The Cyprus Investment Programme is ranked among the top 10 programmes in the world for global citizenship. It was established to attract foreign direct investment and encourage high-net-worth individuals to settle and conduct business in Cyprus, thereby boosting the nation’s economy.
One of the key features of this programme is its investment policy, whereby non-EU citizens (including Russian, Ukrainian, Arab and Chinese citizens) can obtain Cypriot citizenship by making specific investments. This is one of the simpler programmes for citizenship in Europe and is a speedy way to obtain Cypriot citizenship.
Following Council of Ministers’ decisions on 13 February 2019 and 6 May 2019, various amendments have been made to the Cyprus Investment Programme. These amendments were made on the basis of Section 111A(2) of the Civil Registry Laws (2002 to 2019), with specific terms and conditions, incentives and controls being put in place to prevent abuse.
The changes have been implemented to create a business ecosystem that encourages innovation, while creating finances for affordable housing (through a mandatory contribution to the Cyprus Land Development Corporation). Below are some of the main changes to the programme:
- Applicants must donate at least €75,000 to the Research and Innovation Foundation to help create a business innovation ecosystem. If applicants wish to donate more, additional amounts can be used to supplement the total investment criteria under Sections A2 to A5. This mandatory donation can be waived if applicants have made an investment – through purchasing, establishing or participating in Cypriot companies or businesses – that amounts to at least 20% of the investment cost of the prerequisite amount (ie, €400,000), to a company operating in the primary or secondary sector of the economy or in the field of research and technology, education, health or renewable energy. This has applied to all applications from 15 May 2019.
- Applicants must donate at least €75,000 to the Cyprus Land Development Corporation, facilitating the financing of affordable housing schemes. If applicants donate more than the stipulated amount, the balance is adjusted to supplement the total investment criteria under Sections A2 to A5.(2) This has applied to all applications from 15 May 2019.
- Applicants must make an investment of at least €2 million in real estate, land development and infrastructure projects. Where residential property is bought from an investor who previously used the property to apply for a Cypriot passport through the Cyprus Investment Programme, the required investment amount is €2.5 million rather than €2 million.
- Applicants must invest at least €2 million in the purchase of or participation in businesses and organisations established and operating in Cyprus. With the recent amendments, investments in shipping companies will be considered eligible on the basis of specific criteria established by the Ministry of Finance and the shipping deputy registry.
- Investment in registered alternative investment funds will now be considered eligible. Moreover, companies can now invest up to €200,000 in the Cyprus Stock Exchange’s secondary market.
- The required period of maintaining these investments has increased from three years to five years from the date of naturalisation.
- Applicants must now possess a valid Schengen visa to apply for naturalisation.
- Annual implementation reports must be prepared for the purpose of transparency. These must detail the number of naturalisations, including the nationality of applicants and the sectors in which they have invested.
- Applicants must have held a Cyprus residence permit for at least six months prior to the naturalisation process.
Benefits of Cyprus Investment Programme
Benefits for applicants’ family
Applicants, their spouse and dependent children (ie, minors and those aged 18 to 27) are all eligible for the rights and benefits granted by the programme if the parents have been approved by the ministry prior to the children’s application. No one needs to fulfil any additional criteria in the process – applicants need only mention their details in the application. However, certain financial requirements must be fulfilled if a parent of the applicant is included in the application.
Benefits of Cypriot passports
Cyprus ranks third among the top 10 most coveted passports in the world according to the Citizenship by Investment Passport Rakings 2019. Cypriot passport holders are automatically granted EU citizenship, together with all of the rights, benefits and freedoms that EU citizens enjoy, including:
- the right to education;
- the right to employment; and
- the right to conduct business in any EU country, as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Passports are not nulled if investments are withdrawn after a period of five years, as the minimum €500,000 investment to purchase the permanent residence will be kept indefinitely.
Moreover, applicants under this programme will be granted free access to all 28 EU nations, along with visa-free travel to 150 countries worldwide.
For Cypriot citizens, public primary school education is free. Higher education in public universities is also free, while private institutions offer discounted fees.
In June 2019 Cyprus introduced GESY, a full-coverage healthcare programme that applies to all citizens. Citizens currently contribute a small percentage of their monthly income in order to help fund the programme.
Right to vote and contest elections
Applicants can vote in elections and run for government.
