By Jean Christou
In what could be seen as a hint to Cypriot migration authorities, the British High Commission is saying it would like to work closely with them to clear up the ongoing confusion for British expats on the island when it comes to their post-Brexit status.
The High Commission told the Sunday Mail in a written statement this week that in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, the UK and the European Commission had already reached a comprehensive agreement on reciprocal protection of UK and EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit.
“Effectively this means that the right for British nationals to continue living their lives in Cyprus and other EU countries as they do now has been secured, and the same for EU nationals living in the UK,” it said.
However, despite a number of public events for Britons living in Cyprus that have been organised by the High Commission, expats say they are being given conflicting information when they visit various migration offices around the island.
“The British High Commission is aware of some inconsistency in the messaging some British nationals have received from immigration offices in Cyprus with regard to their status post-Brexit,” the statement said.
“The British High Commission in Cyprus is keen to work closely with the Cypriot authorities to ensure early, effective and clear procedures are put in place for affected UK nationals in Cyprus, perhaps sharing experience of the scheme recently announced in the UK for EU nationals.”
The comment appears to be a veiled reference to the fact that the post-Brexit status issue works both ways and that more cooperation is needed from the authorities in Cyprus, considering the UK is reciprocating when it comes to the rights of the huge community of Greek Cypriots living in Britain. The UK government says in most instances “decisions will only take a few days” to sort out their paperwork.
Meanwhile, in Cyprus, British expats say they are being given different information depending on where they go. Some who have lived here for more than five years, which entitles them to permanent residency status through the MEU3 form, have been told they only need an MEU1, which is merely a registration formality for those who have been here more than three months. Confusingly, both documents are known as ‘yellow slips’.
“Those of us who used to have ID cards… they gave us the MEU1 in 2014 instead of the MEU3 so we have to pay another €20 for the MEU3 now,” said one expat. “It was obvious from my papers that I’ve been here since 1975. Which is longer than half the Cypriot population!”
The ID cards she referred to were those once issued to long-term foreign residents but which became invalid in the years after Cyprus joined the EU. The MEU1 and MEU3 documents took their place.
Anecdotal evidence on various internet forums see people saying they were told they could only obtain MEU3 status after Brexit, or “not for the time being”, which is not correct.
According to the answers given by the High Commission to the Sunday Mail, the MEU1 is essentially a registration document and is required for all UK nationals who have been residing in Cyprus for more than 90 days and wish to continue to live here.
An MEU3 is proof of permanent residency in Cyprus and can be applied for after five years of residence. What is not clear is what benefits does an MEU3 confer that an MEU1 might not?
“It is really a matter for the Cypriot authorities to clarify the difference in benefits offered by these two difference residence statuses,” the High Commission added.
And there’s the crux – getting the Cypriot authorities to explain.
The Sunday Mail tried to do just that earlier in the week, arranging an appointment first thing this past Monday with a senior immigration official. The first seven or eight phone calls to try and track down the person with the most information went unanswered, so finally securing a face-to-face meeting was a major coup.
There was only one catch: she never showed up. She never called the newspaper asking to postpone or cancel the meeting. Several of her colleagues working on the same corridor merely shrugged when asked when she might turn up or whether she could be contacted. One said: “Go ask someone in the other building,” and pointed randomly out the window.
At the time of writing, emails to the same official with a list of questions have remained unanswered.
The High Commission did attempt to answer some but warned: “Individual EU countries have the right to impose additional administrative requirements on EU nationals choosing to reside for longer than periods of 90 days within their territory.
“What is needed now is clarification from each member state of how these agreed rights will be translated into local law or the administrative procedures to be followed,” it added, repeating that it was keen to work closely with the Cypriot authorities “to ensure early, effective and clear procedures are put in place for affected UK nationals in Cyprus”.
What has been made clear to Britons on the island through the various presentations offered by the High Commission – and a bigger push is planned for October – is that the agreement reached with Brussels means that UK nationals living in Cyprus will be able to carry on living, working or studying in Cyprus for as long as they want to.
Their rights to remain in Cyprus will be protected during the implementation period and beyond. They will continue to be able to access social security on the same basis as Cypriot citizens living in Cyprus. They will be entitled to have their social security contributions made before and after exit in the UK, or in another member state, count towards a future UK or EU member state pension. Their children will continue to enjoy access to education on the same basis that Cypriot children do.
The High Commission said there were a small number of issues which remain to be negotiated and clarity on these would follow. These focus on future life choices, for example the right to onward free movement should UK nationals wish to move to another EU member state; provisions for posted workers; and mutual recognition of qualifications.
