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Politics

UK Leaving EU Pushes More Cypriot-Born British to Dual Citizenship

LONDON — The United Kingdom’s slow departure from the European Union, a negotiated so-called “Brexit” is driving more Cypriot-born British to want to get to Cyprus for dual citizenship on the island that was a Colony, the rush delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK-born Cypriots enquiring about citizenship has soared over the last couple of years as the talks with the EU have stalled on some of the key terms of leaving the bloc, set back by COVID-19 lockdowns although Cyprus has gradually lifted its restrictions, while British visitors will have to wait and then face testing and possible quarantines.

While the virus has set back the rush, there were still 650 applications for Cypriot citizenship from UK residents in 2019, said The Financial Mirror, compared to only 30 in 2015 although there are British military bases on the island and big expatriate population.

Once the coronavirus crisis is contained, the number of applications is expected to rise again, especially if a deal with the EU fails to come off according to the report and officials anticipating more coming.

“There is a huge demand, we’ve worked closely with the Cyprus High Commission to see how we can expedite the citizenship process…especially with the UK government not extending the transition period,” UK National Federation of Cypriots President Christos Karaolis told the Financial Mirror.

He added: “More people are interested in securing their EU rights and freedoms, but they also have a close affinity with Cyprus.”

Karaolis said Brexit also gave Cyprus a chance to build bridges to third and fourth generation Cypriots in the diaspora who could see acquiring citizenship as an advantage in these uncertain times.

The time it takes to obtain citizenship of five to six months has been whittled down from average waiting times of one to two years and once citizenship is acquired, applying for a passport takes one or two months.

“More people have been deployed to handle applications due to a surge in demand while the procedures have been simplified…we have come forward leaps and bounds,” said Karaolis.

A big bugaboo though is applicants have to renounce British citizenship over a certain age, technically not being able to have dual citizenship, creating a big conundrum for them. 

“It’s never enforced but it does need to be removed, it’s anachronistic,” he said.

Karaolis said people who have property or family in Cyprus might want to swap working remotely from home in a London flat for the sun and the sea.

“Why not go to Larnaca, there’s only a two-hour time difference, so people are thinking about summer work as the infection rate is low…this is being considered rather than repatriation.”

While it can be hard and long to get the citizenship, Cyprus sells off residency permits and European Union passports to rich foreigners, some of whom, critics said, don’t know where the island is but can buy Golden Visas under a program that the EU said opened the door for criminal activity and money laundering, setting the government to make major reforms.

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