorate, every year, not exceeding three years and if required during the audit experts can be appointed.

In addition to current notification formats for receiving and delivering aid within Turkey, a new notification system under article 21 of Law on Associations has been formed specific for the aids send to abroad from Turkey. To this end, a new regulation for aids to abroad is promised by new law.

[1] Law No. 5253  on Associations , (OG.23.11.2004/ 25649)

[2] Regulation  on Associations , (OG.31.03.2005/ 25772)

[3] Art 26, Regulation

[4] Art 4, Regulations

[5] Art 5, Law No. 5253 on Associations, Art 92, Turkish Civil Code, Law No. 4721, (OG.08.12.2001/ 24607), Art 28, Regulation  on Associations , (OG.31.03.2005/ 25772)

[6] Ministry of Interior, General Directorate of Civil Society Relations, Activities of Foreign CSOs in Turkey, Retrieved October 02, 2021, from https://www.siviltoplum.gov.tr/kurumlar/siviltoplum.gov.tr/islemler/Yabanc%C4%B1Stk/Yabanci_STKlar_icin_Basvuru_Rehberi2021.pdf

[7] Ministry of Interior, General Directorate of Civil Society Relations, Activities of Foreign CSOs in Turkey, Retrieved October 02, 2021, from https://www.siviltoplum.gov.tr/kurumlar/siviltoplum.gov.tr/islemler/Yabanc%C4%B1Stk/Yabanci_STKlar_icin_Basvuru_Rehberi2021.pdf

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