Gold News held an interview with Mrs Esme Palas, Partner, which was published on Monday, March 8, 2021. In her interview Mrs Palas gives detailed answers to crucial questions with regard to how the rights of UK citizens have been affected post Brexit in relation to living, purchasing property and working in Cyprus. You can read the full interview below:
So, Esme, Brexit is now a reality. Can you tell us how this has affected the rights of UK Nationals already living in Cyprus?
Well, despite what may appear in the press or social media platforms, those British Nationals and their families who were actually living in Cyprus prior to 31/12/2021 will actually see very little changing in their everyday lives and work. They will continue to have the right of residence, employment, study and free movement in the Republic of Cyprus and are entitled to continue living on the island just as they did before Brexit with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoyed then using their existing residency documents.
Do UK Nationals need to update their paperwork if they already hold residency documents prior to Brexit?
UK Nationals and their family members who already hold current residency documents, such as a Certificate of Registration (MEU1), Residence Card (MEU2) or a Certificate/Card of Permanent Residence (MEU3), can continue to use them as a means of proof of their residence rights in Cyprus. Cyprus has chosen not to make it obligatory for UK Nationals and their family members already residing in its territory, and hold the above documents, to have to apply for a new residence status as a means of verifying that they are entitled to their residence rights. This is optional.
Is it updating their residency documentation Post Brexit a complicated procedure?
Should they opt to apply for the New Residence Documents (MUKW1, MUKW2, MUKW3), they will only need to follow a very simple procedure. They will not need to submit any further accompanying documents with their application. They will only need to submit a valid passport as proof of identity and their current residence documents. There is a small fee which is payable. The applicant will, however, be requested to present himself/herself at the local Immigration Office or at the Civil Registry Migration Department for the submission of biometric data in order to finalize the application procedure.
What about the UK Nationals who have been living in Cyprus but have not had a chance to get their residency documents sorted prior to 31/12/2020?
Fortunately, UK Nationals and their family members, including family members who are non-UK Nationals, who lived in Cyprus prior to 31/12/2021 but have not yet applied for residency documents prior to the abovementioned date, will continue to have the right to apply for these, provided they can submit credible documentary evidence of their residency in Cyprus prior to Brexit as well as proof that they continue to reside in Cyprus.
What residency documents will they receive in such cases?
Those who will have completed five years of continuous residence in Cyprus before December 31, 2020, will be eligible to acquire permanent residence (MUKW3).
If they have not completed continuous residence of 5 years in Cyprus by December 31, 2020, they will be eligible to apply for temporary residence (MUKW1 - valid for 5 years) and will be able to remain in Cyprus until they have reached the five-year threshold which will allow them to apply for permanent residence. Family members of UK Nationals that are Non-UK Nationals will obtain an MUKW2 which again is valid for five years.
Commencement of this 5-year period in both cases starts at the moment of exercising their free movement rights and moving to Cyprus, which may be at any time before January 1, 2021.
What about UK Nationals who wish to purchase property in Cyprus? Are they entitled to do so?
Yes of course, just as prior to Brexit, UK Nationals are able to purchase property in Cyprus whether for relocation, investment or as a holiday home.
How many properties can they purchase?
UK Nationals, just as any other Non-EU Citizens, are now entitled to purchase up to two properties in Cyprus per family.
Is there any difference in the process?
The only difference is that now UK Nationals are required to apply for and obtain a Council of Ministers’ Approval to purchase property in Cyprus. It is a straightforward process handled by the purchaser’s lawyers.
If UK Nationals wish to purchase property as a holiday home would they need a visa to come to Cyprus?
UK Nationals are still be able to visit Cyprus post-Brexit but their passports will be stamped at entry/exit border checks with a 90-day limitation period, which is the period of time that they can legally remain in Cyprus. This means that UK Nationals can legally enter and stay in Cyprus with a 90 days’ maximum limit in any 180-day period.
Is it possible for UK Nationals to stay in Cyprus for more than 90 days?
In the event that UK Nationals wish to extend their stay in Cyprus for more than 90 days, they can apply for temporary residence permit - the so called “pink slip” - which allows non-EU passport holders to extend their stay in Cyprus for more than 90 days. Applicants need to apply before their visas expire. It is valid for one year and can be renewed on an annual basis. Under this permit a person is allowed to live in Cyprus as a visitor, without the right to work. Spouses and children below the age of 18 can also apply. However, a holder of this temporary residence permit cannot stay out of the country for more than 3 months continuously as the permit will be cancelled.
If they purchase property in Cyprus, does that entitle UK Nationals to reside in Cyprus permanently?
Mere purchase of property in Cyprus by UK Nationals does not automatically grant them the right to reside in Cyprus. They would have to apply for an immigration permit.
What would UK Nationals who wish to relocate and reside in Cyprus permanently need to do then?
If they wish to move to Cyprus permanently, then there are routes which they can explore that will allow them to obtain permanent residence in Cyprus.
