EuropePolicy Updates

Learn Basic Greek And Get EU Citizenship in Cyprus in as Little as 3.5 Years

Charles Savva
Cyprus


Cyprus’s new rules allow for the naturalization of certain qualified individuals in as little as three years and legally oblige the government to handle naturalization applications within eight months.

On November 30, 2023, Cyprus’ House of Representatives enacted a transformative amendment to the Civil Registry Law to modernize the framework for naturalizing foreign nationals and enhancing both qualification criteria and the due diligence process. 

This development is particularly important to the investment migration industry because Cyprus now becomes the only EU country with a golden visa program that has officially codified the processing time for naturalization applications, setting a cap of only eight months. 

In addition, highly skilled non-EU nationals are now eligible to apply for citizenship in as little as three years, being the shortest timeframe offered by any EU naturalization legislation.

Understanding the Revised Citizenship Criteria

To be eligible for Cypriot citizenship, foreign nationals must meet certain criteria, including continuous residency, long-term residency, character assessment, language proficiency, cultural understanding, financial stability, and intent to reside in Cyprus. This is the same regardless of which type of residence permit they hold in Cyprus.

But what’s remarkable about the new rules are two particular aspects:

First, once you have resided in Cyprus long enough to become eligible for citizenship, the government must now process your citizenship application within eight months. As most investment migration practitioners know, there is often a big discrepancy between how long it takes before you can apply for naturalization and how long the government takes to actually process that citizenship application.

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For example, a given country’s laws might state that those who have lived in the country for five years can apply for naturalization. But what good is that if a backlog of thousands of applications exists to delay the processing time for the application to several years? While you may be eligible in five years, actually getting citizenship could take 8 or 9 years.

Well, henceforth, those who have lived long enough in Cyprus to apply for naturalization will have their applications dealt with within a maximum of eight months.

The second remarkable aspect of the new rules is that they reduce the length of the residency period needed to reach naturalization eligibility by several years for certain individuals. Highly skilled non-EU nationals living in Cyprus employed in sectors the Council of Ministers deem significant will see their residency period reduced sharply if they can demonstrate a modest proficiency in Greek.

Under normal circumstances, the time it takes to reach eligibility for naturalization in Cyprus is seven years. This timeframe will be reduced to

  • 4 years for A2 certificate holders
  • 3 years for B1 certificate holders

How much Greek do you need to know, in practice, to qualify for a shortened path to citizenship? The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) defines A2 as being able to “communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters”. In other words, the ability to order a cup of coffee or ask someone what time of day it is. This is the same, modest language requirement that Portugal imposes for its naturalization policy.

B1 is a step above and requires an understanding of “the main points of clear and standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

The vast majority of educated individuals who have spent three years living in Cyprus and interacting in an ordinary manner with the local community – such as by going to restaurants or dropping their children off at school – will, in the normal course of everyday affairs, pick up enough Greek to attain these certificates.

Why This Matters for Prospective Citizens

The new rules represent several competitive advantages over other EU countries:

  • Streamlined Processing Time
    Unlike in Portugal, where citizenship processing can take more than three years, or in Greece, where it can extend beyond seven years – to say nothing of Italy or Spain, where even reaching the naturalization eligibility stage takes ten years (not counting processing time) Cyprus now offers a much faster and more efficient process, codified into law.
  • Economic and Cultural Appeal
    Cyprus’ growing economy and cultural richness make it a more attractive destination than other EU countries, where economic growth might be slower or cultural integration more challenging. Cyprus is fast becoming a country of diverse immigrants, many of whom are affluent and have made Cyprus their home.
  • Strategic Location and Economic Growth
    Cyprus’ position as a gateway between Europe, Asia, and Africa, along with its economic opportunities, compares favorably to countries like Portugal and Greece.
  • Inclusivity and Flexibility in Qualifications
    The flexibility in residency requirements for skilled workers and family inclusion policies in Cyprus are more accommodating than in many other EU countries.

The updated naturalization process in Cyprus and streamlined citizenship procedure present a clear and attainable path to citizenship. This makes Cyprus an ideal destination for those seeking new opportunities, especially compared to other EU countries with longer processing times and less flexible immigration policies. Cyprus’ commitment to attracting global talent while ensuring a rigorous and fair process highlights its standing as a welcoming nation for prospective citizens.

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Charles Savva AuthorSubscriberParticipant
Managing Director , Savva & Associates

Charles Savva is the founder and Managing Director of Savva & Associates, and is based in Nicosia, Cyprus. He is Canadian-Cypriot and has lived in Cyprus since 2001.

With over 22 years of experience in the Cyprus professional services space, Charles’ areas of expertise include Cypriot tax, international tax planning, and investment immigration.

Since founding Savva & Associates in 2009, Charles has advised extensively in the areas of tax optimisation (personal and corporate), and assisted HNWIs and their families obtain EU citizenship or permanent residency via investment programs.

Prior to founding Savva & Associates, Charles obtained five years’ experience working with two major banks in Toronto, Canada, and was responsible for the Financial Reporting of publicly listed mutual funds. In Cyprus, he has worked for Big 4 accounting firms, as well as some of the largest professional services providers.

He has made numerous presentations at conferences worldwide regarding the uses of Cyprus in international tax planning, and is a frequent speaker at events dedicated to EU investment immigration solutions offering citizenship or permanent residency via investment programs.

Charles holds an MBA degree in Corporate Finance from the internationally renowned Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada, is a UK qualified Chartered Accountant, and a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

Apart from his native English, he is fluent in Greek.

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