Introduction

Immigrant investor programmes were designed to attract investment from high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs by providing an expedited right of residence or citizenship. These are also known as residency-by-investment and citizenship-by-investment programmes, respectively. While several countries offer investors citizenship or residence in return for an economic investment, the concept was brought to global prominence only in 2006.

Europe has long established itself as the most desirable region for high-net-worth immigration, accounting for over half of global citizenship applications (with the Caribbean in second place and North America in third); there has therefore been increasing interest in Cyprus.

Citizenship by Investment programme

The Cyprus Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme is now considered among the world's most successful programmes, offering high-net-worth individuals and their families a way into Europe. In 2002 the programme was first introduced at a premium investment of €15 million, but has since undergone numerous improvements. Since September 2016 the programme's requirements have been:

  • a €2 million investment in residential property; or
  • a total investment of €2.5 million, with options including:
    • investment in both residential and commercial property or land; and
    • investment in Cyprus companies, funds and government bonds (with certain restrictions).

Taking only six months, the CBI programme offers the fastest route to EU citizenship. In contrast to other CBI programmes, it does not require individuals to reside physically in the country before, during or after the CBI application (only that they are present for one day in order to provide biometrics).

The CBI programme has attracted significant interest from high-net-worth individuals looking to take out the ultimate insurance policy or conduct business in the European Union. Investors typically originate from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, China and the Middle East.

In 2017 the Financial Times published a CBI index, Professional Wealth Management, in which it found that Cyprus offered the most attractive CBI programme in the European Union based on:

  • freedom of movement;
  • standard of living;
  • minimum investment outlay;
  • mandatory residence or travel requirements;
  • citizenship timeline;
  • ease of process; and
  • due diligence.

Next steps

It is expected that the government will announce new measures shortly by means of a regulation committee. The committee will oversee and vet real estate developers and other immigration service providers, ensuring that all parties concerned – including Cypriot CBI applicants – adhere to a code of conduct. By safeguarding its integrity, the CBI programme will remain fully compliant with EU standards and maximise investors' value, while protecting their financial interests.

The government will also issue clear guidelines to all CBI programme providers, imposing restrictions on various aspects of the programme's marketing.

For further information on this topic please contact Charlie Peter Savva or Charles Savva at Savva & Associates Ltd by telephone (+357 22 516 671) or email (cp.savva@savvacyprus.com or c.savva@savvacyprus.com). The Savva & Associates Ltd website can be accessed at www.savvacyprus.com.

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