While proficiency tests for naturalisation are still being ironed out, all new applications are on hold

Cyprus has recently undergone significant revisions to its citizenship requirements, with language tests now an obligatory requirement in order for applicants to be naturalised.

But because the details of some of the tests still need to be clarified, no new citizenship applications are being processed at present.

According to the law and after the amendment passed in December, people applying for Cypriot citizenship will now have to demonstrate knowledge of the Greek language either at the higher B1 level or the lower A2 level, depending on application status.

According to the Government Gazette, “a foreigner who submits an application for Cypriot citizenship, may be naturalised, provided that, he or she has sufficient knowledge of the Greek language at level B1, as specified in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages of the Council of Europe, based on the language certificates of the said level specified in a Decree of the Minister.”

In addition to that, a new provision of the amended law specifies that some applicants – again depending on application status – will have to demonstrate “sufficient knowledge of basic elements of the contemporary political and social reality of the Republic”, which effectively means that passing a history and culture test will also be compulsory in order for an application for citizenship to be valid.

The evaluation of the tests will fall on the shoulders of an ad-hoc committee, made of representatives of the interior, education and justice ministries.

Furthermore, highly skilled foreign workers can now obtain Cypriot citizenship if they resided in Cyprus for a shorter timeframe of four and five years, as opposed to the previous seven years.

According to the European Commission, highly skilled workers are defined as “individuals with advanced technical, academic, and interpersonal skills”.

Moreover, eligible highly skilled workers must possess advanced professional qualifications, such as a university degree, and secure an employment contract or a binding job offer for at least one year with a salary exceeding the EU average.

The amended law now states that highly skilled workers can apply for citizenship providing they pass a Greek language test at level B1 (moderate knowledge) if they worked in the country for five years, or at the lower level A2 (basic knowledge) if they worked in the country for four years. No history/culture tests are necessary for applications filed by highly skilled workers, according to the law.

However, despite the amendment to the law, the implementation of the new rules has encountered delays, leaving many aspiring citizens in limbo.

According to a spokesperson for the interior ministry, the history tests, a crucial component of the new requirements, for many applicants are still being reviewed by a committee appointed especially for this task.

“This means that, although the law amendment passed and was approved in parliament, it was not yet put into practice,” the spokesperson told the Cyprus Mail.

While awaiting the final decision on the history/culture tests, the civil migration department has stopped accepting new applications from people requesting Cypriot citizenship after the law amendment passed.

“The law passed, the amendment on naturalisation was officially included in the Government Gazette of the Republic,” according to Marios Konstantinou, a lawyer at George K. Konstantinou Law Firm.

“However, because the details of the tests are still being ironed out, the civil migration department is not taking any new citizenship applications for the time being.”

Effectively, this means that, for many, the citizenship acquisition process is stalled, at least until clarity on the tests will be provided by the competent authorities.

The delay has created frustration among foreigners seeking Cypriot citizenship, as the amendment was intended to streamline the process.

“Details will be laid out eventually, but for now applications are halted, which is not going to do any favours to a department that is already slammed with citizenship applications,” Konstantinou explained to the Cyprus Mail.

Despite a lack of clarity and the delay in outlining the rules on the history tests, foreigners planning to apply for Cypriot citizenship are trying to understand what kind of questions they will be asked.

An estate agency website, popular among expats in Cyprus, attempted to anticipate the content of the upcoming history tests. While the questions provided were unconfirmed by the interior ministry, they offer insights into the potential focus of the exams. Examples of these questions include inquiries about Lefkara’s most significant product (lace), Cyprus’ telephone area code (00357), the foreign minister’s name (Constantinos Kombos) , the country’s EU accession date (2004), the location of Polis Chrysochous (Paphos district) and the maximum speed allowed on a Cypriot highway (100km).

Nevertheless, without official confirmation from the interior ministry, the potential questions during the history test remain a mystery.

“The aim is to lay out the rules of the tests as soon as possible, so that the amendment of the citizenship law can become a reality and so that new applications can be accepted,” the interior ministry spokesperson said.

In parallel to the new citizenship law, last January cabinet approved a legislation to implement the European Blue Card scheme in Cyprus.

The scheme, touted as Europe’s answer to the United States’ green card, aims to encourage highly skilled workers from third countries to move to the EU.

According to the European Commission, the Blue Card is a key tool for attracting more highly skilled personnel and facilitating their access to the labour market of EU countries, as well as their movement within the EU.

“The proposed changes aim to adopt a more flexible framework for the entry and residence of highly skilled workers from countries outside the EU,” Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou explained.

“More flexible rules are being introduced to attract highly skilled workers to the EU, including more flexible admission conditions, enhanced rights and facilitation of movement and work within the union,” he said.

The EU’s Blue Card scheme is being rolled out in 25 of the bloc’s 27 member states, with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland electing to opt out.

The government’s efforts to revise its citizenship and residency requirements reflect its commitment to fostering innovation, economic growth and global competitiveness.

They can also be viewed as a strong attempt to clean Cyprus’ image after the debacle of the infamous citizenship-by-investment scheme.

However, delays in the implementation of the new rules have left many aspiring citizens in a state of uncertainty. As the government works to finalise the details of the tests, prospective applicants await clarity on the path to Cypriot citizenship.