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Moving to Cyprus
A comprehensive guide to moving to Cyprus
Originally known for its troubled political history or as a tourist magnet, moving to Cyprus has recently become very popular among expats. Our InterNations GO! guide explains why and offers information on your upcoming move to the Mediterranean island.
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Relocating to Cyprus
At a Glance:
- Cyprus boasts one of the most appealing climates in Europe.
- The division between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus remains a major political issue.
- The cities of Nicosia and Limassol offer a very enriching cultural experience.
- Registering for a residence and work permit involves numerous steps for non-EU citizens, however the process is significantly easier for citizens of EU-member states.
Welcome to the European Union’s ‘outpost’ in the southeast! Expats moving to the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea are in for a real treat, at least as far as the location is concerned. The incredible weather and cultural heritage have definitely had their part in making moving to Cyprus so popular with expats.
The Sun-Chasers Paradise
There are many reasons for moving to Cyprus. Expats and locals get to enjoy the Mediterranean climate on the island. Hot summers with temperatures reaching up to 33°C, contrasted by mild winters, sound like a Mediterranean dream come true. Even better, the sea temperature can be as high as 27°C at the height of summer, which makes a stay at the beach or a swim in the sea all the more enjoyable.
In fact, locals and expats enjoy the warmest climate in the entire European Union in one of the sunniest places around, with over 320 days of sunshine per year. Cyprus is also ranked among the regions with the healthiest climates worldwide. Unfortunately, the island suffers from a near-constant freshwater shortage. However, if you are not moving to Cyprus to work in the agricultural sector or in hydro technology, this will most probably not influence your everyday life.
Decades of Division
If you have already done your homework before you decided to move to Cyprus, you will be well aware that since 1974, the island has been divided into two parts: the sovereign state of the Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a self-declared state.
The division is still in force today, with a UN-controlled buffer zone separating the two parts. Turkey remains the only country in the world to acknowledge the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a fact which has caused the northern part of the island — about 40% of the total area — to be heavily dependent on aid from the Turkish mainland.
In general, expats opt against settling in the Turkish part of the island. This is, of course, not to say that Northern Cyprusis devoid of a charm of its own. However, its lack of international recognition and its dependence on Turkey are the main reasons why foreign residents prefer moving to the island’s southern half.
The Republic of Cyprus, however, continued its road to prosperity, joining the EU in 2004 as a divided country. Currently, Cyprus is recovering from the economic and financial crisis of previous years. Especially Cyprus’ banking sector has suffered from its exposure to Greek debt.
For all intents and purposes of this article series on the island, we will only focus on moving to Cyprus’ southern part, the Republic of Cyprus. The same applies to the articles on living and working in Cyprus.
Security Advice for Cyprus
Generally speaking, Cyprus is a safe country with a low crime rate and a high safety rate. Nevertheless, you should always be aware and precautious of your surroundings and personal belongings. Unfortunately, driving standards in Cyprus are poor and driving can be dangerous. In 2015, there were 57 road deaths, so always remember to drive with caution. There is currently a heightened terrorist threat in much of Europe, including Cyprus, with tourist spots being potential targets. However, there is no need to panic but just to remain vigilant.
Also, you should never try to cross the border between the two parts of the island at any other point than the few designated border crossings, for example in Nicosia at the Ledra Palace and Ledra Street checkpoints, and absolutely never take pictures of any official or military institutions or personnel. While signs to this effect exist, they might not be everywhere, and it is wisest not to take any photos when in doubt, or your move to Cyprus may take a rather unpleasant turn.
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Expat Hotspots in Cyprus
As with most other countries in the world, expats usually choose one of the larger, economically vital cities to settle in. For an island of this size and population, it might surprise newcomers how many options they have when it comes to picking a new home.
Of course, individual factors — such as coming to Cyprus for a foreign assignment vs. retirement — will influence your decision, apart from personal preferences. Below, we have focused on two of the largest expat magnets in Cyprus. However, expats can be found in virtually every city on the island.
Nicosia: Cyprus’ Vibrant Capital
By moving to the nation’s largest city and the capital of Cyprus, you will find yourself in a truly special place: Nicosia — or Lefkosia, as it is known locally — is the world’s only remaining divided capital. One half belongs to the Republic of Cyprus, and the other part is occupied by military troops in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Despite the division, the city has become the country’s major financial hub and business center. Nicosia boasts a highly international and cosmopolitan atmosphere due to the large numbers of expatriates. Therefore, the city administration has made it easy for newcomers to quickly find their way round after their move. The Official City Portal offers a wealth of information on any topic that might be of interest to new arrivals.
