Britons living in Cyprus have been given a grace period until December 31, 2020 to apply for legal status on the island in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government announced on Wednesday.
Britain is due to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal and the residency permit applications were supposed to have been made by that date.
“In the case of a NO deal Brexit, UK nationals and their family members who have resided in Cyprus prior to October 31, 2019, retain the right to continue to submit applications for MEU1, MEU2, and MEU3 after this date and obtain the relevant residence permits until December 31, 2020,”an announcement posted on the website of the migration department said.
There are three main residency statuses that British expats are entitled to: an MEU1 (registration for residents living in Cyprus for more than three months) and the MEU3 (for residents who have lived in Cyprus for more than five years). The MEU 2 is for family members who are not EU citizens. Residents who have lived in Cyprus for more than seven years can apply for citizenship.
The British High Commission in Cyprus welcomed the government’s move, noting that “this will ensure our citizens still have plenty of time to confirm their right to live in Cyprus after we leave the EU.”
The grace period for the submission of applications for legal residency status provided by the Cyprus government applies only to British nationals currently living in Cyprus and to those that will arrive by October 31, 2019. The same applies for Cypriot nationals living in the UK or who will move to the UK by the same date. They have until December 2020 to apply for EU settlement status.
British nationals who arrive in Cyprus after October 31, and Cypriot nationals who will move to the UK after the date in question, will not enjoy the opportunity to apply for EU settlement status.
“Rights are guaranteed for those [Cyprus nationals] living in the UK until October 31, after that the UK becomes a sovereign country in terms of control of its own migration policy, which the Prime Minister has said will feature a points-based system for greater control,” UK’s Secretary of State for Brexit Stephen Barclay told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday .
In July this year, the Cyprus parliament unanimously passed legislation regulating the right of UK nationals and their families living in the Republic to reside freely in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The law establishes the legislative framework for the safeguarding of the right of UK nationals to remain in the Republic of Cyprus should the UK leave the European Union without a withdrawal agreement.
The purpose of the law is to institutionalise the procedure whereby UK nationals can obtain residence documents.
A reciprocity principle was included for the implementation of the law, which would mean that should a no-deal Brexit come about and the cabinet can move to implement the legislation, they should take into consideration whether similar measures are taken by the UK government for the benefit of Cypriot nationals.
Earlier on Wednesday, responding to a question from the Cyprus News Agency, about the post-Brexit future of Cypriot nationals living in the UK, a spokesperson for the UK Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) said: “We have made an unequivocal guarantee to the 30,000 Cypriot nationals living and working in the UK. They will have absolute legal certainty of the rights to work, study and access benefits and services on the same basis as now under any Brexit scenario.
“We welcome Cyprus’ pledge to protect the rights of UK nationals living in Cyprus before exit day. Other member states should follow Cyprus` lead and do all they can to protect UK nationals living in the EU,” the spokesperson added.
According to Barclay, the UK’s “generous offer”, which he said goes far further than what UK nationals have been offered by other EU member states, guarantees the rights of all EU citizens living in the UK, “including their right to healthcare through the NHS.”
Roughly 1.5m EU nationals living in the UK have already applied for EU settlement status, Barclay said.
“Out of over a million that have had their status confirmed either as pre-settled or settled status confirmed, only one person out of that million has been rejected due to issues relating to criminal checks,” he added.
Barclay issued a call to all Cypriot nationals living in the UK to register with the settlement scheme. “It’s a very quick process, taking only one to four days, and is free of charge.”