No complicated prior requirements for applications
Although applicants must hold a permanent privately owned residence in Cyprus in order to apply, they do not have to have stayed in Cyprus permanently prior to their application. Further, the minimum level of investment is applicable to the whole family. No language tests or history evaluations are required to apply for this programme.
Thus, the Cyprus Investment Programme is a beneficial and cost-effective way to obtain EU citizenship.
Applying for naturalisation by exception
Applications for naturalisation by exception must be submitted to the Ministry of Interior. Applicants must include the following documents:
- the immigration application form;
- their birth certificate;
- a true copy of their passport;
- a certificate of a clean criminal record from their country of origin and the country of residence (if different);
- a marriage or civil partnership certificate;
- two passport-size photographs;
- their CV;
- a copy of their Cyprus residence permit;
- a contract of sale as proof of residence in Cyprus;
- proof of payment of the agreed purchase price; and
- a copy of the wire transfer to a Cypriot commercial banking institution under the seller’s name.
Application examination procedure
Once an application has been submitted, the examination process begins. Provided that the application is duly submitted and accompanied by all of the necessary supporting documents and the investor meets the criteria and conditions, the timeframe to complete the process is approximately six months. The application submission date is the date on which the submission fees were paid – that is, when they were noted on the receipt issued by the Ministry’s Cashier’s Office.
Once an application has been approved, applicants will be able to acquire their citizenship and Cypriot travelling documents. As long as applicants have held a residence permit for at least six months, the acquisition of Cypriot citizenship will be completed. If applicants have not held a residence permit for the aforementioned period, they must wait until the six-month period has been completed. Afterwards, the Civil Registry and Migration Department will issue a certificate of naturalisation, following payment of the naturalisation certificate issuing fee. Subsequently, applicants must give the Oath of Faith to the Cypriot Republic before a registrar of a Cypriot court or a consular officer of Cyprus. Once this procedure has been completed, applicants can acquire all legal Cypriot documents for which they applied.
Obtaining immigration permits
Prior to naturalisation as Cypriot citizens, applicants must hold a Cyprus residence permit.
An applicant’s biometric date (ie, fingerprints and photograph) and signature is mandatory for the issuance of an immigration permit. In order for biometric data to be collected, applicants must appear in person at the Civil Registry and Migration Department. Moreover, applicants must present an original travel document. After biometric date has been collected, the immigration permit card will be issued within five working days.
(1) Appendix, Economical Criteria:
The applicant of the Cyprus Investment Program should meet the below criteria and act accordingly:
Α.1 Donation to the Research and Innovation Foundation and the Cyprus Land Development Corporation:
- Must have donated a minimum of €75.000 to the Research and Innovation Foundation. If a higher amount is donated, then the additional amount can be used towards supplementing the total amount of the investment which was made as per section A.2-A.5.
- Must have also donated a minimum of €75.000 to the Cyprus Land Development Corporation if again a higher amount is donated then the additional amount can be used towards supplementing the total amount of the investment which was made as per section A.2-A.5.
Α.2 Investment in real estate, land development and infrastructure projects:
Must have an investment a minimum of €2,0 million for the purchase or construction of buildings or for the construction of other land development projects. Please note that an investment in land that does not have any prospective of development is omitted.
Α.3 Purchase or Establishment or Participation in Cypriot Companies or Businesses:
Must have invested a minimum of €2,0 million for the purchase or involvement in companies or organizations which are recognised and operating in Cyprus, terms and conditions apply.
Α.4 Investment in Alternative Investment Funds or Registered Alternative Investment Funds or financial assets of Cypriot companies or Cypriot organizations that are licensed by Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission:
Should have purchased units of a minimum €2,0 million from the alternative investment funds (AIF) or Registered Alternative Investment Funds (RAIF) which are established in Cyprus licensed and registered as well as supervised by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySec) and whose investments are made only in Cyprus, in investments that meet the criteria of this Program or in areas that are acceptable by the Minister of Finance. It is allowed for these AIFs or RAIFs to invest in secondary market stock-market values of the Cyprus Stock Exchange an amount that does not surpass €200.000.
Please note that the purchase by an AIF or RAIF of units of other AIFs or RAIFs is not considered eligible.
Α.5 Combination of the aforementioned investments:
The applicant also has the option to combine some of the above investments only in the case that the investment amount will be a minimum of €2,0 million.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.