For those UK Nationals that purchase property the most common categories under which they can obtain permanent residency are those of Category F and the expedited procedure of regulation 6(2).
Can you elaborate a little on these two categories? What are their requirements for a UK National to apply under category F?
Category F applies to persons who have fully and freely at their disposal a secure and regular annual income, which is high enough to provide a decent living in Cyprus without having to engage in any business, trade or profession in Cyprus.
This category would be the most appropriate route for those wishing to retire in Cyprus and have savings or receive a pension or income from abroad. Owning a property in Cyprus weighs heavily positively in any such application though it is also possible to qualify merely with a rental agreement. Each application is examined on its merits.
Examination of applications takes around 12-18 months.
What are the requirements for applying under Regulation 6(2)?
Category F 6(2) is an expedited procedure which applies to those investing in new-build properties in Cyprus who have income from abroad. In order to qualify and obtain a residence permit, an applicant must firstly purchase one or two real estate properties in Cyprus with a total purchase cost of at least €300,000 (excluding VAT). At least €200,000 of the purchase price must be settled in full before the application can be made. Secondly, such applicants need to provide evidence of a secure and steady annual income emanating from abroad that should be a minimum of €30.000 which increases with each dependent. Lastly, they need to transfer €30.000 from abroad and deposit it in a Bank operating in Cyprus in a 3-year Fixed Deposit Account.
Examination and processing of applications takes around 3 -6 months.
Would they be able to bring their family members under Category F?
Under category F, UK Nationals can bring their spouse and children under the age of 18. However, once the child reaches the age of 18, they will have to apply in their own right.
Under category F 6(2) UK Nationals can bring their spouses and dependent children up to the age of 25, who are in full time education, as well as their parents and parents-in-law, provided they can show they have adequate income emanating from abroad to support them.
Are UK Nationals that visit Cyprus after 31st January 2021 entitled to work in Cyprus?
It is important to note that holders of Permanent Residence Permits under category F and F6(2) are not allowed to work in Cyprus. However, they can be shareholders in a Cypriot company which can do business in Cyprus or abroad and receive dividends income from this company.
If they wish to work, what are the options available to them?
It is possible, provided certain conditions are met, for UK Nationals to be employed by a Cypriot company and for them to obtain a work permit. The application would be submitted to the District Labour Offices that will investigate and confirm that the criteria for the employment of foreigners are being met.
It is also possible, subject to certain requirements, to obtain a work permit and Residence Permit as an employee of an existing or new company of foreign interests.
What about UK Nationals who wish to relocate to Cyprus and, at the same time, set up a business here or relocate their headquarters or their existing UK businesses to Cyprus?
Those UK Nationals who wish to live in Cyprus and, at the same time, either set up a new business or relocate their existing business to the Island could set up a Company of Foreign Interests. Undoubtedly, Cyprus offers competitive advantages in terms of attracting UK-based companies that seek to maintain close business ties within the European Union and such companies are considering Cyprus for business operations after Brexit.
Is setting up a company of foreign interests a complicated process?
A Fast-Track Business Activation mechanism has been recently implemented by the Cyprus Government aiming to speedily and efficiently support companies wishing to set up or further expand their operations in Cyprus which has made it simpler, faster and more efficient to set up and register companies of foreign interests with the relevant authorities. These companies can employ third party nationals under more favourable provisions.
What are the minimum requirements for setting up such a company?
A new company of foreign interests is required to submit a reliable business plan as to the company’s goals, activities and strategy illustrating growth potential. On the other hand, existing companies should have a minimum turnover of €500.000 for 3 out of the last 5 years of operation.
The company is also required to have physical presence in Cyprus, including premises and staff.
Eligible companies should invest a minimum amount of €200.000 for the purpose of the company’s operations in Cyprus. The investment amount could be used for the acquisition of the company’s assets or equipment.
In order to be eligible, non-EU shareholders should own the majority of the company's shares (over 51%), though this requirement is lifted for certain categories of companies.
Companies that meet the above criteria are eligible to employ third country nationals as Directors, Middle management executives or other key personnel and specialists and such employees can obtain work and residence permits for themselves and their family members under family reunification. For those in the above categories there will be no restrictions on the maximum duration of their stay in the Republic.
How much of an impact do you believe Brexit will have on Cyprus and its economy?
I strongly believe that Cyprus is an attractive post-Brexit solution for UK companies and due to its competitive advantages will provide fertile ground for attracting companies and investments. It has a solid tax system which offers attractive tax benefits. It has credible and advanced business, banking and financial services and a transparent legal, financial and regulatory framework.
With regards to individuals, I also believe that Cyprus has traditionally been a favourite destination with the UK Nationals, both for holidays and retirement, offering a good standard of living and high quality of life excellent healthcare and education systems and, in my opinion, UK Nationals will continue to purchase property and relocate to Cyprus even post-Brexit due to all the advantages Cyprus has to offer.