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The island of Cyprus is divided between the Southern Greek area and Northern Cyprus, considered by Turkey to be the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The territories are separated by the UN buffer line. The officially recognised Greek Republic of Cyprus is a member of the European Union and the information that follows is specific to this area of the country.

Cyprus’s economy is recovering from its financial crisis of 2013-2015 and the job market is expanding, with unemployment at only 7.5% by the beginning of 2019. Although wages are low, these are mitigated by the reasonable cost of living.

Tourism makes up the largest element of the country’s GDP, and opportunities exist in information technology, finance, business and hospitality. The energy sector is also developing, with investment in natural gas supply, renewables and green technology.

The official language is Greek and all foreign workers must be fluent in English with a working knowledge of Greek. IT, business and finance have specific vacancies for Russian speakers. However, English must be the first language and a reasonable level of Greek is still required.

Local workers are given priority over foreign applicants, with EU/EFTA/UK immigrants taking precedence over third country nationals. Employers can only hire a third country national if they can prove the position cannot be filled by either a Cypriot or EU applicant.

Visas are not required for EU/EFTA/UK nationals. However, if you are staying more than three months, you need to apply for a registration certificate, providing proof of employment and your ability to support yourself financially. You will also need an Alien Registration Card (ARC) and a social security number. Both of these should be secured on arrival in Cyprus.

If you are a third country national, your prospective employer must apply for a work permit while you are still resident in your native country. Visa applications are reviewed by the Department of Labour and the Civil Registry and Migration Department. Although processing is generally 6-8 weeks, it can take up to six months. You need to secure a separate work visa in order to enter the country, and on arrival obtain a residency permit to allow you to live legally in Cyprus for longer than 90 days.

Although employers can be approached directly, networking is an excellent source of opportunities. As a small island, personal contacts and word of mouth referrals are highly regarded. For EU nationals already in Cyprus, the Public Employment Office and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce are valuable starting points for possible positions.

The main centres of employment are Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca. Popular dedicated jobsites include JobsCyprus, Cyprus Jobs, Cyprus Recruiter and Invest Career. The Annual Cyprus Career Expo is held each March in Nicosia.

Employers require either a CV and cover letter or a completed application form. CVs are typically two pages long and should include work experience and professional referees. The cover letter should reflect the position in question, providing qualifications, work experience and specific strengths/skills.

The selection process can include up to three interviews, including with the potential direct employer. Written and spoken tests might be required to establish language proficiency. Even for an English speaking role, it is beneficial to exchange greetings and generic remarks in Greek. Smart business attire is recommended. Your communications skills and level of engagement will be assessed to establish whether your personality is suitable for the company culture.

can include medical and life insurance, pension contributions and bonuses. 20% income tax is payable for salaries over €19,500, rising in stages to a maximum of 60% for salaries in excess of €60,000. If you are an EU citizen, you are entitled to register for unemployment benefit.

Under Cypriot employment law, an employer must provide the employee with detailed terms of their engagement. This can take the form of a formal contract, a letter of appointment or some other document signed by a company director. The document should state the identity of the relevant parties, place of work, registered company address, role, responsibilities and details of the agreed remuneration package. Also required are start date, duration (where relevant), notice/probation periods, working hours and holiday entitlement and any collective agreements that might apply to the terms and conditions of employment.

The working week in Cyprus is 40 hours Monday to Friday, typically 8:30 am to 5:30 pm with an hour for lunch, although these may vary during the summer months. Holiday entitlement ranges between 20 and 24 days paid leave per year, dependent on location and length of service.

Cyprus observes the following public holidays: 1st January (New Year’s Day), 25th March (Greek Independence Day), 1st May (Labour Day), 1st October (Cyprus Independence Day). In addition there are four religious holidays with variable dates: Green Monday (50 days before the Greek Orthodox Easter), Good Friday and Easter Monday (Greek Orthodox Easter), and Pentecost.

Family members of EU nationals only require an EU passport or identity card. In the event of the UK leaving the European Union, UK nationals and their family members who have been resident in Cyprus for five years will be eligible for permanent residence. UK nationals and their families who have been resident in Cyprus for less than five years, or who arrive before 31 December 2020, will be eligible for residence and to apply for permanent residence on reaching the five-year threshold.

