CYPRUS along with Spain is offering the possibility of non-European Union nationals acquiring residency visas if they buy property worth more than €300,000 (Cyprus) and €160,000 (Spain), in attempts to revive their property markets.
Portugal has a similar scheme for non-EU nationals investing more than €500,000 in the country under a set of laws introduced in October 2012.
The rules for Cyprus are quite straightforward:
- Non-EU nationals of good character have the right to apply for a residency visa if they purchase property costing at least €300,000 excluding VAT and/or Property Transfer Fees. Note that on 12th December 2012, the Interior Ministry announced that third-country nationals (non-EU nationals) could acquire two residential units or a house and another building – read the announcement on the Ministry of Interior’s website.
- Of that €300,000 the non-EU national must show that he has already paid €200,000 towards the cost of the property when they make their application, and that it has to come from abroad.
- The balance of the purchase price can come from local funds or funds from abroad.
- In addition, the visa applicant has to show that his income is not less than €30,000/annum – plus a further €5,000/annum for each of his dependents. He must also deposit at least €30,000 in a Cypriot bank for a minimum of 3 years and although he may withdraw any interest earned on the money, the account balance must not fall below €30,000.
- The residency visa (if granted) includes the applicant’s dependents, such as his wife and children under 18 years of age. Children over the age of 18 have to apply for a separate visa and must comply with all the requirements (although their application will be examined bearing in mind the family circumstances).
The residency visa may be withdrawn if (a) the visa holder and his dependents do not visit Cyprus for two consecutive years or (b) if he becomes a permanent resident of another country or (c) if he sells the property.
Misleading press articles
THERE have been media articles claiming that Chinese investors be able to travel freely throughout the EU once they have acquired a Cyprus residency permit.
One such article appeared in the Guardian newspaper entitled Promise of visa-free EU travel prompts influx of Chinese to Cyprus; it was also carried by media sources in counties including Cyprus, China, Spain and Russia.
The article claimed that “A house in Cyprus means travelling freely in Europe, which is great for young people” and that “older Chinese who obtain permanent EU residence can put their children into European schools and visit them without difficulty.”
This is not the case. Even though Chinese and other non-EU nationals may hold a Cyprus residency visa, this does not give them the right to travel freely throughout Europe.
Non-EU nationals holding a Cyprus residency visa who wish to visit EU countries in the Schengen area for a short stay of up to 90 days per six months, need to apply for a short-stay Schengen Visa (tourist or business). If granted, this visa does not entitle its holder to permanent residence in the country being visited, whether for study, employment or settlement.
Non-EU nationals holding a Cyprus residency visa who wish to visit EU countries outside the Schengen area, need to apply for a visa at the embassy of the country they wish to visit.
The article also claimed that “an official survey published last month [January] found that between last August and October more than 600 properties were sold to Chinese buyers, 90% of which were in Pafos.”
According to the official statistics published by the Department of Lands & Surveys, a total of 263 contracts in favour of both EU and non-EU nationals to purchase property were deposited during the three months in question, 83 of which were in Paphos.
Needless to say one of the contributors to the article is allegedly an agent operating out of Beijing and is hopeless at mathematics!
We have also read a report of a Chinese immigration agent who is charging his clients €20,000 for visa applications as well as receiving a 20% commission from the developers in Cyprus. The report also says that the “Chinese embassy is making investigations”.