Up to 20,000 still remain unregistered
With the transition period for Britain’s exit from the EU ending in just a few months, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 British expats in Cyprus have still not registered with authorities, according to the latest figures from the British High Commission in Nicosia.
Britain leaves the European Union on December 31, but thousands of procrastinating British nationals living in Cyprus have yet to apply for their paperwork, even though without it, they will no longer have right of residence.
“There are some of our members that are burying their heads in the sand and not doing what they’re supposed to and don’t have the correct paperwork,” Debbie Bell, the chairperson of the UK Citizens’ Association in Paphos, which has around 400 members, told the Sunday Mail.
“I think, as they’ve been here 30 years or so, they feel put out and don’t see why they should, as they have blue residency cards or whatever, that were given to them years ago and told, ‘This is for life’.”
This is not the case though, and British High Commissioner to Cyprus, Stephen Lillie, recently urged listeners on a Cyprus radio broadcast to get the correct paperwork as soon as possible as all forms of residency permits, papers or cards that were issued before 2004 are no longer valid. So far approximately 38,000 British nationals have registered in Cyprus.
“It is so important to have the correct residency paperwork. This will enable British nationals to continue to live in Cyprus and access their rights and health care,” he said.
Under EU law all non-Cypriot EU citizens must register with Civil Registration and Migration Department if remaining on the Island for longer than 90 days and get a MEU1 (Registration Certificate). After living in Cyprus for more than five years, you may apply for a MEU3 ( permanent residency certificate).
UK nationals that wish to live in Cyprus must have either an MEU1 or MEU3, as all previous forms of temporary and permanent residence registrations issued to UK nationals prior to 2004 are invalid, including the aliens’ book and pink slips.
The UK withdrawal from the EU makes residency registration essential and those who remain unregistered may also be liable for a €2,500 fine.
But one Paphos permanent resident who spoke to the Sunday Mail on condition of anonymity, said he has no intention of applying for the required paperwork and that he is too old to, ‘jump through hoops’.
“I have lived in Cyprus for over 30 years and did everything I needed to do then, and I have been here legally for all these years. I don’t see why it should all change now. I’m not planning on travelling anywhere and I have private health care, so it makes no odds to me. They will change the rules again in the near future I’m sure, and then we will all have to get the newest form, so what’s the point?” he asked.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has only highlighted how important holding the correct documentation is. Permanent residents of Cyprus who were stuck abroad due to the flight ban and who did not hold the correct papers found it almost impossible to return.
Bell said that she is aware of problems with a few individual cases, where obtaining the correct paperwork, is proving to be difficult, but that in most cases, including hers, the procedure has run smoothly.
“I wasn’t going to bother to get my papers either, but thought maybe I should set a precedent and hopefully other members would follow suit and they did.”
Bell received her MEU3 last year, just two weeks after all of her paperwork was filed.
“It was a pretty easy and smooth process and it’s just something you’ve got to do,” she said.
She added that with the help of the CRPG, the Cyprus Residency Planning Group and SSAFA,(for military veterans), a considerable number of members are in the process of obtaining correct paperwork.The two charities are helping British nationals settle their residency status in Cyprus now that the UK has left the EU.
The charities recently submitted the first batch of residency applications from vulnerable UK nationals to the interior ministry.
“The remit of CRPG is to help people obtain residency in Cyprus who are elderly, infirm, disabled or have difficulty understanding the process – or who live remotely with no access to information or easy links to transport,” the group said in a statement.
It is supported by the UK FCO Nationals’ Support Fund
Cathi Delaney, a councillor on the community board of Tala, a Paphos village popular with expat residents, said that although she believes most British permanent residents in the area have sorted out all of the necessary paperwork, there are ‘problem areas’ including people that were stuck in the UK due to travel restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Most of us have the correct paperwork now, but some were caught off guard as they were trapped in the UK with no MEU1 or MEU3, so they weren’t allowed to return,” she said
Older Tala residents that don’t read the papers or look online may be oblivious to the requirements, she said, adding that this is where the two charities are proving a great help.
Delaney also writes an informative blog and newsletter to keep subscribers up to date with the latest news and information and has regularly been pushing the message of obtaining the correct paperwork.
“I tell people to check on their neighbours, that they are OK, and also to explain that there is help available for them to do their paperwork and that the process is straightforward,” she said.
According to the CRPG, UK nationals should have a MEU1 before the end of the transition period (currently December 31, 2020) and they may still apply after five years for a MEU 3.