“However, the British High Commission is aware that many British nationals living in Cyprus for longer than 90 days may not have even registered with the Cypriot authorities, ie: may not even have an MEU1,” it said. “The High Commission is therefore encouraging all UK nationals to regularise their status ahead of Brexit to avoid any problems further down the line.”
Britons can also apply for Cypriot citizenship if they have lived on the island for more than seven years. One thing is certain if a UK national does not have at least an MEU1 after three months stay, they are not protected.
British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie who was a guest on Rosie Charalambous’ Cyprus News Digest podcast last week said a new roadshow was planned for October and urged all British listeners to make sure their status was regularised. “Then you’ll be protected after Brexit,” he said.
“Brexit is a very big change and it’s understandable that people have worries about it. Where we have the answers, we will get those out,” he added.
Since the rights of UK nationals have been secured with Brussels, below is an abridged version of what it all means under EU rules.
During the first three months of stay you cannot be required to apply for a residence document confirming your right to live there.
After three months you may be required to register with the relevant authority and to be issued with a registration certificate or MEU1.
You will need a valid identity card or passport, and for employees a certificate of employment or confirmation of recruitment from your employer. For self-employed, proof of your status as self-employed. For pensioners, proof of comprehensive health insurance and proof you can support yourself without needing income support: resources may come from any source. For students, proof of enrolment at an approved educational establishment, proof of comprehensive health insurance and a declaration that you have sufficient resources to support yourself without needing income support: resources may come from any source. You do not need to provide any other documents.
When you register, you will get a registration certificate. This certificate confirms your right to live in your new country.
Your registration certificate should be issued immediately and cost no more than the price nationals pay for identity cards.
It should be valid indefinitely (does not have to be renewed), though any change of address may need to be reported to the local authorities.
If you are required to register, you may be fined for not doing so but may continue to live in the country and cannot be expelled just for this.
In many countries, you will need to carry your registration certificate and national identity card or passport at all times. If you leave them at home, you may be fined but cannot be expelled just for this. Authorities must issue a registration certificate immediately when asked.
If you lose your job while living in another country, you can still stay there if you are unable to work temporarily because of illness or accident or if you are registered with the relevant authority as being involuntarily unemployed. If you have been employed for less than a year before that, you retain the right to equal treatment with nationals for a limited period of at least six months.
You may live in the other EU country as long as you continue to meet the conditions for residence. If you no longer meet these requirements, the national authorities may require you to leave.
In exceptional cases, your host country can deport you on grounds of public policy or public security – but only if it can prove you represent a serious threat.
The deportation decision or the request to leave must be given to you in writing. It must state all the reasons for your deportation, and specify how you can appeal and by when.
PERMANENT RESIDENCE MEU3
Under EU regulations you automatically acquire the right of permanent residence if you have lived in your new country legally for a continuous period of five years. If you fulfil this requirement, you can apply for a permanent residence document, which confirms your right to live in the country where you now live permanently, without any conditions.
The permanent residence document is not compulsory. But it can be useful when dealing with the authorities or for administrative formalities. The authorities may no longer require you to prove that you have a job, sufficient resources, health insurance, and so on.
To get a document certifying your right of permanent residence, you must submit proof that you have been living legally in the country for five years.
You need to send different supporting documents with your application, depending on your situation (employed, self-employed, jobseeker, pensioner, student). This could include, a valid registration certificate issued when you arrived in the host country, evidence that you’ve been living in the country, such as utility bills and rental contracts, evidence such as payslips, bank statements, tax returns that you’ve been working, studying, self-employed, self-sufficient or looking for work.
The authorities must issue the permanent residence document as soon as possible and cannot charge you more than nationals pay for their identity cards. The document is automatically renewable without any condition or requirement. However, its validity may differ depending on the issuing country.
If you have lived legally as a worker in another EU country for a continuous period of five years, you automatically acquire the right of permanent residence there. This means that you can stay in the country for as long as you want.
Your continuity of residence is not affected by temporary absences (less than six months per year, longer absences for compulsory military service, one absence of 12 consecutive months, for important reasons such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, work, vocational training or a posting to another country. You can lose your right to permanent residence if you live outside the country for more than two consecutive years.
PERMANENT RESIDENCE BEFORE FIVE YEARS
You may qualify for permanent residence in less than five years in any of the following situations if you retire and have worked in the country for the last year, or have lived there continuously for three years, if you stop working because you are no longer able to work and have lived in the country continuously for two years, if you stop working because you are no longer able to work due to an accident at work or occupational illness. In this case you have the right to remain regardless of how long you have lived in the country prior to the accident or malady, and if you start working in another EU country as a cross-border worker – you must return to your place of residence at least once a week – but have worked in the country where you want to obtain permanent residence for three years continuously beforehand.
Cyprus Migration Department MEU1
Cyprus Migration Department MEU3