Third country nationals working as directors, middle management or in equivalent senior positions can apply for family unification to enable their spouse and dependent children to join them. The dates of the marriage and passport expiry are taken into consideration. If either of these is of insufficient duration, family members can enter Cyprus with a visitor’s visa and apply for a temporary Dependent Visitor permit.

The cost of living in Nicosia is 47% lower than London, with food more or less equal, housing 66% lower, clothing 6% lower, transportation 61% lower, personal care 9% lower and entertainment 27% lower. For New York, the cost of living in Nicosia is 50% lower, with food 32% lower, housing 71% lower, clothing 9% higher, transportation 44% lower, personal care 41% lower and entertainment 38% lower.

Apply For A Visa/Permit

The Republic of Cyprus, a beautiful island nation in the Mediterranean, is at the top of many travellers’ lists. But depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to travel there.

This article will walk you through the types of visas needed to visit Cyprus, based on what country you’re coming from, your nationality, how long you’re planning to stay, and the reason for your trip. It will also outline how to apply for a work permit or residency status.

Visas

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, so if you’re an EU citizen, you can go there without worrying about a visa. Visitors from the European Free Trade Association (ETFA) – Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – can also enter visa-free.

If you have a Schengen visa, then this will allow you to enter Cyprus without an additional visa. Although Cyprus isn’t yet part of the Schengen Area, they have submitted their application and, for now, are following Schengen requirements.

Citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and several other countries also don’t need a visa, so long as they are planning to visit for business or pleasure and to stay for less than 90 days.

You can find a complete list of people who don ot need a visa to enter Cyprus on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. For more info on who needs visas and who doesn’t, check out these lists.

For those who do need visas, there are several types available, which can be applied for at the Diplomatic Mission (or Consulate) of Cyprus. However, before you apply, make sure that you have the following:

• Your passport, which should be valid for at least three months from your intended departure date from Cyprus
• Valid proof of residency – this can be your visa, permanent residence card or passport
• Visa application form
• A passport-size photo
• An invitation letter from a Cyprus host – this can be a company or associate, who must fill out an assumption of responsibility for hosting form and get it notarised
• Round-trip flight bookings
• Proof of accommodation, such as hotel reservations

Applicants may be asked for additional information, including a bank guarantee, proof of employment, proof of financial means, or additional personal evidence.

There are several different types of visa available, so it’s important to know which one is best for you. Please see below for further details.

Airport transit visa (ATV)

This type of visa allows you to pass through the international transit areas of Cypriot airports on a stop-over or transfer flight, but does not permit you to enter the national territory of Cyprus. The application fee is €15.

Short-stay visa

This visa, most often used by tourists, allows you to enter Cyprus for reasons other than immigration (i.e. business or pleasure) for one to 90 days within one six-month period. The application fee is €20.

Multiple-entry visa

This type of visa, meant for people who frequently travel to Cyprus, whether that be for business or pleasure, lasts for up to five years. The duration of each stay cannot exceed three months in any half-year. The application fee is €60.

Student visa

This visa allows students to stay in Cyprus for more than 90 days to study. For this type of visa, your passport must be valid for a year after the date of entry and have at least one blank page. You will also need:

• Four passport-size photos
• A letter of acceptance from an educational institution of Cyprus
• Original or certified copies of academic documents proving qualifications, along with English translations
• Proof of financial means
• A certificate of police clearance from your home country, which has been issued within the last six months
• Travel health insurance

Upon arrival in Cyprus, you will also need to apply for a temporary Cyprus residence permit, buy health insurance, and undergo a medication examination.

With this visa, you can work up to 20 hours in approved industries. The visa application fee is €30.

Work visa

Before getting a Cyprus work visa, applicants must have a Cyprus work permit – for more information on this, please see the section entitled, ‘Work Permits’. Once you have this, you’ll need to make an appointment at your region’s embassy or consulate, bringing with you the documents listed above, which are needed for all visas, as well as the following:

• A certificate of medical clearance
• A certificate of police clearance
• Proof of financial means
• Proof of travel health insurance
• Work contract with Department of Labour seal

The visa application fee is €20.

Long-stay visa

This visa lets non-EU nationals stay in Cyprus for up to one year. To stay in Cyprus for more than 90 days, all foreign nationals must get a residence permit issued by the Cyprus Ministry of Interior. The visa application fee is €60.

Visas issued at the border

In emergency cases, short-stay and ATV visas can be granted by the approval of the Director of the Civil Registry and Migration Department upon arrival at a legal port of entry in Cyprus. The application fee is €20.

