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Regulatory framework and trends
Trends and developments
Have there been any notable recent trends or developments regarding business-related immigration in your jurisdiction, including any government policy initiatives?
One of the main objectives of Cyprus’s economic policy is to encourage increased foreign direct investment and attract high-net-worth individuals to settle and do business in Cyprus. During the past three years, the Ministry of Interior launched a passport-through-investment programme based on Sub-section 2 of Section 111A of the Civil Registry Laws 2002 to 2015 and the acquisition of permanent residency under Regulation 6(2), which has attracted a number of investors. In general, an investor can apply for:
- a Cyprus passport through a minimum investment of €2 million plus value added tax; or
- permanent residency through the purchase of a first-sale property worth at least €300,000 plus value added tax, if any.
An investor can apply for a Cyprus passport through the following schemes:
- Investment in real estate, land development and infrastructure projects – applicants must invest at least €2 million in real estate, construction, land development (eg, residential or commercial developments or developments in the tourism sector) or other infrastructure projects. Investment in land under development is also eligible provided that an investment and development plan for the purchased land is included with the application. Investment in land situated in an area with zero development is ineligible under the passport-through-investment programme.
- The purchase or establishment of or participation in Cypriot businesses or companies – applicants must invest at least €2 million in companies or organisations established and operating in Cyprus. These funds must be used to pursue company objectives in Cyprus based on a specific investment plan. Applications will be evaluated to verify whether such companies or organisations have a proven physical presence in Cyprus and significant activity and turnover and employ at least five Cyprus or EU citizens. This minimum number of employees will increase if more than one applicant invests simultaneously or almost simultaneously in the same business or company. In addition, the employees of such companies must have legally and continuously resided in Cyprus during the five years preceding the application’s submission date.
- Investment in alternative investment funds (AIFs) or financial assets of Cypriot companies or Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySec)-licensed organisations – applicants must buy at least €2 million of units from AIFs established in Cyprus or licensed and supervised by CySec whose investments are made exclusively in Cyprus and meet the criteria of the passport-through-investment programme and the minister of finance. To ensure that such investments fall within the scope of the existing programme, this criteria will be kept for at least three years. The fund manager or auditor will inform the Ministries of Finance and the Interior of the value of the initial investment annually in writing. The purchase of at least €2 million in financial assets in Cypriot companies (eg, CySec-approved bonds, bills and securities) by companies with a proven physical presence and substantial economic activity are eligible for the programme; however, an AIF’s purchase of another AIF’s units is ineligible.
- A combination of the above investments – the applicant can proceed with a combination of the above investments provided that total investment amounts to at least €2 million. This combination of investments may include special government bonds of up to €500,000, issued by the Ministry of Finance’s Public Debt Management Office, on the condition that the investor will retain these bonds for three years. The terms of these special bonds will be determined by the general and special issue terms of government bonds. Investments in government bonds through the secondary market are ineligible.
What legislation and regulations govern immigration in your jurisdiction?
Immigration is governed by legal instruments and policies set out by the Council of Ministers, the Ministerial Committee for Employment of Third-Country Nationals and the Interior Ministry. The main laws governing the immigration sector are:
- the Law on the Right of Union Citizens and their Family Members to Move and Reside Freely within the Territory of the Republic of Cyprus;
- the Aliens and Immigration Law (Cap 105);
- the Law on the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings and Protection of Victims; and
- the Aliens and Immigration Regulations.
The above laws are harmonised with EU law. This means that EU directives relating to the free movement of EU citizens, immigration and trafficking in human beings have been transposed into Cyprus law.
Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?
Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior via its Immigration and Migration Department and the Immigration Police Authority supervise and regulate visitors who apply for temporary or permanent work permits.
The Immigration and Migration Department can:
- grant all types of immigration and non-immigration permit;
- grant Cyprus citizenship; and
- change the immigration status of foreign individuals where needed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs controls and regulates Cyprus’s overseas embassies.
Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?
Yes, decisions can be appealed when it is believed that the decision taken was unreasonable and the reasons for rejecting a request were too general. The appeal for waiving a decision is at the administrative court’s discretion.
Recent case law
Has there been any notable recent case law regarding immigration?
In what circumstances is a visa required for business visitors?
If business visitors come from a non-EU country or a country without visa-free entry to Cyprus, they must apply for a business visa through an overseas embassy. Applicants must provide the embassy with evidence that they have been invited to Cyprus by a company or are participating in a business event, conference or seminar.
What restrictions are imposed on business visitors in terms of the work that they may undertake and their period of stay in your jurisdiction?
Business visitors (ie, holders of a business visa) can undertake any kind of work for the duration of their visa. For a stay of less than 90 days, the visa holder has the right to extend his or her stay in Cyprus up to a maximum of 90 days. If such a person wishes to stay more than 90 days, he or she must apply for a work or temporary residence permit depending on the reason for the visit and extension. Further, the holder of a business visa can apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cancel the final stamp on their visa and therefore extend it for up to 90 days.
Application and entry
How are business visitor visas obtained and what is the typical turnaround time?
Business visas can be obtained via Cypriot embassies when the applicant has been invited by a Cyprus corporate organisation. The timeframe for obtaining such a visa depends on the embassy’s workload, but is approximately 10 days.
Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?
Cyprus offers visa-free entry to nationals from EU member states plus another 150 countries outside the European Union. Visa waiver travellers can stay in Cyprus for up to 90 days.
What rules and procedures apply for visitors seeking to undertake short-term training in your jurisdiction?
