At the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, lies a gorgeous island right in the heart of the Mediterranean; it attracts a plethora of expatriates and, in particular, savvy entrepreneurs. And for good reason, Cyprus has it all: sunshine all year long, magnificent scenery, well-kept cultural treasures, pleasant daily living and last but not least, an advantageous tax system.
So, what is it like to settle in Cyprus? What are the pros and cons of living in Cyprus as an expat? And how do you become an expat in Nicosia? Here are some tips and tricks to successfully navigate through your new journey!
Preparing your expat life in Cyprus
Before you take off on new adventures on the ‘island of love’, it’s best to get grips with the basic requirements for a well-prepared expat life in Cyprus!
Entry and residence – formalities
If you are an EU/EFTA national or if you hold a Schengen passport, you will not need a visa or a residence permit to settle in Cyprus. However, within four months of your arrival in the country, you will need to obtain the ‘Cyprus yellow slip’ from the immigration office – a registration certificate available to EU citizens who wish to stay and work in Cyprus for an extended period. Nationals from any of the 60 countries with which Cyprus has visa-free agreements do not need an entry visa.
Nationals from other countries will need a short-stay or long-stay visa, depending on the duration of their expatriation. For work purposes, it is usually up to the employer to apply for an expatriate’s visa with the authorities.
After five years of legal residence on the island, you can apply for a long-term residence permit.
It is strongly recommended not to enter the country through the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state that is only recognised by the Turks; the airports there are considered illegal by the Republic of Cyprus.
Working in Cyprus
After Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, its labour market boomed with the arrival of many multinational companies. And despite the financial crisis, it continues to attract lots of entrepreneurs and professionals operating in the engineering, finance, tourism and real estate industries. Due to the island’s small size, competition is fierce, but word of mouth works very well. English is the language of business and Greek remains the official language: it is important to have some basic knowledge of the latter (at least at the beginning!). If you want to set up your business in Cyprus, the process is fairly straightforward for EU/EFTA nationals, once you have obtained your yellow slip.
Although prices have recently increased on Cyprus’ real estate market due to the influx of expatriates and foreign tourists, it is still possible to find affordable rental properties. Start by identifying a city, or even a neighbourhood that suits your plans, according to your work, your network and your interests in life. In Cyprus, like anywhere, there are multiple ways to find a place to rent, but if you do not speak Greek, it is probably best to go through an estate agent who will act as an intermediary between you and the owners. Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos are all very popular with expats! For those planning a long-term expatriation, buying property is an option to consider. On the other hand, venturing into apartment hunting in the north of the island may prove complicated for your daily life as an expat in Cyprus…
Opening a bank account
To open a bank account, you can choose between local banks such as the Bank of Cyprus, Hellenic Bank or Alpha Bank and branches of international banks such as Société Générale or Banque SBA. The process of opening an account is rather easy and you can even start the process online prior to your departure, before finishing up while you’re there. As an expatriate, you will need identification, proof of residence in Cyprus and a letter from your previous bank stating your solvency. These documents apply to the opening of a personal account; for the opening of a company’s bank account, other documents, such as the memorandum of association or proof of registration of an office in Cyprus, are required.
Get international health coverage
Although the island’s healthcare system has improved in terms of both infrastructure and access to medical services since 2019, it is nevertheless highly recommended to subscribe to private international health insurance for expatriates in Cyprus; local and European public health insurance plans do not work in Northern Cyprus. With international private health insurance policy, you’ll get simple and flexible coverage for your health expenses in both Cyprus and the rest of the world. Our advice: subscribe to the health insurance plan you need prior to your expatriation!
Advantageous taxation for companies
Despite the 2012-13 economic crisis, Cyprus continues to be one of Europe’s most attractive expat destinations in terms of business tax. The island continues to maintain an extremely favourable tax regime for businesses and has one of the lowest EU tax rates (12.5%). Cyprus also offers many tax exemptions for companies generating high revenues and creating jobs for locals.
Daily life in Nicosia and the rest of the island
Living the Cypriot way
At the crossroads of a several of cultures and civilisations, Cyprus has managed to get the best of each, and forge a flamboyant multicultural identity. More than just wanting a ‘melting pot’, expatriates are also attracted to its laid-back lifestyle. Whether in the city, the countryside or by the sea, work-life balance is paramount; outdoor activities and leisure time play a key role in everyday life. What to expect? Basking in the sun on Nissi beach, skiing in Troodos, or a quick getaway to Aphrodite’s sanctuary in Paphos. And that’s just a taste: the island is home to thousands of natural and cultural gems that are yours to discover.
Cost of living
Compared to other Western European countries, Cyprus is quite cheap and this is undoubtedly a major pull factor for expatriates. For example: the cost of living on the island is about 20 % lower than in France.
Apart from travel restrictions in the northern part of the island, getting around is easy. You can use public transport such as buses or shared taxis or choose to have your own car (Cypriots drive on the left side of the road!). If you have an EU licence, you can use it to drive and even apply for a Cypriot driving licence after six months’ residence. For other driving licences, check the reciprocity agreements between Cyprus and your country.
Cyprus is home to free local public schools as well as private international French and English schools. Expatriates can access both the public education system (in Greek and English) and the private system. You can easily make your choice depending on the age of your children, the language, the school curriculum and fees.