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Cyprus Permanent Residency and Citizenship

            Cyprus offers a fast track to European residency or citizenship in exchange for a significant investment within its borders. Split into two streams, investors may choose to pursue citizenship directly, or may choose to pursue permanent residency in exchange for a lesser investment amount. The citizenship-by-investment program requires an investment of at least €2 million in the purchase of real property or eligible investments in the country. Like Malta’s Investment Immigration Programme, this immigration method provides citizenship directly and allows successful applicants and their eligible family members the rights of a European Union citizen. The residency program requires a minimum property investment of €300,000 and a minimum capital deposit of €30,000.

            The programs are especially attractive because of their quick processing times—applicants can receive residency or citizenship in as little as two to three months—and their lax residency requirements. Both streams allow principal applicants to include qualifying family members in their applications. Permanent residency and citizenship in Cyprus grant a high level of mobility throughout the European Union.

 History and Statistics

            The residency- and citizenship-by-investment programs as they stand today were institutionalized by a 2014 Council of Minister’s revision of existing immigration and nationality laws (with the latest revisions adopted in September 2016). The 2014 changes introduced the Major Collective Investment (MCI)—an opportunity for a reduced investment amount for those applying for naturalization—and expedited processing for both schemes.

            According to an announcement made in 2015 by the interior minister of Cyprus, the citizenship-by-investment program had boosted the country’s economy by €2 billion through property purchase and direct investments.[1]

 Eligibility, Requirements and Applications

            The financial requirements of each program differ in nature and in amount, but investors in either category must show a clean criminal record and all application documents not originally in English or Greek must be so translated. All investment funds must come from outside of Cyprus.

            The permanent residency scheme allows the investor to include their spouse and minor children as dependents, as well as children 18-25 who are students. Investors applying for citizenship, however, are eligible to have their spouse and children up to age 28 (in certain circumstances) naturalized. The parents of permanent residency investors are also entitled to apply for Cyprus Citizenship by Exception provided that they have purchased a permanent residence of at least €500,000 plus VAT. (For this purpose, the applicant and their parents may acquire one residential property worth at least € 1 million — with €500,000 allocated to applicant and €500,000 allocated to the parents.)

Permanent Residency[2]

            The investment requirements for permanent residency in Cyprus are less capital intensive than those of citizenship, but the program is also subject to increased restrictions. In order to be granted permanent residency through this stream, investors must transfer at least €30,000 to bank deposits in Cyprus and must purchase residential property with a minimum value of €300,000. Bank deposits must be maintained for at least three years, and property maintained throughout the duration of permanent resident status. In addition to these investment amounts, the applicant and spouse must prove that they have a secure annual income of at least €30,000 (increased by €5,000 per dependent family member).

            In order to apply, applicants must submit a confirmation from the financial institution holding their bank deposits, proof of annual income and a contract of sale for a property valued at €300,000 or more (€200,000 of which must be paid). The application is submitted to the Civil Registry and Migration Department, either directly by the applicant or by an agent on their behalf, along with a fee of €500. Applications should be processed within two months from the date of submission.

            While permanent resident status does not require actual residency in Cyprus, investor residents must visit the country at least once every two years. Principal applicants and derivatives are prohibited from seeking employment in Cyprus during their residency. 

            As long as applicants meet the financial requirements of the program and do not pose a criminal or security risk, they should expect their application to be judged favorably by immigration officials.

Citizenship[3]

            In order to qualify for citizenship-by-investment, investors must purchase property in Cyprus valued at a minimum of €500,000 and they must hold at least €2 million across all investments in Cyprus. Investors can also qualify with a €2million investment if they invest as part of a collective of which the entire investment totals at least €12.5 million. In sum, the program requires:

  • Purchase of property valued at €500,000 or greater.

 

And one of the following (or a combination thereof, totaling 2 million):

  1. Investment in government bonds (max €500,000).
  2. Investment in assets of Cypriot companies or organizations.
  3. Investment in real estate, infrastructure or land development projects.
  4. Investment in the purchase of, the creation of or participation in a Cypriot business.
  5. Deposit in Cyprus banks.

            Investors can contribute an amount of €2million through channels 1-4 if investing as part of a combination investment. In such a case, the total collective investment must total at least €2million.

            Investments must have been made within the three years prior to applying and retained for three years after naturalization. Property must be held permanently, but the originally purchased property can be sold, as long as the investor reinvests in a property of equal or greater value. Citizenship investors are not required to visit Cyprus prior to or during their application process, and are not required to actually reside in the country once they become citizens.

            In order to apply, applicants must submit proof of property purchase in Cyprus, including contract of sale and receipts of the purchase price. They must also include documents showing the execution of the required €2 million investment. The application is submitted to the Ministry of Interior, either directly by the applicant or by an agent on their behalf, along with a fee of €2,000. The financial aspects of the application are evaluated by the Ministry of Finance. If the application is approved, investors will be required to pay a €5,000 fee for the naturalization process. Spouses and adult children are required to pay the same fees as the principal applicant, and minor children are subject to a total fee of €80. The entire process takes approximately three months from the date of application submission.

            Full service companies exist that can guide investors through the residency or naturalization process and advise on the most suitable investment and property options. Applications can be submitted directly by the investor applicant or by an agent on behalf of the applicant, but prospective investors are advised to consult qualifying professionals before making any investment decisions.

 

[1] Howarth, Nigel. "Citizenship Scheme Raises €2 Billion." Cyprus Property News Magazine. May 27, 2015. Accessed February 09, 2016. http://www.news.cyprus-property-buyers.com/2015/05/27/citizenship-scheme-raises-billions/id=0067708.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all program information taken from “Residency Permit for Cyprus.” Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency. June 2014. Accessed February 09, 2016. http://www.cipa.org.cy/images/media/assetfile/PRP%20%202014%20.pdf.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all program information taken from “Information on the Cyprus Naturalization Scheme.” Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency. June 2014. Accessed February 09, 2016.http://www.cipa.org.cy/images/media/assetfile/Citizenship%20Scheme.ENGLISH.pdf.