In what circumstances is a transit visa required to pass through your jurisdiction? How is it obtained?
Cyprus offers no transit facilities.
What sponsored visas or work permits are available to employers seeking to hire foreign nationals in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?
Employers can apply for a working visa for non-EU employees if their company allows them to do so. The procedure takes three to four months and a work visa lasts for the duration of the employment agreement. Employees can renew their visa on renewal of their employment agreement.
What sponsored visas or work permits are available to multinational employers seeking to transfer foreign employees to your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?
Multinational employers follow the same procedure mentioned above, as an entity applying to register a foreign employee is treated as a Cyprus company or branch. Applicants must have signed an employment agreement with such a company.
Do any special rules govern secondments?
Sponsor requirements and considerations
What are the eligibility and procedural requirements for employers to sponsor foreign employees?
What ongoing reporting and record-keeping requirements apply to sponsors?
Sponsors must retain copies of their employees’ passport, know-your-customer documents and residence permits.
In what circumstances (if any) must the employer submit to resident labour market testing before hiring or transferring foreign employees? Do any exemptions apply?
Employers do not have to conduct a resident labour market test before hiring foreign employees. Nonetheless, in order to minimise unemployment, vacant positions must be advertised for two months indicating the qualifications and language skills required. Where no candidate is found to match the relevant requirements during this time, the employer can proceed with a work permit application for a foreign employee.
Are there any annual quota limits or restrictions on certain positions that can be filled by foreign nationals?
Are there any immigration exemptions or other special schemes for shortage occupations in your jurisdiction?
How long does it typically take to obtain a sponsored visa? Is expedited visa processing available?
What rules govern the hiring of foreign third-party contractors?
What are the penalties for sponsor non-compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations?
Are there any other special considerations for sponsors in your jurisdiction?
General employee requirements
Must sponsored employees meet any language requirements?
There are no language requirements for working visas.
Are sponsored employees subject to any medical checks?
Medical checks may be required depending on the type of work permit being applied for (eg, a permit for a domestic worker).
Must sponsored employees meet any medical or other insurance requirements?
Employers must provide medical insurance for their foreign employees.
Are sponsored employees subject to any security or background checks?
The Immigration Authority conducts security checks during the examination of work permit applications. Further, the authority has the right to check that employees are still working for the employer as declared in their records.
Are sponsored employees subject to any restrictions on studying or working second or volunteer jobs?
The holder of a student visa has no right to work.
Are there any rules or standards governing the equivalence of sponsored employees’ foreign qualifications?
What are the penalties for employee non-compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations?
Employees that fail to comply with Cypriot law and immigration requirements will be instructed to leave the country. Failure to comply with instructions from the Immigration Authority could lead to employees being placed on a ‘stop-list’ barring their entry to Cyprus for a number of years.
Highly skilled individuals
What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?
What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?
What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?
Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?
If an applicant’s mother or father is or was a Cypriot national, he or she can apply for citizenship.
Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?
Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship
Extensions and status changes
Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?
Temporary visa and work permit holders can apply for long-term residence if they reside in Cyprus for at least five years. Applicants must be present during the meeting with immigration officials and provide all of the required documents, including:
- his or her curriculum vitae (CV);
- a criminal record check;
- proof of his or her medical insurance;
- his or her social insurance report;
- his or her tax declarations;
- his or her bank statements;
- copies of his or her passport (valid for at least two years);
- his or her income certificate; and
- his or her property ownership or rental agreement.
There may also be a language requirement.
Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?
A long-term visa can be extended three months before its expiration if the applicant supplies the documents listed above.
Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?
Long-term visa holders can apply for permanent residency. However, once this status has been granted, they must sign an agreement that they cannot work in Cyprus. An easier way to apply for permanent residency is through:
- the purchase of residential property and the fast-track procedure (ie, the purchase of a residential property worth €300,000 plus value added tax, if any) to obtain permanent residency within two months; or
- the Category F procedure, through which applicants purchase residential property or agree a long-term rental agreement to obtain permanent residency within one year.
A long-term visa holder who wishes to apply for permanent residency via the Category F procedure must provide the Immigration Authority with his or her:
- bank statements;
- rental agreement or property deed;
- criminal record check;
- medical insurance certificate;
- CV; and
- proof of income.
Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?
Applicants who reside in Cyprus for seven calendar years have the right to apply for citizenship if they can prove that they resided in Cyprus continuously for one year before their application. The authorities check applicants’ passports to calculate the number of days spent in Cyprus as well as their:
- proof of residence;
- tax declarations;
- bank statements; and
- criminal record.
This procedure can take up to three years.
Who qualifies as a dependant for immigration purposes?
As regards temporary residence permits, parents and children of permit holders can qualify as dependants (up to the age of 18). If a child is aged over 18 or is a student or disabled, the applicant can ask for that child to be considered a dependant. The decision is at the Immigration Authority’s discretion. Family members (ie, parents and children up to the age of 25) and parents of the couple can apply for permanent residency permits under Regulation 6(2) if they meet the relevant requirements.
Conditions and restrictions
What conditions and restrictions apply to bringing dependants to your jurisdiction (including with respect to access to labour markets, education and public benefits)?
As regards employment permits obtained by foreign nationals, dependants will be allowed to stay in the country if the visa holder’s annual income is sufficient to cover their living costs. For minor dependants with a parent who does not reside in Cyprus, the Immigration Authority needs written certified consent from the parent not accompanying the child.