Cyprus has been ranked the 5th best relocation destination in the world by an international lifestyle review (source: 2014 report prepared by Knight Frank, a leading independent, global real estate consultancy firm). Ranked by key business and leisure indicators, Cyprus was the only European country alongside Switzerland to make it into the top five – ahead of London, Madrid and Monaco. With at least 320 days of sunshine a year, Cyprus was classified the sunniest European location.
One of the most popular routes to obtaining Cyprus residency is through the Cypriot citizenship by investment program.
The minimum investment threshold for the Cyprus Citizenship Program is €2.5 million, with various investment options available including; residential real estate, immovable property, interest bearing government bonds, creation of Cypriot business, fixed deposits or mix of any of the above.
Cyprus ranked highly because of its favourable tax regime for new residents, particularly high net worth individuals. It is also an attractive financial centre. Cyprus is situated in a strategic location at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia. The Cypriot taxation system is consistently voted by EU tax professionals as being the most attractive in Europe, where the newly introduced “non-domicile” regime results in zero taxation of worldwide dividends and interest income, for a period of 17 years.
Here below are frequently asked questions (FAQs), regarding the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment program, clarifying the main provisions of this program.
(1) How are Cyprus government bonds purchased for the purpose of supporting an application for Cypriot Citizenship by Investment?
It is possible to purchase Cyprus government bonds/debentures directly from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) or through the Cyprus Stock Exchange.
For the purposes of investment in government bonds as a means of obtaining Cyprus Citizenship by Investment, it has been decided that from the 1st of August 2014 onwards, only the bonds purchased from the primary market (i.e. directly from the Ministry of Finance, Public Debt Management Office through the Cyprus Stock Exchange) are eligible. The minimum lock-in period for investment purposes is three years.
The applicant is able to purchase Cyprus government bonds between the 1st and 20th of each month. Payment is remitted to the bank account of the Central Bank of Cyprus. The application for purchase of government bonds can be processed by a power of attorney issued in the name of the applicant’s local advisor (i.e. lawyer).
(2) Does a Permanent Residency Permit (PRP) help towards obtaining Citizenship?
A holder of a PRP who eventually wishes to be granted Citizenship has an advantage in that he may legally reside in the Republic for five consecutive years prior to filing an application for Citizenship by naturalisation in the traditional way (as opposed to the Citizenship by Investment route). This is the only advantage afforded even though many persons opt to obtain the PRP first, and subsequently proceed with an application for Citizenship by Investment, especially when they intend to reside in the Republic with their families.
(3) How long is the examination period for the Citizenship application?
Upon filing of a completed Citizenship application, it usually takes between two to three months before a decision is made by the Ministry of Interior.
(4) Is it a requirement that an applicant must live in Cyprus prior to or after Citizenship being granted?
There are no residency prerequisites either prior to filing the Citizenship application or following the granting of Citizenship. This is one of the many benefits of the Cypriot Citizenship by Investment program, when compared to other EU Citizenships programs.
(5) When does the successful applicant receive their Cyprus passport?
Once citizenship is granted, the applicant can receive a Cyprus passport on the same day simultaneously with the issuance of the naturalization certificate, if done in person in Cyprus. On that day, the applicant issues a sworn statement that he accepts citizenship and can then obtain the Cypriot passport issued by the Ministry of Interior, on payment of acceleration fees of €120. Alternatively, the applicant may obtain the Cyprus passport any time after the naturalisation certificate is issued, from the Citizens Service Centers at a lower cost of €70, but it could take up to two weeks to have the passport issued in this case. A Cypriot passport will also be issued to the Investor’s spouse and dependent children up to the age of 27, provided they are in full-time education.
(6) What does “acquisition of businesses or companies based in Cyprus” mean precisely?
This criterion pertains to a €5m/€2.5m (depending on whether the application is submitted as a group or individual) investment in the participation rights or shares of a Cyprus company(ies) that maintains offices and operates in Cyprus, employing a minimum of five Cypriot citizens, for a period of three years.
An eligible company/business can also be one that was acquired by the Investor up to three years prior to filing his citizenship application.
In all cases, the Investor must demonstrate the correlation with the companies or businesses purchased. This requires the investor to continue to be an owner or be directly involved in the operations of the businesses acquired.
