Health tourism is becoming increasingly popular among foreigners in Turkey, and the health tourism sector is starting to become one of the most popular areas for investors. Before answering the question of how to establish a health tourism company, some general information about health tourism needs to be known.
I. What is Health Tourism?
Health tourism can be defined in its simplest form as a patient traveling to a foreign country for treatment. Legally, health tourism refers to any health service and related support services obtained by foreign citizens who come to Turkey temporarily for health purposes, or Turkish citizens who permanently reside abroad.
As can be understood from the definition, in health tourism, the patient and the provision of health services and support services are important.
In health tourism, three subjects are important. The first is undoubtedly the international health tourist who will receive treatment. The second is the international health tourism health facility that will provide health services to the international health tourist in Turkey. Th third is the international health tourism intermediary organization, also known as the agency, which brings the health tourist together with the health facility and coordinates the health tourist’s activities such as treatment, accommodation, and sightseeing during their stay in Turkey.
The health tourism company generally refers to the international health tourism intermediary organization, i.e., the agency that coordinates between the health tourist and the health facility.
Establishing a company in Turkey is not a very difficult process. However, individuals who want to establish an international health tourism company should not overlook the following points:
II. How to Establish a Health Tourism Company?
Before establishing a health tourism company, some important points should be taken into consideration. The first of these will be the type of the company.
A health tourism company can be established as a joint-stock company or a limited company. For detailed information about company types, you can check out our articles on joint-stock companies and limited companies.
The second point will be the situation of shareholders who have a capital structure of the company. If the company’s shareholders or managers are foreign citizens and will reside in Turkey, the company establishment should be made in a way that allows these individuals to obtain a work permit. If the work permit condition of foreign company partners or company managers is not taken into account during the establishment of the company, this situation may cause even bigger problems later on.
Before establishing a health tourism company, investors must definitely make a cost feasibility study to obtain an international health tourism authorization certificate. Because there are many cost items that can create a financial burden to obtain an international health tourism authorization certificate. In the continuation of our article, we explain the cost items.
Who Can Do Health Tourism?
Health tourism can be done by individuals or legal entities who have a health institution license or a health tourism authorization certificate granted by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Turkey.
Who is awarded the International Health Tourism Authorization Certificate?
To become a health tourism intermediary, first and foremost, one must obtain an A Group travel agency business license in accordance with the Travel Agencies and Travel Agents Union Law.
The “International Health Tourism Authorization Certificate” is granted to companies that meet certain criteria. First, they must have an A Group Travel Agency Business License obtained in accordance with the Travel Agencies and Travel Agents Union Law.
(To obtain this license, companies must register with TURSAB and pay a membership fee of approximately 226,856.51 Turkish Liras for 2023. They must also apply to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Investment and Enterprises for a Travel Agency Title Request, which requires a fee of 25,000 Turkish Liras. Additionally, to apply for the International Health Tourism Authorization Certificate, a fee of 6,500 Turkish Liras must be paid to the General Directorate of Health Services.)
Another condition for being an international health tourism agency is that the company must have signed contracts with at least 3 health facilities that have the authorization to provide international health services. The company must have a call center service that can respond to calls in at least 2 languages, including English, 24/7. In addition to the personnel employed in the call center, at least 2 personnel who are proficient in foreign languages (one of which must be English) must also be employed. The language skills of these personnel must be documented.
The company must also have a website that supports at least 3 languages, including Turkish and English, and contains the necessary information regarding the topics that tourists/patients may want to learn about, as well as the information of the health facilities they are affiliated with.
The health tourism agency must undertake to obtain travel insurance that will cover the entire travel of each health tourism tourist/patient.
- To research the health facilities that are suitable for the international health tourist to receive the health service they want by transmitting their medical information and/or documents to the health facility beforehand.
- To provide detailed information to the international health tourist about the health facilities that can provide the health service they want.
- To provide information to the international health tourist about the approximate service fee and payment terms by obtaining information from the health facility regarding the health service fee they will receive.
- To provide information to the international health tourist about travel, passport, local transportation, communication, consular procedures, and similar issues in our country.
- To ensure the arrival of international health tourists and their companions to our country, their accommodation in our country, and their return to their own countries.
- To transfer the international health tourist to the international health tourism unit in the facility where they will receive the service, to contact the unit, and to deliver the tourist to this unit. Also, to pick up the tourist from the facility after they are discharged.
- To act in compliance with the Law on Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 regarding any information obtained about the international health tourist during their activities.
- To keep all documents related to their activities in accordance with the relevant legislation for the periods specified.
- To provide detailed information about the services that will be offered to the international health tourist and their companions, and to obtain their informed consent. (The information can also be provided electronically.)
These obligations, which are stipulated by the health tourism intermediary, are also another requirement for obtaining the international health tourism authorization certificate.
Are the Partners or Managers of Health Tourism Companies Foreigners?
Foreign company shareholders or managers who want to reside in Turkey are required to obtain a work permit.
If one or more shareholders of a health tourism company or the manager of the company is a foreigner, they must obtain a work permit in order to stay in Turkey, even if they are not a shareholder. There are many conditions that foreign company shareholders or managers must meet in order to obtain a work permit.
For detailed information about work permits for foreign company shareholders or managers, you can read our article “Work Permits for Foreign Company Partnets and Managers“.
III. What are the Penalties for Medical Tourism Companies or Partners or Managers?
The managers or partners of a medical tourism company who act contrary to the issues we have described in our article may face imprisonment for 1 to 3 years and a criminal fine of up to twenty thousand Turkish liras.
Additionally, if these individuals are foreigners, they may be deported from Turkey and even held in a deportation center under administrative supervision until they are deported. Moreover, foreign individuals who have been subject to deportation may be prohibited from entering Turkey for a period ranging from 1 month to 5 years.
These sanctions are not the only ones that may be imposed. Administrative penalties and administrative fines may also be imposed. The administrative fine may be up to half of the company’s monthly gross earnings.
Even if a medical tourism company meets all the competency criteria and starts operating, sanctions may still be imposed. If the medical tourism intermediary violates the competency criteria or fails to provide the information and documents requested by the Ministry of Health within the specified period or not at all:
- a written warning is issued for the violation, and one month is given to rectify the situation.
- If the violation persists, the activity is suspended for one year.
- If the violation continues, the international health tourism license is revoked.
While establishing a medical tourism company may seem attractive to many investors, companies that want to operate as medical tourism intermediaries or agencies must strictly comply with the above-mentioned criteria for the company’s establishment. These are the procedures related to the establishment of the company. After the company is established, relationships with healthcare facilities, i.e., hospitals or clinics, as well as with patients/tourists, accommodation and tour companies, will begin.
IV. BAL Law Firm provides Legal Consultancy Services for Medical Tourism Company Establishment and Management.
BAL Law Firm offers legal consultancy services to medical tourism companies to reduce their legal risks and manage their legal relationships during these operational processes.
Currently, 721 companies in Turkey are engaged in medical tourism agency activities with the International Health Tourism License.
List of Intermediaries with the International Health Tourism License for 2023
List of Healthcare Facilities with the International Health Tourism License for 2023
Contact BAL Law Firm