Visa extension

People with short-stay, multiple-entry, or issued-at-the-border visas can apply for an extended visa of up to 90 days from a date of entry within six months. The application fee is €30.

Spouses

No dependent visa exists for spouses of Cyprus visa holders. People with Cyprus work permits, however, can apply for family reunification, which can include a spouse who has been married to the permit holder for over a year and is over 21 years of age.

Work permits

The first step to relocating to Cyprus for work is getting a work permit. The second step is getting a work visa, as described above, and the third step is getting a residence permit, as described below.

All non-EU and non-EFTA citizens will need to apply for a work permit before they apply for a work visa and enter the country. Applicants will need a Cypriot company to sponsor them for this process, who should take care of getting approval from the Cyprus Department of Labour and applying for the permit at the Civil Registry and Migration Department. Applicants will need to provide photocopies of their passport, an employment contract, a certificate of police clearance, a medical certificate, and proof of health insurance. Companies will provide their tax clearance certificate, a list of their existing staff, and a bank guarantee letter for the applicant.

The permits are only granted if the employer can prove the position couldn’t be filled by a Cypriot or EU/EFTA citizen.

Some situations – like foreign nationals who will be self-employed in specific trades like agriculture, mining, or science – fall into immigration permit categories that may allow foreigners to work in Cyprus without a work visa.

Residency

Cyprus offers two types of residency permits for non-EU nationals: temporary and permanent. The former is used most often for studying, employment, or family reunification. It is issued for one year and can be renewed every year after for five years, at which point permit holders qualify to apply for permanent residency. But during that five-year period, permit holders cannot leave Cyprus for longer than three months.

To apply for a temporary residency permit, applicants must submit a number of documents to the Civil Registry and Migration Department within seven days of arriving in Cyprus:

• An application form
• Proof of accommodation
• Proof of financial means
• A medical certificate
• A certificate of police clearance
• A copy of their passport
• A bank guarantee
• Proof of health insurance

They may also be asked for their work permit, marriage or birth certificate, or proof of enrolment.

To skip the five-year waiting period for permanent residency, foreigners can purchase property in Cyprus worth at least €300,000, deposit €30,000 in a Cypriot bank, keep it there for three years, and prove an annual income of €30,000 or more received from sources outside of Cyprus. This level of residency allows for access to freedom of movement within the EU, as well as social assistance and tax benefits.

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

Rent Or Buy Property

Renting Property

Those expats who prefer to rent a property in Cyprus will find that newspaper advertisements and online searches are the best places to start looking. Estate agents can be very helpful in these situations, but they always require a certain fee to be paid. Every potential customer should be aware that rental fees in Cyprus can be quite substantial, so some expats should also consider house-sharing options.

When it comes to utility bills, expats are generally responsible for their own expenses. It can be very costly and always factored into housing budget. It is also important to know that Cyprus has a progressive water-taxation system, so everyone should think twice before deciding to water the garden or re-fill the house pool.

The general standard of accommodation in Cyprus can be considered as quite good, as most of property on the island is fairly new and in good shape. Heating and air conditioning systems are usually installed, and the majority of houses in Cyprus have a shared or private pool.

Rented apartments on the island are generally furnished, while the houses are usually unfurnished. It is useful to know that shipping furniture to the Republic of Cyprus is a viable option, especially from within the European Union. If this is not an option, the IKEA factory in Nicosia makes buying furniture very feasible. Many expats report disappointment with the second-hand furniture market in Cyprus.

When it comes to the cost of living in the Republic of Cyprus, the prices vary depending on the location and the service provider. The following information is based on the average accommodation prices for the summer of 2016.

– Furnished two bedroom house – the average rental cost is 620 EUR
– Unfurnished two bedroom house – the average rental cost is 570 EUR
– Furnished two bedroom apartment – the average rental cost is 590 EUR
– Unfurnished two bedroom apartment – the average rental cost is 550 EUR

Areas on Cyprus

As there is a large influx of foreigners in last several years, so called “expat areas” have been largely established across the country. These areas are mainly in places like Limassol, Paralimini and Oroklini. It is always up to the individuals to choose whether they would rather live in a close-knit expat community or surrounded by local people.

