The long transitional period means there is time for British expats to sort out their status while trade deals are yet to be decided
Glad or glum, Brexit day has come and gone but it’s still not really the ‘day after’ and Britons living in Cyprus still have time to set their affairs in order. Here’s the strapline: during the transitional or implementation period that started on Saturday and expires at the end of the year, it’s going to be more or less business as usual.
It’s official: the UK withdrawal implementation period runs from February 1 to December 31. Anything after that we can indeed call ‘the day after’. With that as a baseline, the Sunday Mail reached out to the British High Commission to get clarity on what lies ahead for UK nationals.
An estimated 70,000 British expats currently live on the island, that excludes thousands of ‘swallows’ – people who come and go to their holiday homes.
Asked about the MEU1 and MEU3 papers or yellow slips, a spokesperson for the High Commission said:
“We advise all UK nationals to submit applications for residency by the end of the implementation period on December 31, 2020. This is because UK nationals with residency documents will then be entitled to continue to travel freely into and out of Cyprus on the same basis as EU nationals after the end of 2020.”
Applications can be filed at the civil registry and migration department or in local district offices.
More info is available on www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-cyprus
What of the residency status of British expatriates after the transition period?
The High Commission said UK nationals who were living in Cyprus before December 31, 2020, but for whatever reason could not apply for residency by the end of the year, will still be able to apply and are entitled to residence rights as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement provided that they can provide documentary proof that they were resident before December 31, 2020.
“But as we said above, if you can apply before the end of December 2020, we strongly recommend you do. UK nationals who come to live in Cyprus after 1 January 2021 will be subject to Cyprus immigration rules. The current practice in Cyprus is for non-EU nationals who do not require a visa to be admitted for 90 days.”
Regarding Healthcare, there will be no changes to UK access to healthcare in Cyprus or any other EU member state before December 31, 2020.
Visitors to Cyprus can also continue to use a European Health Insurance Card as before during this time.
UK nationals who have regularised their residency will also be able to register with Gesy – the new state healthcare system – and be entitled to lifelong healthcare rights for as long as they remain resident in Cyprus.
“If you live in Cyprus now or move here permanently, before December 31, 2020, you’ll have lifelong healthcare rights in Cyprus, as you currently do, provided you remain resident. Future mobility rights and therefore reciprocal healthcare rights between the UK and EU will be subject to future negotiations.”
On Pensions, again no changes will take place before December 31 to the rules on claiming the UK state pension in Cyprus or any other EU member state.
UK nationals can continue to receive and claim their UK State Pension if residing in Cyprus. As long as they live in Cyprus by December 31, 2020, they will get their UK state pension uprated every year for as long as they continue to live here.
This applies even if eligible persons start claiming their pension on or after January 1, 2021, as long as they meet the qualifying conditions. To check for eligibility go to https://www.gov.uk/new-state-pension.
According to the High Commission, “future mobility and therefore coordination for social security entitlements including the state pension between the UK and EU, will be subject to future negotiations.”
Concerning driving, UK Nationals legally resident in Cyprus are “strongly encouraged” to obtain a Cyprus driving licence.
When visiting the UK, they will be able to drive on their Cyprus licence. If they reside in the UK and plan to visit Cyprus they can still drive on their UK driving licence until the end of December 2020.
From 1 January 2021, it’s recommended that UK nationals obtain an International Driving Permit if planning to visit Cyprus.
On vulnerable persons, the High Commission said it welcomed the announcement by the ministry of the interior and their plans to support residency applications for roughly 5,000 vulnerable UK nationals who are incapacitated.
“The British High Commission is working with local charities on the island as well as the ministry to ensure this vulnerable group of people have their rights safeguarded by the end of 2020.”
On the Cypriot end, and in respect to trade – a key chapter in the future UK-EU relationship – the state of affairs can likewise be summed up thus: situation normal until December 31.
Michalis Antoniou, director-general of the Employers and Industrialists Federation, said businesses in Cyprus must prepare for three main areas ahead of January 1, 2021.
First, customs procedures and accreditations; secondly, data flow within the context of the EU’s Genera; Data Protection Regulation; and thirdly, compliance of goods and services with EU standards.
On the latter, goods and services available in the EU and certified by UK bodies will continue to be accepted until the end of this year. But after that, they must conform to EU standards.
An overall Brexit deal must be struck by the end of the transition period. Boris Johnson’s government is working on amending the withdrawal agreement bill so that the transition ends on 31 December and there will be no request to the EU for a further extension.
But as it stands, Britain does have the option to request an extension to the transition/implementation period by June 30.
Antoniou tells the Sunday Mail that in any case a possible extension request can be used only once. If it is requested, the transition period will expire by the end of 2022 the latest.
Given the complexity of the endeavour, Antoniou thinks it “very difficult” for the exit deal to be finalised by June 30.
“At any rate, let’s hope we don’t end up with a no-deal situation, as that breeds uncertainty…bad for business,” he offers.
As for Cypriot students in the UK, the fee structure remains the same for the time being.
The British government has announced that EU students, including Cypriots, will continue to be treated as ‘home fee’ paying students for the 2020/21 academic year.
“In other words, Cypriots who are planning to start their course in September this year will continue to be treated as home fee students and be eligible for student finance,” the British High Commission said.
“Work to determine the future fee status for new EU students after 2020/21 is ongoing. We will provide more information on fee arrangements ahead of the 2021/222 academic year.”