Basic knowledge of the language, history and culture of Cyprus will be among the new stricter criteria to be fulfilled before the granting of Cypriot citizenship, it emerged on Saturday.
The amendments call for a knowledge of Greek, seven years legal residency and stable financials, among others, daily Politis wrote on Saturday.
Interior minister Nicos Nouris submitted the bill, revising the criteria for foreign citizens to obtain naturalisation, to parliament on Friday following the scrapping of the citizenship by investment (CBI) programme last November and in an attempt to stem the flow of illegal immigration.
The decision to scrap the programme followed a damning report by Al Jazeera whose undercover journalists filmed house president Demetris Syllouris and Akel MP Christakis Giovanis appearing ready to help a Chinese businessman with a criminal record — who it later emerged was fictitious – to secure a Cypriot passport.
Since then, the cabinet has started procedures to revoke the citizenship of seven people. A committee of inquiry into the CBI programme was also formed to examine whether the successful foreign applicants met the investment criteria as these applied at any given time.
According to the new bill, applicants must be legally residing in the republic for the last 12 months, and for 10 years prior to their application with a total time spent on the island of not less than seven years during that period.
The calculation will not take into account the period when the applicant resided on the island under international protection, or the period where someone was holder of a student visa, Politis said.
Evidence of good character will include a clean criminal record but also applicants must not have either a pending criminal case, nor have entered the Republic illegally.
Sufficient knowledge of the Greek language at an intermediate level (B1), and basic elements of the modern political and social reality of the republic, will also be among the new qualifications.
Moreover, applicants must have an accommodation and stable financial resources that are sufficient to maintain themselves and their dependents, without the need for social welfare.
Excluded is the granting of citizenship to people who provide high-level services to the republic, such as athletes able to play with national teams of Cyprus, according to the legislation already in force.
The bill will be discussed in parliament prior to its submission for approval in cabinet.