(7) How many Citizenship by Investment applications have been submitted to date?
Since 2013, there have been over 2,000 successful applicants under the Cypriot Citizenship by Investment program, with the Minister of Interior, Mr Socrates Hasikos, reporting (November 2015) that in excess of €3 billion in investment has been generated.
(8) Does the Citizenship by Investment scheme have an expiry date?
As at present, no expiry term has been designated for the program.
(9) One of the financial criteria requires a fixed deposit of minimum €5 million in banks operating in Cyprus. Which are the eligible banks?
The eligible banks are local banks and subsidiaries of foreign banks in Cyprus. The Central Bank of Cyprus maintains a list of these eligible banks which can be found at http://www.centralbank.gov.cy/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=8154&lang=en. Excluded from this list are branches of foreign banks, in Cyprus. It is possible to deposit the investment amount in several of the eligible banks, and it is also possible for the amount to be in a currency other than Euro, provided the total value of the investment is the equivalent of €5 million.The interest rate applied to the fixed deposit depends on the terms of offer of each eligible bank. The beneficiary of the interest accrued is the depositor/applicant.
(10) In regards to satisfying the financial criterion of investment into real estate, are real estate properties purchased by the applicant in the past eligible?
Any property purchased three years prior to filing the Citizenship application is eligible. Additional properties may be purchased in order to meet the total sum required for this investment criterion, namely €5 million (or €2.5 in the case of a group application).
(11) Are re-sale properties eligible for the real estate investment criterion and/or the private residence requirement?
Investors can purchase resale properties, where it should be noted VAT is not applicable, for both purposes.
(12) How can the Investor maintain Citizenship granted?
To maintain Cyprus Citizenship acquired via the Investment Program, the investor must always honor the conditions on which citizenship was granted. This includes maintaining possession of a residential property in Cyprus of a minimum value of €500,000. The relevant investment (i.e. real estate, government bonds, fixed deposit account etc.) can only be disposed of/liquidated after the expiration of the three year period.
(13) Does Cyprus allow dual citizenship?
Yes, it does, which is very beneficial for many reasons, including:
- Cypriot citizens enjoy the freedom to live, work and travel throughout Europe;
- Cypriot passport holders are entitled to travel visa-free to more than 157 countries;
- Cypriot passport holders can quickly and cost effectively obtain visas for other countries;
- Dual citizenship offers an effective tool for international tax planning and provides financial privacy.
(14) Can the residential property be sold or rented out once Citizenship is granted?
Since the Investor is not required to reside in Cyprus, it is possible to rent out their privately owned residence. It is also possible to replace the residential property with another residential property of the same or higher value than €500,000at any time.
(15) Are there any acceptable exceptions to the requirement to acquire and maintain residential property of €500,000?
Where the applicant invests solely in a residential property (can be one or more properties) valued at €5 million and over (or €2.5 million and over in the case of a group application) as a means to satisfying the financial criterion for the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment route, then it is not necessary for the Investor to acquire an additional residential property valued at €500,000, provided one of the investment properties meets the requirements of the residential property, which must be maintained throughout the citizenship. In the event the deemed residential property is sold after the three year lock-in period, the investor would be required to purchase and maintain another residential property of at least €500,000 to replace the initial property(ies).
(16) What are the government fees for submitting an application?
The fee upon submission of the citizenship application is €2,000 per applicant. On the issuance of the naturalisation certificate an additional €5,000 is payable, per applicant.
(17) Are medical tests required or a health insurance prior to applying for a citizenship?
No medical tests are required prior to applying for Cypriot Citizenship by Investment. Obtaining health insurance is not obligatory for the applicant.
(18) Where an applicant for a Cypriot Citizenship by Investment is the holder of a European permanent residency, is it required for the residency to be revoked prior to applying for Citizenship in Cyprus?
No, it is not required for the European permanent residency of any country to be revoked in order to apply for Citizenship in Cyprus.
(19) In case an applicant already owns residential premises in Cyprus, will he still be required to purchase an additional permanent residence of at least €500,000 for the purposes of the Citizenship by Investment application?
Provided the existing residential premises owned by the applicant were purchased for a value of at least €500,000, then it will not be required to purchase an additional permanent residence. If however, the acquisition price at the time of the purchase was below €500,000, then the applicant will be required to purchase an additional residential property(ies) to satisfy the €500,000 residential property criterion.
