31st Oct 2019
For more than two-and-a-half years since the formal invocation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union by the government of the United Kingdom, the ride on the Brexit wagon has been a long one, leading to the dissolution of two successive governments, a three-times-rejected withdrawal agreement, a new last-minute agreement on thin ice, no formal approval by the EU 27 of a new Brexit deadline date yet, and potentially new general elections.
In this context, we would like to inform UK nationals and businesses of what will happen in case of a “no-deal” scenario on the date of withdrawal, regarding live-and-work rights in Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus has unilaterally enacted most of the provisions of the first draft Withdrawal Agreement (struck by then-Prime Minister Theresa May) and further over-and-above provisions to safeguard the rights of UK nationals (and their family members) already lawfully residing in Cyprus.
In particular, pursuant to the Right of Some Nationals of the United Kingdom and the Members of their Family to Move and Reside Freely in the Republic Law of 2019 (L. 121(I)/2019), published in the Official Gazette of the Republic on 26.07.2019, UK nationals that have already exercised their right to lawfully reside in Cyprus on the basis of EU free movement rules have a right to permanently reside in the Republic of Cyprus in the following cases:
a. Five years of continuous residence; or
b. Where a person retires, has been working for 12 months in the Republic of Cyprus prior to retirement, and has had three years of continuous residence; or
c. Where the person has stopped working because of a permanent disability to work, but has already had two years of continuous residence; or
d. Where an employee has completed three years of continuous employment and residence, and exercises employed or non-employed activity in another Member State, but maintaining his/her place of residence in Cyprus and returns to it at least once week.
It is provided that for the calculation of the period(s) required for the right to permanent residence, the periods of legal residence or employment prior to and after the date of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union are counted together. In other words, if, for example, a UK national has been working continuously in Cyprus on the basis of EU free movement rules for only four years by the date of withdrawal, he or she shall still be allowed to stay for another year after withdrawal, in order to build up his or her five-year residency and obtain a right to permanent residence.
Where such a right to permanent residence has been acquired, it can be lost only in case of absence from the areas under the effective control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus for a time period exceeding five continuous years.
Beneficiaries of the above rules may submit an application for a “residence document” as of 01.01.2021 (or any other date that may be determined by decision of the Director of the Civil Registry and Migration Department). In the meantime, current residence certificates remain valid until either (a) 31.12.2020, or (b) their date of expiration, or (c) their replacement by the new residence document, or (d) until other restrictions have been placed on them on grounds of public order, public security or public health
We note that the abovementioned Law 121(I)/2019 has not yet entered into effect and it will enter into effect on a date yet to be determined by Decision of the Council of Ministers; presumably to be the date of formal withdrawal, but no such Decision has yet been published.
Concerning any UK nationals that wish to come to Cyprus after 31.12.2020, they shall, by default, be considered as third country nationals, and shall be subject to general immigration law provisions, as also confirmed by the Civil Registry and Migration Department (unless, of course, the new withdrawal agreement or another agreement is ratified and adopted by both the United Kingdom and the EU 27, which may provide for an alternative arrangement).
What remains to be seen and/or is a grey area, at the moment, is the period between the date of withdrawal and 01.01.2021. All “deal” scenarios to date have provided for a transitional period until 01.01.2021, during which UK nationals (and their family members) would still be able to claim a right to permanently reside in EU Member States in the same manner and on the same conditions as UK nationals that had exercised their right to lawfully reside in other EU Member States before the date of withdrawal. However, no guidance has been given by either the Civil Registry and Migration Department nor the government, in connection with the same period, in case of a “no-deal” scenario. Nevertheless, the default legal presumption, in case of a “no-deal” Brexit is that UK nationals wishing to either visit, live or work in Cyprus, after the date of withdrawal shall be immediately subject to general immigration rules, as of the date of withdrawal (rather than as of 01.01.2021), unless another arrangement is reached to this effect.
For more information on this matter you may contact our Employment and Immigration Law team.