Citizenship and residence programmes by investment are becoming more popular with high net worth clients who require freedom to travel and conduct business in Europe and globally.

Following the recent changes to Cypriot law regarding citizenship and naturalisation in Cyprus, Rose Carey, Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, hosted a meeting of leading immigration lawyers on 23 September 2016 to discuss the developments in Cyprus with key Cypriot parties organised by Andrew Constanti at EU Cyprus Passports. Over the last 3 years, the Government has been working on a new programme which makes Cyprus more attractive to investors seeking Cypriot passports.

There were many questions raised and this is a note of some of those questions and answers:

Following the changes, what are the main criteria for an applicant to meet when applying for citizenship?

There are a number of criteria including:

  • Clean Criminal Record endorsed from the applicant’s country of origin; and
  • Clear Interpol checks; and
  • Funds for investment from applicant’s own personal bank account
  • Permanent residence application filed simultaneously with no requirement to actually reside; and
  • Residential property where purchase price is at least €500,000; and
  • Individual investor with €2 million (reduced from €5 million) investing into Cyprus in real estate (or land development/infrastructure projects);or
  • Investment of €2 million in Cypriot business which employs more than 5 people; or
  • Investment of €2 million into alternative investment funds established in Cyprus which are licensed; or
  • Combination of the above. The combination option also allows for up to €500,000 in government bonds.

NB if the real estate option is selected the residential property can be included in the €2 million investment so this is a total of €2 million instead of €2.5 million.

Do applicants have to pay anything to the Government of Cyprus?

There is no requirement to pay any money to any third party except professional fees and a small administrative application fee.

Can applicants invest with money generated from previous investment in Cyprus e.g. a company they have invested in?

No, the funds for the investment must come from outside of Cyprus and be new investment

What is the timescale for the application?

The process takes up to 3 months.

Can an applicant’s “residential property” <500,000 Euros be rented out (if the property is registered to the applicant).

Yes, the residential property can be rented out, but the property must be a property with full legal title. There have been cases where land registry titles have not been registered or have not been issued, these properties will not be considered when applications are being made.

If the applicant has no criminal record but is “under investigation” or is “charged”, will Cyprus consider the application?

In this case, the application will be considered, often the application will pass Interpol checks, but the application may not pass the banks’ criteria.

Are the applicants publically identified?

Yes, a notification of who has applied is published in the Cypriot press. This is a requirement of the application.

Does the Cypriot government report passport applications to the applicant’s own national authorities?

There is no requirement for Cyprus to report passport information to the applicant’s national authorities.

If the applicant is successful, are the spouse and dependants eligible for Cypriot passports?

Yes, the spouse and dependent children up to the age of 28 are eligible to apply for Cypriot passports.

What about the parents of the applicant?

The parents of the applicant are eligible if they have a residential property of <€500,000 and clear checks made by Interpol.

What happens if the parents get divorced?

The parents are still eligible for passports even if they are divorced.

Do dependants and/or the main application have to live in Cyprus?

There is no requirement to live in Cyprus. There is a requirement to simultaneously obtain Cypriot residency but this can be combined and made at the same time as the application for a passport. There is no physical residency test.

For how long must investments be kept in Cyprus?

Applicants can withdraw the investments used for the citizenship application from Cyprus any time after 3 years. The only requirement is for a residential property to be held indefinitely although the property does not need to be lived in and can be rented out to yield an income or even sold as long as another Cypriot property of the same value is purchased.

Benefits of Cypriot citizenship

A Cypriot passport is an EU passport which allows for free movement in the European Economic Area and visa fee travel to over 150 countries. There are also significant tax advantages.

Dual and multiple nationalities

Cyprus allows for dual and multiple nationalities

Impact of Brexit

At the moment the UK is part of the EU and so nationals of EEA countries benefit from free movement. When the UK exits the EU it is likely this will cease and there may be some form of immigration control. A Cypriot passport until the point of Brexit will enable the holder and their family members to reside in the UK without requiring a visa. The position is less clear on Brexit and for those Cypriot nationals coming to the UK post Brexit it seems that the Cypriot authorities will be seeking an agreement with the UK to enable free movement between the UK and Cyprus. Cyprus has a long history with the UK as a former colony.

This note has been prepared with thanks to Andrew Constanti of EU Cyprus Passports.