(20)Can an unmarried couple simultaneously file a Cyprus Citizenship by Investment application where the investment will be made solely by one of them as the main applicant and the unmarried partner will be considered the spouse?
No, a couple is required to be married before they can simultaneously file a Cyprus Citizenship by Investment application as spouses. It is however possible to approach such scenario in two-steps as follows; one partner to file the citizenship application as the main applicant, and once the couple is married, and subsequent to the main applicant’s successful application, the new spouse to file an application. In such cases, no additional investment will be required by the new applicant spouse in order to obtain citizenship.
Our firm has long established itself as a leader in the field of immigration services, and we are well positioned to assist clients with the preparation and filing of a citizenship application. We are frequently engaged by some of the world’s largest and most reputable international law firms, accounting firms and family offices. Our team of highly experienced professionals can advise you further on obtaining Cyprus Citizenship by Investment, on the basis of your particular facts and circumstances.
Please feel free to contact Charles Savva at [email protected] to discuss how we can be of assistance to you.
Investors remain worried about COVID, but positive towards stamp duty holiday
By Jamie Johnson, CEO of FJP Investment
The journey back to economic normality will be strenuous. COVID-19 has imbued many financial markets with a great deal of uncertainty, making accurate forecasts difficult for fear that a second spike in cases or further lockdown measures may affect market confidence at a moment’s notice.
However, ensuring investor confidence remains high in the short-to-medium term is paramount for avoiding economic stagnation throughout the rest of 2020. Without economic stimulus, the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery will remain delayed until the virus is contained globally; and given the uncertainty surrounding when this will be accomplished, the economic damage inflicted in the meantime could be grave.
The Government, of course, has been quick to recognise this. It has implemented numerous policies designed to coax activity back to some key markets, most notably in the property sector.
The stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday especially seems to be succeeding in attracting buyers back to the market, with property listing site Rightmove recording an immediate 75% increase in buyer enquiries following the policy’s implementation. Meanwhile, Halifax’s August house price index (HPI) revealed a year-on-year average house price rise of 5.2%.
After months of the government dissuading people from moving home due to COVID-19 contagion fears, it seems as though the SDLT holiday is managing to release some of the pent-up demand for property that accrued during lockdown. Domestic and international buyers alike are now compelled to take advantage of the lucrative real estate opportunities on offer, with tax savings of up to £15,000 available during the holiday.
What is crucial, however, is that this momentum is sustained. As COVID-19 case numbers begin rising once again, if people view the UK as not having a handle on the spread of the virus, they may be reluctant to make any major decisions regarding their asset portfolio.
To explore how exactly investors are currently perceiving the government’s capacity for effective COVID-19 containment, and how they are managing their financial affairs during this challenging period, FJP Investment recently commissioned an independent survey of over 900 UK-based investors. Each of the investors surveyed has an investment portfolio in excess of £10,000, excluding savings, pensions, SIPPs and residential property.
What we discovered was that, although the SDLT holiday referenced above is being positively received, there are still obstacles to overcome within the wider economic bounce-back.
Among those surveyed, a quarter (24%) of investors stated they are planning on buying one or more new properties to take advantage of the SDLT holiday, a figure that rises to 43% for those aged between 18 and 34.]
Given the substantial potential discounts available, it makes sense that those keen on making their first step onto the property ladder – or building a real estate portfolio – would jump at the chance while market conditions are right. With the SDLT holiday period coming to a close at the end of March 2021, buyers will be keen on finalising their transactions before this key date.
However, 43% of the investors surveyed believed that more financial incentives and support should be offered by the government. Sticking to the property sector, over half (54%) think the mortgage payment holiday relief scheme should be extended beyond its current finishing date of 31st October 2020.
Elsewhere, FJP Investment’s research showed that 57% of investors are keen to see more financial relief for businesses that have experienced disruption to their cashflow due to the pandemic.
Facilitating the strong economic recovery
More worryingly for the government, however, is the current lackluster reception of its recent public health strategy. The majority (54%) of the investors surveyed admitted they had lost confidence in Boris Johnson’s government due to their apparent mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic so far.
Increasing case numbers and unfavourable international comparisons risk deterring both domestic and international investors away from UK property – elongating pandemic-related economic stagnation for the foreseeable future.
