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Brexit, not COVID pushing UK Cypriots toward Cyprus

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With Brexit looming and the uncertainty shrouding negotiations, British Cypriots are making a dash for Cyprus citizenship to ensure they remain part of the EU.

UK born Cypriots enquiring about citizenship has sky-rocketed in recent years with Brexit sending demand through the roof.

Although COVID-19 has put a temporary dampener on things, last year there were 650 applications for Cyprus citizenship from British nationals compared to only 30 in 2015.

Once the coronavirus crisis is contained, the number of applications is expected to rise again, especially if a deal with the EU fails to come off.

“There is a huge demand, we’ve worked closely with the Cyprus High Commission to see how we can expedite the citizenship process…especially with the UK government not extending the transition period,” UK National Federation of Cypriots president Christos Karaolis told the Financial Mirror.

He added: “More people are interested in securing their EU rights and freedoms, but they also have a close affinity with Cyprus.”

Karaolis said Brexit also gave Cyprus a chance to build bridges to third and fourth generation Cypriots in the diaspora who could see acquiring citizenship as an advantage in these uncertain times.

He said the federation has worked hard with the Cyprus government in streamlining the citizenship process which is needed to obtain an EU Cyprus passport.

“Everything I have asked of the government they have done. I work very closely with the presidential Commissioner, the Interior Minister, and the High Commission. The process has become a lot smoother.”

Although red tape is involved, the time it takes to obtain citizenship of five to six months has been whittled down from average waiting times of one to two years.

And once citizenship is acquired, applying for a passport takes one or two months.

“More people have been deployed to handle applications due to a surge in demand while the procedures have been simplified…we have come forward leaps and bounds,” said Karaolis.

“We’ve done a huge amount to streamline it, we’ve joined up the process between Interior Ministry, Foreign Affairs and the High Commission.”

He said there were still some Gremlins which needed ironing out such as having to renounce your British citizenship or UK passport if of a certain age, despite both countries allowing dual citizenship.

“It’s never enforced but it does need to be removed, it’s anachronistic.”

Working in Cyprus

Brexit is the main driver behind the demand for Cyprus citizenship, rather than the coronavirus pandemic which has hit Britain hard and its Cypriot community.

“COVID hasn’t yet changed perspectives about long term repatriation although there are lots of people actively thinking about working remotely from Cyprus over July/August and potentially September, given it looks like a lot of people won’t be returning to office work until at least September.”

Karaolis said people who have property or family in Cyprus might want to swap working remotely from home in a London flat for the sun and sea.

“Why not go to Larnaca, there’s only a two-hour time difference, so people are thinking about summer work as the infection rate is low…this is being considered rather than repatriation.”

Cypriot students travelling the well-worn path to study in the UK will also be getting a unique university experience shaped by coronavirus protocols.

Karaolis believes COVID-19 will not affect this year’s in-take but if the virus stays with us then it could influence those thinking about studying in the UK down the line.

“The university experience will be very different, but I would think most people have already got places.

The longer impact is the bigger thing, people are already locked in but next year is another matter when people will be thinking about studying in the UK.”