Home security in Cyprus

When it comes to the home security question in Cyprus, the situation is slightly different than in continental Europe. Most of the people across the island feel safe in their homes and, although houses have locks on their doors and windows, most choose to leave them open, especially during the hot summer period. Rural areas are substantially safer than urban centers, and break-ins are relatively rare in both places.

Buying Property

In most countries the terms and conditions of buying or renting a property as an expat can largely depend on the zone from which the expat comes. Like in other European Union states, these rules apply differently for the citizens of the EU and those who come from outside the European Economic Area. Although the prices are the same, the process of purchasing can last a bit longer for non-EU nationals. It is also important to find out more about the banking services, especially when it comes to borrowing money and all the loan terms that are required.

Expats who move to the Republic of Cyprus usually find plenty of housing options available to them. The offers range from furnished and unfurnished apartments to houses, villas and some maisonettes in complexes with shared pools and similar additions.

Generally speaking, in recent years most of expats and foreign investors who move to Cyprus follow the trend of buying property, instead of renting it. Prices have been rising in recent years, as the general demand is increasing.

Those who want to discover more about the differences between the “Turkish North” and “Greek South” of Cyprus should know that the process of renting and buying accommodation is largely the same in both regions. Yet there is one major difference: in the southern part of the country, properties tend to be newer and fancier, but more expensive. It is much easier for foreign nationals to purchase the property in the south.

Buying property in Cyprus is a popular choice for the majority of expats and foreign investors. Among these buyers, there are both retirees and those with long-term employment contracts who want to settle on the island. Some expats find buying property in Cyprus far cheaper than renting it in the long run. It is also good to know that housing costs are also cheaper than in most Northern and Western European countries.

For citizens from the European Union, buying property in this country is a relatively straightforward process. The expats should also know that the progression of the property market and massive increase in development on the island has led to a higher risk of scams and property fraud in recent years. It is recommendable for expats to make sure that they have the necessary title deeds to the property they wish to buy prior to purchase.

When choosing to borrow money in order to buy property, expats should contact any commercial bank to discuss the details about the possible loan. The usual length of the loan period for a residence ranges from 20 to 25 years, and it can cover 70 percent or more of the real estate value.

Securing a loan may be a bit more difficult than it used to be, because of the banking crisis that struck Cyprus and the country’s struggle under austerity. All the required information can be found on the official website of the Central Bank of Cyprus.

The steps for buying a property are as follows:

– Select a suitable property, agree a price with the owner (via the real estate agent if used) and pay a reservation fee via your solicitor.
– Solicitor draws up the contract.
– The contract is signed and a further deposit or the full outstanding amount is paid.
– Within 30 days of signing the contract, pay stamp duty of 1.5% per CYGBP1000, up to the value of CYGBP100,000, and 2% per CYGBP1000 on any amount above that, and property tax which is typically around CYGBP4,000 on a property costing CYGBP100,000.
– Once the contract is signed, solicitor applies to the Council of Ministers for approval for the title deeds to be transferred into your name.

The application to the Council of Ministers is a formality, as applications are seldom refused. The process may take many months, but there are no restrictions on taking ownership and living in the property while the application is being processed. The application to the Council of Ministers should include a bank reference, character reference, property purchase contract, documentation showing evidence of adequate funds to live in Cyprus, and a copy of your passport.

There is mixed advice on whether it is safe to buy land or property in Northern Cyprus, The region is currently being heavily promoted as a location for property investors and expatriates alike, with property here among the cheapest in the Mediterranean region. However, some potential buyers have been concerned by the recent case in which an expatriate couple were ordered by law to demolish their villa as it was built illegally on land owned by Greek Cypriots.

If considering buying property or land in Northern Cyprus, you might wish to ensure that it is covered by a title deed belonging to a Turkish Cypriot or foreign owner pre 1974, which will be recognised in international law. Many new properties are built on land which was nationalised after 1974, and these are guaranteed by the TRNC government.

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Cyprus health insurance

The state health insurance system is governed by the Ministry of Health and financed by taxes. As an expat, you will need to register first with the Ministry for the Interior to set your residency in motion, and then sign up for state medical insurance. You will then receive a health insurance card. The Ministry will put you into one of three sections:

• those who are entitled to free healthcare
• those who need to pay a small fee
• those who need to pay the full cost of treatment

This categorization depends on your income, any pre-existing conditions, and whether or not you have children.