In terms of economic prowess, Nicosia is the heart of economic activity in Cyprus, as well as the educational, commercial, religious, and cultural center. The capital is home to the headquarters of all Cypriot banks as well as the headquarter location of some international firms. You will also find a large student community in Nicosia thanks to the eight universities located in the city, including the University of Cyprus (UCY).
Nicosia has a lot more to offer. Culture enthusiasts should definitely get to know Nicosia’s past, which reaches back to prehistoric times. Even if history is not of particular interest to you, there are various other things to appreciate — may it be looking at the beautiful sights that you come across when going for a stroll in the Old Town, enjoying an afternoon in the A.G. Leventis Gallery or watching a play at the Theater Odin.
Limassol: A Southern Gem
The city of Limassol is the second-largest urban area in Cyprus and one of the busiest ports in all of Europe. We have pointed out the city’s importance as Cyprus’ main seaport and trade center in our article on working in Cyprus.
This is, however, not the only aspect that makes this city of 185,000 interesting for expats, Cypriots, and visitors alike. Limassol has grown into a major hotspot for tourism. The numbers of tourists in Limassol is on a constant increase, compared to former years, with approximately 36% of tourists coming from the UK.
Limassol is one of the island’s focal points for internal migration and urbanization, too. It is partly responsible for the high percentage of city dwellers in Cyprus, which is currently at 67% of the total population.
Last but not least, the city is also a major center for education in Cyprus, with more than 100 educational institutions of all levels located in the municipality, such as the Cyprus University of Technology. Whereas in the past, most university graduates in Cyprus went abroad for their studies, the country has stepped up and closed this important gap in their education system. This has, in turn, helped create a highly educated and bilingual workforce.
Visa Information for Cyprus
Moving abroad is a giant step for anyone, and many a future expat would probably like to get to know their future home before actually relocating there permanently. Luckily, as Cyprus relies heavily on tourism from all over the world, acquiring the right to visit the island is rather straightforward and uncomplicated.
As the nation is a member state of the European Union, visitors to Cyprus who are holders of an EU passport can freely enter the island without having to apply for an additional visa. The maximum duration of their stay is limited to three months.
Even though Cyprus is legally bound to become a member to the Schengen area, the implementation has been delayed due to the ongoing dispute between the North and the South of the country. Note that there is one exception. Third-country citizens, i.e. nationals of non-EU member states, can apply for a Schengen visa which does not only facilitate travel to Cyprus, but also to every other country which is part of the Schengen area. However, it is important to note that it is not possible to travel to Cyprus with a Schengen visa from outside the Schengen area. If you enter another Schengen country before traveling to Cyprus, you should not run into any problems.
If this is not an option for you, you can always directly apply for a Cypriot visitor’s visa. On the website CyprusVisa you can find detailed information on different visas and permissions and check whether you are a citizen of a country which is required to obtain a visa or not.
Residence and Work Permit
If you are relocating to Cyprus in order to take up gainful employment, your residence permit for Cyprus is inextricably linked with your work permit. As with entry visas, the process of obtaining a residence permit is considerably different for citizens of EU and non-EU countries.
Citizens of EU member states can expect things to go very smoothly, whereas there are a number of further requirements for nationals of so-called third countries. There are several criteria to be fulfilled and documents needed in order to obtain a residence permit and/or a work visa as well as the fact that the application cannot be made in Cyprus. More information can be found on the website of the Department of Labour.
We have taken a more detailed look at all the requirements and administrative steps for obtaining work and residence permits in our article on working in Cyprus.
EU nationals as well as non-EU citizens who would like to live in Cyprus for more than three months and/or take up employment need to officially register as residents. A registration certificate is needed in order to apply for a residence permit. The steps are as follows. First, you must apply for an Alien Registration Certificate (ARC) at the Immigration Office of the local police within eight days of arrival and pay the relevant fee. Second of all, you need to apply for a social insurance number to secure employment in Cyprus. Within the next three months, you must submit an application for a residence permit to the Civil Registry and Migration Department. A permanent residence permit should take 6–8 months to arrive. If you are already holding a temporary residence permit, you might even have to wait for 8–10 months.