Friday, April 20, 2012

Residency permits for Europeans in Cyprus

When we first moved to Cyprus, at the end of October 1997, we had to apply for permits to live here. Cyprus was not in the European Union, so although we could come for three months as visitors, we couldn't stay any longer without permission.  We had to prove that we had enough money in our bank account, that we had a regular source of income from the UK, and that we had a rental contract.

Larnaka (Cyprus) Immigration - for residency permits

Queuing at Immigration was a nuisance - one just turned up and waited, possibly for hours, until called - and for four of us, we had to pay something like 40 Cyprus pounds, which was quite a bit... but it was basically straightforward.

We were issued with temporary permits, and then the official Alien Registration cards. We had to wait a few months for our pink slips to arrive, but eventually they did. We were on the same visa as a retired person, since all our support was from the UK, so could only ever ask for a year at a time. Thus, each October, we had to go back to Immigration.  Each time the rules seemed to have changed slightly; sometimes we had to make two or more visits to provide extra paperwork or photocopies... but each time we were given our slips eventually.

Then in 2004, Cyprus joined the EU. This meant that we had more of a right to live here; moreover, according to a lawyer we spoke to, we would not need to go through the lengthy Immigration process again. So for a couple of years we continued living here, our pink slips long expired, in happy ignorance.

Then we bought a house in 2006; the lawyer who dealt with the purchase told us that the first lawyer was wrong, but that we could now apply for permanent Cyprus residency as we were going to be home-owners and had lived here more than five years.

However, our son Tim was going to university in the UK, and applying for a grant as a UK citizen. We had been filing taxes and paying National Insurance in the UK, so were still classed as officially resident there, despite living in Cyprus. And since we wanted him to be eligible for the grant, we did not want to take out permanent residency in Cyprus.

Then some friends told us that we should really have Cyprus ID cards. We didn't know what to believe.. but we had not heard from Immigration, nor had we had any trouble flying in and out of the country... and, not being very good at getting round to this kind of thing, we just let it go.  Our Alien Registration Cards seemed to be valid for paying car tax each year, and we continued filing UK taxes and paying UK National Insurance contributions. The Cyprus tax authorities said they didn't want to know about people like us who would not be paying any tax anyway as we don't have income over the threshold.

Then, a month ago, there was an article in the Cyprus Mail about id cards, saying that they are now obsolete. Just as well we didn't get one, then. EU citizens, the article said, need to apply for Alien Registration cards and pink slips again, although the new slips have no expiry date. Moreover, the authorities are starting to clamp down on people who were living here without valid pink slips, levying hefty fines.

So, as Tim finished his degree last year, we thought about applying for permanent residency... but then wondered what would be the point, since the pink slip system seems to be effectively infinite residency anyway. We checked the online system, and yesterday gathered up all the documentation we thought we would need. Richard made photocopies... and this morning we drove down to Immigration at about 8.15.

We were pleasantly surprised to find nobody queuing outside. We went straight in and spoke to a helpful receptionist, who said that yes, even though we have Alien cards, we need to fill out the form as if we didn't, and must  come back to an appointment which she wrote in her book, for just over two weeks' time. Then she gave us a sheet of paper telling us exactly what documentation we need! The quality isn't very good, and the English has errors.... we were amused to see, for instance, that if we had been employed here, we would have needed to fill in part three of the form which would then have to be 'singed' by the employer!

Although it should be straightforward for EU citizens to get residency permits for an EU country, we need to take along, in addition to the official form:

  • our passports, and photocopies of them
  • two passport style photos of each of us 
  • exact amounts of money (8.54 euro for Richard, 17.09 for me) 
  • marriage certificate, and photocopy
  • proof of health insurance, and photocopy
  • title deeds of house [or rental agreement], and photocopy
  • bank account statements for the past 6 months, stamped by the bank, and copies
  • proof of income, and copy
The odd amounts of money are evidently left over from the Cyprus pounds days, as they are exactly 5 and 10 Cyprus pounds respectively. Strange that they have not gone up in seven years. Most of the requirements are reasonable, although 'proof' of our income is a bit tricky - but I suppose we can take along the statements we get from the agency who passes on our funds. 

The most difficult is going to be health insurance proof. We do have some medical insurance, covering us for hospital stays, but we didn't take out general insurance to cover out-patient or doctor visits. There didn't seem much point - we rarely visit doctors (a handful of times in 14 years, mostly related to one of our sons) and if we do, we just pay the standard fee which is about 20-30 euros.  We don't want comprehensive health insurance... yet the requirement states:

'The health insurance must covered in hospital and out hospital services' (sic)

It then says that it must be one of: E121 form, E106 form, Cyprus hospital pink card, or private health insurance from Cyprus or abroad.  We're not eligible for either of the first two. One is for people receiving a state pension, and the other is for people who have only recently moved from the UK. But having looked up information about the Cyprus pink medical card (which we knew nothing about) I ended up on this page about Cyprus health care.  Most of the recipients of free health care don't apply to us - we're not members of parliament, or war pensioners, or students, or parents of large families... but we certainly fall in the income bracket. 

It will be ironic if we discover that we are eligible for free health care and need not have been paying for any private care for the past 14 years... we haven't made any claim on it, for which I'm thankful, but it would have been even better if we had known about the pink card option.... 


Anvilcloud said...

It sure seems hard to keep up with the rules and regs.

Agoulashofculture said...

I went through such a hassle getting my visa. First time they gave us the wrong list of things to show. So we had to rebook my appointment a month later (after having to wait a month for my first appointment. Then while my husband got his right then and there (being British) I had to wait five additional months for the at home meeting. They didn't tell us that, just that it takes 3 months for Nicosia to get the paperwork first then they'll contact me. Waited two months for them to get in touch after that (now 1 month past the EU sanctioned waiting period of 6 months). Started off calling them every 15 minutes for two hours a day in order to get in touch with one of them. Then they issue a 'get this to us or be deported on x date' and that info wasn't applicable to our case under EU law as they had already issued my husband's visa. They had already verified it was not a marriage of convinence. So I faxed my consulate and SOLVIT to see what they could do. SOLVIT confirmed Cyprus had been asking illegal questions and tasks of us. The Canadian Consulate confirmed this and was mighty annoyed at Cyprus for avoiding their calls. So they called the case worker's boss's boss to get a final answer. BAM nearly 9-10 months after the process was started, half a year after the legal allowance I got my bloody 5 year pink slip in the mail within two days of the consulate pulling rank.

Welcome to Cyprus haha!