Ensuring the government soon regains a reputation for good governance and epidemiological competence, then, should be an absolute priority for government advisers. Prospective investors – not just in property but all manner of UK-based assets – must have confidence their assets will not undergo a surprise devaluation due to factors outside of their control.
Personally, I’m confident that the right decisions will be made and the current boom in demand for UK property will be sustained. Investors will continue to be successfully attracted back to the market, and the UK can enjoy a prosperous real estate market once again – fuelling a wider post-pandemic economic resurgence across the nation.
Revitalising the token market
By Gavin Smith, CEO at Panxora
With interest rates near zero and fears that whipsawing stock markets are set for further plunges, many investors are turning to alternative markets in the search for returns. Money flowing into cryptocurrency hedge funds and trusts like Grayscale is at all-time highs and the large cap coins seem to be entering a bull phase, but that capital is not trickling down into new token projects. Why are blockchain token projects struggling to attract funding?
Seed investor scepticism
Setting aside the reputational issues with mainstream investors, even those educated in blockchain tech are not signing on the dotted line. This is certainly due in part to the hangover from the early token market.
During the heady days of 2016/17, investors could buy tokens during the token sale, and if the project was legitimate – even if the business case wasn’t particularly strong – prices would soar based on market enthusiasm. Early investors purchased at a discount and cashed out almost immediately for a handsome profit – and then repeated the process again. The token sale allowed founders to amass a war chest large enough to finance the entire token project – without having to give up a large chunk of company equity. Everyone got what they needed out of the deal.
Running a token sale is far more expensive today than it was during the boom. Getting the attention of the token buying public in a market where advertorial has replaced editorial is expensive. This coupled with a regulatory framework that requires the advice of accountants, solicitors and information gathering of KYC details for investors all comes with an escalating price tag.
To accommodate the change in cost structure, tokens now need to acquire funding in two rounds. Frequently there is a first round where capital is raised from a few, large investors. This cash is then used to finance setup and marketing the main token sale. The token sale, in turn, provides the capital needed to run the entire business project.
Bridging the gap between token projects’ needs and early stage investors
To successfully get a token through the capital raising process, founders must acknowledge the risk assumed by those very early investors and reward them appropriately. And given that tokens may stagnate or fall in price post token sale means that a deep discount in token price is not necessarily attractive enough to get investors to commit.
Many tokens have turned to offering equity in the business in the effort to raise that first tranche of capital. If you look at the number of successfully concluded token sales, the downward trend has continued since Q2 2018, so offering equity is not sufficiently stimulating the market.
Two sides of the coin
So, what is the answer? It’s a complex question but one thing is certain. Any solution must be rooted in a deep understanding of what both parties need to successfully conclude the deal.
On the one hand, token founders’ needs are clear: they need enough capital to get the token ready for and through a successful liquidity event that will provide sufficient funds to build the project. The challenge lies in striking the right balance between accruing that capital and making sure not to offer so much project equity that give up either the control or the incentive founders need to drive the project forward.
On the other hand, while the needs of the seed capital investors are more complex, there are two areas of key concern: transparency and profit incentives.
Transparency can mean many things, but almost always includes providing more informative cost and profit projections, as well as answers to a whole range of questions, not least the following:
- What happens to investor capital if the token sale event fails? Token founders must be transparent from the outset. The token market is highly speculative and early investors run the risk of losing their money should the project fail. Therefore, investors require a well-established fund governance process in place throughout the fundraising so they can make informed decisions on whether the project is worthwhile.
- How are the assets for the entire project managed? Investors need to know that their money is in good hands and that proper treasury management techniques are being used to manage cryptocurrency volatility risk. Ideally, an independent custodian will be used to hold the funds and limit founders’ ability to draw down the capital – releasing funds to an agreed-upon schedule of milestones.
- How are the rights of investors protected, for instance in the case of a trade sale? Investors need to know what happens if the company they are investing in is sold. What impact could this have on the value of their stake? Would a separate governance framework need to be established? These are critical questions and investors aren’t likely to settle for any ambiguity in the answers.
Profit incentives are important when it comes to encouraging early participation in a project. Investors need convincing that the proposition will keep risks to a minimum and focus on providing a strong probability of a return. This means that founders need to be able to defend the case for the increase in the value of their token.
