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BREXIT: No cause for British expats to panic

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By Esme Palas

It is not all doom and gloom for UK nationals living in Cyprus.

Realizing the significant contribution of the vibrant UK nationals’ community, both to the economy and society, the Cyprus government has tried to accommodate the all-important British expat community as best it can.

Despite what may appear in the press or social media platforms, talk of ‘British subjects have no rights’ is a myth, as those who were here before 31/12/2020 will see very little changing in their everyday lives and work.

The EU has reached an agreement with the UK on Citizens rights known as the withdrawal agreement.

The Withdrawal Agreement ensured the UK would leave the EU in an orderly manner, and one of its main objectives was to protect the rights of citizens who have built their life based on rights which have emanated from UK membership to the EU.

Any UK nationals and their family members who exercised their free movement rights in Cyprus before 1 January 2021 and lived here before Brexit have the right of residence, employment, study, and free movement in the Republic of Cyprus.

They are entitled to continue living on the island just as they did before Brexit.

Any British Nationals and their family members who already hold residency documents, such as a Certificate of Registration (MEU1), Residence Card (MEU2) or a Certificate/Card of Permanent Residence (MEU3),  can continue to use them as a means of proof of their residence rights in Cyprus.

Cyprus has chosen not to make it obligatory for UK nationals and their family members who hold the above documents to apply for a new residence status to verify they are entitled to their residence rights.

Should they opt to apply for the New Residence Documents (MUKW1, MUKW2, MUKW3), they only need to submit a valid passport to replace their existing ones as proof of identity and their current residency documents.

The applicants will be requested to present themselves at the local Immigration Office or the Civil Registry Migration Department to submit biometric data.

It is important to note that eligible UK nationals who have been living in Cyprus before 1 January 2021 but have not yet applied for residence documents continue to have the right to do so.

They should do so, provided they can submit evidence of their residency before that date and prove that they continue to reside in Cyprus.

If UK Nationals have completed five years of continuous residence in Cyprus before 31 December 2020 and do not hold residency documents, they will be eligible to acquire permanent residence.

Otherwise, they will be eligible to apply for temporary residence and remain in Cyprus until they reach the five-year threshold to apply for permanent residence.  Commencement of this 5-year period starts when exercising their free movement rights, which may be at any time before 1 January 2021.

Any child born or adopted after 1  January 2021 by eligible UK nationals will enjoy the same rights as pre-existing family members.

Furthermore, any existing family members of eligible UK nationals who on 31 December 2020 were living in a country other than Cyprus can reunite with eligible UK Nationals in Cyprus as a family member at any time in the future.

Such family members will then be eligible for permanent residence after completing five years of continuous residence.

In all the above cases, a new type of residency document will be issued to UK nationals and their family members, the MUKW1, MUKW2 and MUKW3.

There is no deadline for submitting residency applications within the new process that applies from 1 January 2021.

Notably, however, future spouses and partners of UK nationals who are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and wish to come to Cyprus after 31 December 2020 will need to meet Cyprus Immigration regulations.

If UK nationals do not hold residency documents issued before 31 December 2020 and have no credible evidence, they exercised their free movement rights in Cyprus prior to that, in that case, they will still be able to visit Cyprus.

But their passports will be stamped during entry/exit border checks with a 90-day out of 180-day limitation period.

That is the period that they can legally stay in Cyprus unless they apply for a residency or work permit.

It is clear the Cyprus Government greatly appreciates the valuable contribution that UK Nationals have been making over the years to the Cypriot society.

It has taken steps to safeguard and protect theirs and their families’ residency, where they have already established their life in Cyprus, by implementing all the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement on citizens’ rights.

If these persons exercised their residency rights before 31 December 2020 or were eligible to apply after 31 December, they can continue living in Cyprus with the same access to work, study, benefits, and public services now enjoyed.

They will have a right to reside in Cyprus without any time limitations.

Their passports will be checked at the entry/exit border checks but will not be stamped.

This provides reassuring news for expatriates regarding the protection of existing residency rights and benefits.

This article’s content is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter; it does not constitute legal advice.

Esme Palas is a UK qualified Barrister at Law, partner at Michael Kyprianou & Co LLC, Paphos office. Her areas of specialization are immigration and immovable property law.

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