Cypriot authorities clarify important aspects of post-Brexit status for UK expats
By British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie
It was good to meet some of the Larnaca residents in Oroklini this week in the first of our series of Brexit outreach meetings taking place across the island over the next few weeks. Over one hundred of you attended our event, which I hope helped to clarify your questions including on residency requirements. Thank you in particular to the interior ministry for their support at the event and for helping to answer many of the questions we received in Oroklini.
Please obtain your residency documents
As I have said before, we remain confident that a final deal on the Withdrawal Agreement (sometimes referred to as the Divorce Agreement) will be reached with the EU in the next few weeks. The most important part of the agreement that we have reached with the EU relates to rights of citizens after Brexit. In practical terms, what this means for UK citizens is that after the end of the Transition Period (i.e. after December 31, 2020), Britons in Cyprus will be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges that you broadly enjoy now. In other words, you will be able to reside, work, own property and access the healthcare system in Cyprus on the same basis as other EU citizens.
However, in order to obtain those rights and privileges, there are procedures that you will need to follow in Cyprus. As mentioned above, I was very pleased to be joined in Oroklini by a representative from the Civil Registry and Migration department who answered many of your detailed residency questions and who helped to clarify the process. If you have not done so yet, please read the residency document issued by the Cypriot government as it contains important information regarding formalising your status on the island. You can find this document on our Living in Cyprus Guide: https://bit.ly/2PQpVvS.
The fundamental point that the Civil Registry and Migration department made is that in order to enjoy the rights and privileges, accorded by the Citizen’s Rights agreement, you need to regularise your migration status in Cyprus. We know that many of you have done this already but it is important to keep reminding your friends and colleagues of the need to apply for an MEU1 or MEU3 before the end of December 2020.
MEU1 or MEU3
Some of you have previously asked us about the differences between an MEU1 and MEU3. The Civil Registry and Migration department provided some clarity on this issue. The critical point to note is that you must have one of these two residence documents in order to enjoy the same rights and privileges after the transition period as you enjoy currently. The advice we heard in Oroklini from the Civil Registry and Migration department is that if you are eligible to acquire an MEU3 you should apply for it as it will act as future proof that you have lived in Cyprus for at least five years. We were told that holders of MEU3s will face a very straightforward process for obtaining a new residency document that the Cypriot authorities will issue after January 1, 2021. The Civil Registry and Migration department were also able to confirm that this new residency document will be a card rather than a paper copy that many of you currently possess. This was warmly welcomed by the audience in Oroklini.
Evidence required to obtain an MEU3
The Civil Registry and Migration department cleared up another previous area of confusion over the documents you are required to submit as part of your application for an MEU3. This includes rental agreements, utility bills, bank statements and social insurance certificate contributions. You are not expected to provide all these documents. The overriding point is that you must provide evidence that proves you have been legally residing in Cyprus for five years. That can be based on one or a combination of the above documents so long as you can prove five years continuous residence.
Implications for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit
Members of the audience in Oroklini voiced their understandable concern on the possibility of a “No Deal” Brexit. As I have said previously, we have made good progress with the EU. Ninety-five per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement including on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and on the terms of an implementation period is agreed. We are optimistic that the final deal will be agreed in the next few weeks, which will provide greater clarity for the future.
Whilst we are confident that we will be able to agree on a good deal for both sides, it is the role of a responsible government to prepare for all scenarios, including the unlikely outcome that we leave the EU without any deal in March 2019. We understand the anxiety of Britons in Cyprus about this and the real concerns you have about the implications of a “No Deal”. We are working hard with the Cypriot authorities to ensure that in this unlikely event, there would be minimal disruption to practical matters such as accessing the healthcare system and claiming full pensions, which are very important to your daily lives.
You’ll appreciate that at this stage we cannot make commitments about this. But I do know that our cooperation with the Cypriot authorities on our wider Brexit work has produced important results, in particular, the publication in September by the interior ministry of their guidelines on permanent residency applications, and the ministry is also assisting our efforts to run outreach events for British nationals. We are grateful to Cypriot colleagues for this work and I am confident that we have the right co-operative relationships that would allow us to keep UK nationals properly informed in a “No Deal” scenario.
As you will know there are aspects of the Brexit negotiations relating to our future relationship with the EU that will not be complete until after we leave the EU next March and in some cases will need to be negotiated throughout the Transition Period. This includes, for example, future mobility arrangements from 2021 and the precise nature of our future trading relationship with the EU. This means there are some questions which we cannot answer yet. When we do have answers, we will supply you all with the relevant information.
Questions to the high commissioner can be sent to [email protected]
The Government has already published around 106 specific technical notices to help businesses, citizens and consumers to prepare for March 2019 in the event of a
“No Deal”. These are available on https://bit.ly/2w6jFFe. This covers a wide variety of issues including banking, driving and transport, imports and exports and travel. The most recent technical notice was published on 6 November and will be of particular interest to those of you who are pet owners. You can read the guidance here: https://bit.ly/2DspsKC. Pet passports issued in Cyprus or any other EU member state will remain valid for entry into the UK for the foreseeable future. However, in a “No Deal” scenario, UK-issued pet passports will no longer be valid for entering the EU. This means pet owners using UK-issued pet passports will need to acquire alternative documents such as a temporary health certificate before travel. For more information please read the technical notice on taking your pet abroad if there’s a no Brexit deal: https://bit.ly/2QV8Grc.
Private Pensions and Driving Licences
In Oroklini, we received a specific question about whether UK companies would be able to pay private pensions to Britons in Cyprus. The Government’s banking, insurance and other financial services technical notice does state that UK citizens living in the EEA, including Cyprus, may lose the ability to access existing lending and deposit services, insurance contracts (such as a life insurance contracts and annuities) due to UK firms losing their rights to passport into the EEA, affecting the ability of their EEA customers to continue accessing their services. The government is working with EU partners to identify and address solutions. Many UK financial services firms who currently passport into the EEA are taking steps to ensure that they could continue to operate after exit, for example by establishing a new EU-authorised subsidiary. This would allow the UK firm to offer new services after exit through its EEA subsidiary, and in some cases existing contracts could be transferred to the new entity. There is more detailed information on the relevant technical notice at: https://bit.ly/2PyZU1w.
I have talked about driving licences in earlier columns but given similar questions we received in Oroklini, I think it is important to re-emphasise that if you are a resident in Cyprus, irrespective of Brexit, you are obliged to convert your British licence into a Cyprus driving licence, which shows your address in Cyprus.
Future Outreach Events
Next week, we have scheduled two meetings, one in Protaras, from 10:30 to 12:30 on 12 November at the Kama Lifestyle Hotel and another in Limassol on 15th November from 15:00 to 17:00 at the Chamber of Commerce. If you are unable to make those meetings or if you prefer do please send in your questions to the Cyprus Mail. As I said above, where we can provide certainty now we will and in cases where we cannot we will continue to work hard with both the UK and Cypriot authorities to supply you with answers.