But this isn’t the only incentive that matters. Investors can also be incentivised by preferential offerings such as early access to projects and services that might help their own business.
Let’s not forget that investors don’t support just any project. What really matters is that there is something special and unique about the business being underwritten by the token. Preferably something that could be shared upfront and directly benefit the investor – proof that the investment is really worth it.
And that’s what it all comes down to. Ultimately, while token projects are having a hard time finding funds at the moment, if they can prove their worth and provide full transparency and clear profit incentives to ease investors’ concerns, the money is out there. And deals can be done.
Achieving steady returns in challenging times for later life planning
By Matt Dickens, Senior Business Development Director at Ingenious
The macro-economic conditions of the last five years have presented a relentless challenge for money managers seeking to produce consistent returns. It seems an all too distant memory that UK markets were caught in a happy period of low volatility and positive growth since the recovery from the financial crisis started in 2009. Enter 2016 and we have since found ourselves in an era of exceptional uncertainty. An acrimonious Brexit referendum and the following ambiguity, pressure on sterling, repeated challenges to the UK Government, a trade war between two of the world’s super-powers and now a global pandemic. All this as the world is going through a digital revolution.
Under these exceptional conditions, many investment strategies have understandably struggled to sustain the growth that investors had previously enjoyed without taking on elevated levels of risk and experiencing greater volatility and its associated negative impact. However, Ingenious Estate Planning has been operating alternative investment strategies for several years, which have produced a steady return with low volatility over this time as they possess little correlation to the main listed markets.
The affordable end of the UK’s residential real estate market has proven to be extremely robust during the recent uncertainty. The market benefits from some core fundamentals that have assisted it withstanding a lot of the pressures experienced by other sectors. Firstly, a large and sustained supply deficit. In 2018 the UK built 80,000 fewer houses than the actual requirement of 300,0001. This strong, inherent demand poses a clear investment opportunity to investors who can fund construction projects in the safe knowledge that there is an established demand on completion.
Secondly, this supply deficit has been recognised by Governments for several years and there has been a raft of policies enacted, all supportive of building more houses. For instance, the Help to Buy scheme has enabled many, often first-time buyers onto the property ladder. This scheme means there is a well-established and subsidised group of buyers ready to buy whenever developers complete construction. Thirdly, and more recently, the Government has acted quickly to identify the property sector as one that is key to the UK’s recovery from Covid-19. Through relaxing planning laws and offering stamp duty holidays, both the construction and sales market are being given valuable incentives that support an ongoing return for real estate investors.
Secured lending model
Despite these positive forces however, there remain some risks with investing in the property market, so a conservative investment strategy is key to protecting investors. Rather than take a 100% equity, or ownership, position in a house-builder, developer or single property, a portfolio-based, secured lending model, has a number of clear risk-mitigating benefits. For instance, by lending to a portfolio of developers, carefully selected on a project-by-project basis, and by earning a fixed rate of interest, rather than taking equity risk, there is inherently lower volatility in returns given the protection of a senior debt position on each development. Contracts set out clear loan terms meaning that regular interest is paid on the investment and upon final sale the repayment is made in full, all with the benefit of banking-style security protections. By contrast, equity investments and associated valuations can fluctuate over time as the asset price changes and so it is far more vulnerable to market conditions and sentiment, and ultimately any drop in value is suffered by the investor. In the lending model, any loss is initially felt by the borrower.
Benefits for estate planning
Ingenious Estate Planning Private Real Estate utilises this secured lending investment strategy. The Business Relief- qualifying service is commonly used by clients planning for later life. As savers and investors reach retirement and decumulation, they present wealth managers with a unique set of investment problems. Without careful planning, the start of this phase for many could signal the end of any capital growth and herald their savings being eroded to pay for life’s needs. Any investment offering both high volatility and potential drawdowns may therefore become unpalatable. And while many would wish to gift savings to their children to mitigate the risks to their beneficiaries of paying a hefty inheritance tax bill upon their death, the thought of losing both control and access to these savings when they may still need them, means many feel uncomfortable in taking that step.
However, this does not need to be a fate accepted by savvy investors and planners who can utilise a proven trading strategy that continues to both carefully and predictably grow their investment while also providing potentially full relief from inheritance tax.
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