By Poly Pantelides
APPLICATIONS by Chinese nationals to gain permanent residency in Cyprus have jumped from over a couple of dozen in 2012 to hundreds this year, the interior ministry’s migration department has said.
In 2012, some 29 Chinese nationals applied for permanent residency in Cyprus compared with 445 applications so far this year, according to data by the migration department.
Applications from Chinese also made up the bulk of some 744 applications filed this year by non-EU nationals in relation to applications by investors and those who can prove they have independent means of income.
Russians, thousands of whom already live on the island, made up the bulk of the rest of this year’s applications although applications dropped from 267 last year to 173 this year. Over half of the 423 applications filed last year, came from Russians (267). Cyprus’ 2011 population census placed the Russian population on the island at 9,000. Some of them were among the depositors of what was the island’s second largest bank, Laiki, who saw their savings of over €100,000 disappear overnight when Cyprus was forced to shut down the bank.
But the Chinese are fairly new on the island and their presence barely made a dent in the 2011 population census. Two years later, over 1,000 Chinese have bought properties in Cyprus with about 80 per cent of them setting up home in Paphos, Huali Che, president of the Chinese friendship association in Cyprus, has told the Cyprus Mail.
Paphos holds by far the greatest proportion of non-Cypriot to Cypriot residents with about 35 per cent of its population originally hailing from overseas. And it is in Paphos where the promise of a €290 million investment has attracted attention, as a promise of a brighter future – this time from the Chinese.
The purchase by Hong-Kong-based China Glory National Investment of the Venus Rock Golf Resort has been hailed as an example of the growing links between China and Cyprus, and as a demonstration that the island can still attract foreign investment, despite its woes. Meanwhile, the University of Cyprus has plans – tentatively pencilled in for the end of 2014 – to open a Confucius Institute, promoting Chinese language and culture.
The cash-strapped government pledged last September that it would speed up migration permits’ application procedures for investors, to make it easier for those who can afford it to take up residency on the island, a gateway to the rest of the European Union. So far the migration department has approved some 570 applications within the scope of fast-track procedures this year.
Those who can afford to can apply to take up residency on the island for themselves and their family by depositing at least €30,000 into a bank account and keeping the money in the country for three years, even if and when the island-wide restrictions on capital movements are lifted.
Applicants – who need a clean criminal record – need to prove they have an annual income of €30,000 a year from operations abroad (each dependent person raises the amount by €5,000 a year). They also need to show they have paid up at least €200,000 for a property worth a minimum €300,000 before VAT.
Adult children are also welcome, but the purchase price for a Cyprus-based property then gets raised an additional €300,000 before VAT per child and the applicant needs to pay up two thirds of that in advance. Each adult child would also need to meet the income criteria and park money in a bank account in Cyprus.
In late May, authorities told foreign investors they would also get to become Cypriot citizens – and by extension EU citizens – if they bring in €5.0 million, have large bank accounts or perform certain business transactions on the island.