If you are working for a company based in Cyprus, your employer should sort out your insurance for you. Cyprus is currently overhauling its health insurance system, having decided as far back as 2001 to establish a National Health Service (Gesy). This has been supported by the IMF and the EU, among others, but it is resulting in substantial changes to the system.

Under the new rules wage earners and retirees will have to pay a compulsory fee into the system in order to be eligible for healthcare. This was due to start in March 2019 but has not yet come into play. The percentage will rise again in 2020, when it is hoped that the system will be fully operational.

The Euro Health Index has previously ranked Cyprus in a low position among European health providers, stating that it did not have a proper national healthcare system, and it is this kind of criticism that Gesy has been established to address. However, the new system has not been without problems, including the sacking of its CEO in June 2019, and it is taking a long time to be implemented.

Under the new system, group plans are likely to change the most, because if your company offers employees a group plan, but those employees are obliged to make mandatory contributions, they may choose to opt out and go entirely private, particularly if they already have a private plan.

If people do opt out, then the insurer may have to increase premiums for the rest. Eurolife are looking at adding some coverage for treatments such as physiotherapy which will not be covered under the new system.

There are some small charges for basic healthcare appointments and procedures. A visit to a doctor will usually cost around €3, while prescriptions cost around €0.50. If you do not have a health card then you will be charged more — up to €15 for a routine doctor’s appointment.

Not every doctor speaks English. The standard of medical professionalism among personnel here is considered to be very high.

You will be eligible for free healthcare at the point of delivery under the state insurance scheme in the southern part of the island if you are a EU citizen. Emergency care will be also free to both expats and citizens, but you may have to pay a small fee for in-patient care. If you are an employee, you will need to be paying into the system in order to benefit from it.

If you are from an EU member state, your EHIC card will entitle you to treatment, but it is not intended as a substitute for comprehensive health insurance. You will not be able to use your EHIC in the Turkish part of the island.

Your employer should arrange healthcare for you, but if you are self-employed, retired or not working, contact the Ministry of Health or a District Labour Office.

Open A Bank Account

Newcomers to any country always have a lot of questions and concerns. These include subjects such as language, education, health, accommodation and many more. The one thing that is crucially important to everyone is banking. Every expat wants to know how banking, money and taxes work in a new country. When arriving in Cyprus, expats should be aware of the Cypriot system which is similar to the continental part of European Union, but still different in many ways. It is strongly advised to be informed about this system before moving to Cyprus.

In the last several years, banking, money and taxes in Cyprus have been under the influence of the country’s austerity measures and the after-effects of its banking crisis. After some very large investments in Greece, banks in Cyprus had to write off millions of Euros in bonds and loans. This caused a significant shortfall of capital that the government couldn’t easily fill. As a result, the country’s European partners agreed to offer the aid package of 10 billion Euros. Since then, job losses and high taxes have been prevalent, while the government is still attempting to prevent some larger long-term catastrophes, proposing some harsh short-term measures.

Money in Cyprus

Cyprus adopted the Euro (EUR) as the official currency in 2008, replacing the long time Cypriot Pound. The Cyprus Euro is split into seven banknotes and eight coins. It differs from the coins we might encounter on the continent by its design, which shows Cypriot symbols.

Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 EUR
Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50c and 1 and 2 EUR

Banking in Cyprus

The Central Bank of Cyprus is the main institution for administrating, overseeing and licensing all the banks on the island, also aiming to ensure that numerous commercial banks comply with EU bailout conditions. The biggest bank in the country is the Bank of Cyprus. There are also numerous international banks that operate branches or have some subsidiaries in the country. ATMs are densely spread across Cyprus and can be easily found in most towns and larger villages. Cyprus has a number of banks that offer Internet banking facilities in English. The work hours of banks in Cyprus are usually Monday to Friday, from 8:30am to 1:30pm.

Opening a bank account in Cyprus

It is not very hard to open a bank account in Cyprus, even for expats. The majority of banks require individuals to open an account in person at one of their branches, although there may be some exceptions.

When opening an account, expats usually need to provide numerous documents, which include the following:

– A valid passport or, for EU citizens, an identity card bearing a signature and photo
– Proof of address, such as a recent utility bill or bank statement
– A reference letter from the applicant’s previous bank giving information about their credit rating

Taxes in Cyprus

The Republic of Cyprus is known for its traditionally low taxes. This results in people from other countries investing their money in Cypriot banks. It has now reached the point where their deposits are much bigger than the country’s gross domestic product, the GDP. These events played an important role in the financial difficulties of Cyprus. The government has been subsequently forced to reconsider its system of taxation, by raising the amount of tax that expats are required to pay.

Cyprus has double taxation agreements with some countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America. This means that expats won’t have to pay tax in their home countries in addition to the taxes required in their new host country. Taxation is still a complex issue, though. It is recommended that all expats seek the advice of a qualified tax advisor or accountant in Cyprus.

Expat banking in Cyprus

Since the early years, the Republic of Cyprus has succeeded to develop a well shaped banking system which is mostly influenced by the British banking system. The Central Bank of Cyprus has responsibility for monetary and credit policy. In addition to that, there are also nine commercial banks and three specialist financial institutions. A large number of foreign banks also have branches in Cyprus, including HSBC, which now has branches even in the northern region. The branches in the south of the island were established earlier. The Bank of Cyprus, Laiki Bank and Hellenic Bank are the three largest commercial banks in the country, with branches throughout the Republic of Cyprus.

While the banking hours in the Republic of Cyprus are Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm, there are also some banks in tourist areas that are open in the afternoons. As for the standard of facilities, the banking system is sophisticated and well equipped with user friendly modern technology. Transferring salaries, pensions and income from abroad into Cyprus is an easy process. There are also numerous Turkish and Turkish Cypriot banks that operate in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. These banks are generally open from Monday to Friday, between 8:00 am and noon. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are usually accepted in hotels, restaurants and larger shops in both the south and the north of the Republic of Cyprus.

Anyone who is a valid resident in Cyprus can open a local bank account, by providing evidence of their identity and some other documentation that specific banks may require. All the banks in Cyprus have to monitor overseas transactions and remittances to prevent money laundering. There are also limits on deposits of foreign currency within a calendar year, without the prior approval of the Central Bank. Anyone who enters or leaves Cyprus with 12,500 Euros or more must declare this amount to customs.

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

 

Learn The Language

If you are intending to live or work in Cyprus, one of your top priorities will be the language. Will you need to learn Greek or Turkish in order to live on the island, or will you be able to communicate solely in English? We will look at some of your options below.

Cyprus is a dual state, divided into the Turkish northern half of the island and the Greek southern half. The vernacular of the Greek population is Cypriot Greek, whereas the Turkish population speak Cypriot Turkish. Standard Greek and Turkish, which vary somewhat from the more informal vernacular, are the official languages of the island: Turkish was made the official language of northern Cyprus in 1983, but the two languages unofficially borrow from one another heavily. Cypriot Greek dates from ancient times and linguists say that it is significantly divergent from Standard Modern Greek.

As a Mediterranean island which bisects many seaways from long ago, Cyprus is something of a melting pot, and this is reflected in its linguistic heritage. Other languages recognised on the island are:

• Cypriot Arabic (this language is on the decline)
• Armenian (spoken by around 3,000 people)

By ‘recognised,’ we mean that they fall under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), which is designed to protect minority tongues.

But there are many other tongues spoken, too, including:

• Bulgarian
• English
• German
• French
• Polish
• Romanian
• Russian

There are a number of Eastern European languages spoken as well, and (officially unrecognised) regional languages such as kurbetcha, a Romani language with Cypriot Turkish grammar.

As an English-speaking expat in the country, however, particularly the southern part of the island, you will have little difficulty in making yourself understood. English is the most popular language in Cyprus and it is estimated that around 70% of the Cypriot population are English speaking, often to a high standard. This is unsurprising, since English was the official language of the country under British colonial rule, and many public notices and street signs are still in English.

However, politeness may dictate that you learn some basic phrases in either Greek or Turkish depending on your location. It is usually recommended that you learn some basic phrases for the following:

• meet and greet
• numbers
• directions
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)

Even though English is so widely spoken, many jobs will require you to speak Greek and you may find it difficult to get hired unless your Greek is of an adequate standard. If you are planning on learning Greek on the ground in Cyprus, then the Ministry of Culture and Education provide language courses (Epimorfotika), as do private language schools and private tutors.

Under the aegis of the Ministry and the Secondary Education Directorate, the State Institutes of Further Education started their function in 1960 as Foreign Language Institutes and they are still prime providers of language courses. They offer courses in beginner’s Greek to children and adults, both in urban and rural areas. You will be able to register every June and although you will have to pay, lessons are run at very low cost, around €45-55 per year.

The Cypriot government also offer online courses, with a wealth of resources and material, through the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation and a number of websites.

You will also find a number of other providers, particularly in Nicosia and Limassol, such as the Intercultural Centre which offers courses in Greek in addition to other subjects.

Trying to communicate with people in their own language is usually appreciated, but your efforts to have an immersive Greek learning experience may be stymied by Cypriots themselves, who tend to reply in English even if you have addressed them in Greek.

Although English is widely spoke in Cyprus, there is still a demand for English language teachers, especially in urban areas such as Nicosia, Larnaca, Pafos, and Limassol.

It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).

If you are going out to Cyprus as an English teacher, it is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, since there are major industries on the island.

Most private schools in Cyprus also require at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. You will find a range of opportunities in Cyprus, from teaching children to teaching adult professionals. Business English is always a good specialisation.

You can expect a salary in the region of €800 – 1000 per month. Some schools will sponsor a work visa if you are from outside the EU, although some teachers work on a tourist visa (which is not strictly legal, so be careful).

There are a number of translation agencies in Cyprus but your Greek or Turkish will need to be of a high standard if you are seeking work in translating or intepreting and it is likely that you will be required to have the relevant qualifications, as well.

Choose A School

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a former British Colony, is currently effectively divided into two halves, one governed by Greece, and the other by Turkey, following an invasion in the 1970s. The Turkish government subsequently declared the north of Cyprus to be an independent Turkish Republic, but while this has never been recognized by any other nation, diplomatic efforts to re-unite the country are ongoing and stuttering.

For the purposes of this article we shall be covering schools in the Greek government controlled southern area.

Cypriot literacy rates are amongst the highest in the world, at around 98%, and Cyprus ranks high amongst OECD reporting countries on the percentage of GDP spent on education, at over 6%.

There is an active and sizeable expat community here, many of whom are based in and around the capital, Nicosia, but groups can be found in the major cities elsewhere.

State education in Cyprus is well developed and well regulated. It is controlled by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

School attendance is compulsory from ages 5 to 15. Tuition is provided free, up to and including undergraduate level. College and university education is provided through direct funding of the institution.

There are several choices for education in Cyprus:

• Children can be enrolled from age 3 in nurseries or kindergartens, public or private. The final pre-school year (age 5) is now mandatory and state-supported
• Primary school runs from age 6 – 11
• Basic secondary school runs from age 12 – 15

Students are then faced with a choice to continue in the academic stream – Lyceum runs from age 16 – 18 – or to enrol in vocational/technical colleges, where the duration of tuition will vary depending on the profession or occupation chosen. For those attending the vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.

Those studying at the Lyceum can sit a University Entrance Exam if they wish.

Cypriot universities, public and private, are run on the familiar three level model – BA/BSc, MA, PhD. Academic and specialized colleges are available for those who may not achieve the grades necessary to go to university.

State education will be conducted in Standard Greek throughout, using the Greek alphabet, which might be seen as a stumbling block for expat children who may wish to enter the system.

Homeschooling is a consideration for many expats, however it is not legal in Cyprus, and there are reports of expat families being forced by the authorities to send their children to school or leave the country.

There are a number of private schools in Cyprus, many denominational. These offer tuition at various levels. Their curricula will be closely aligned to the state system, with additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school.

There are also a few fee-paying international schools catering specifically for expat children of all ages, some with day care for infants. Separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3-6) is also available privately in some of the larger cities.

Here are a few of the many international schools in Cyprus:

• TLC Private School and Institute, Paphos (full English national curriculum from nursery to A Level)
• International School of Paphos (British Council affiliated, Cambridge International Exams)
• Foleys, Lemessos (British curriculum, pre-school to A Level)
• American Academy, Larnaca (British GCSEs and A Levels)
• American International School of Cyprus, Nicosia (American system and IBDP)
• Highgate Private School, Nicosia (all grades, British national curriculum)
• Heritage Private School, Limmasol (British national curriculum, English with compulsory Greek at some levels)

There are many more to choose from, including a French system school in Nicosia.

Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and it is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up. For example, many schools have additional contributary capital funds for improvements/repairs.

High school or international school graduates will have the choice to continue their studies in Cyprus, but many will want to pursue their higher education abroad. Successful graduation from Cypriot schools, public or private, will give your child an internationally recognised high standard qualification, which is accepted at major universities worldwide without the need for additional assessments.

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