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Alex Danos answers questions regarding "Citizenship through naturalisation by exception"
Citizenship through naturalisation by exception
- INTERVIEW WITH ALEX DANOS, LAWYER
In this article we have discussed an issue within the area of Immigration law and specifically on the issue of citizenship through naturalisation by exception. “The Council of Ministers, on the 19th of March 2014, revised the "Scheme for Naturalization of non-Cypriot investors by exception" and, thus, established the new financial criteria based on which non–EU entrepreneurs/ investors may acquire the Cypriot citizenship (Ministry of Interior, 2015).” This revision resulted after the economic crash that Cyprus has suffered in order to attract more foreign investors to come and invest their money in Cyprus more easily.
In order to conclude whether this revision had an effective impact upon the economy we have contacted Mr. Alex Danos, an acting lawyer in Cyprus which mainly works within the areas of Litigation, Immigration and Corporate Law to give us his personal opinion.
1. Tell me about yourself.
My name is Alex Danos and I work for the law firm Danos & Associates. I am the Managing Partner of the firm.
2. When did you decide that you want to be a lawyer and why?
I decided in my early teens that I wanted to be a lawyer. I come from a family of lawyers, with both my parents being lawyers. Thus, the legal profession has always been part of my life. As a teenager my careers advisor in school advised me that the two professions that would fit my character better would be either a lawyer or a psychologist. I chose to be a lawyer. I have always been attracted to theoretical sciences. Language and history were the lessons I excelled at as a student in school. I believe I have a good memory, logic, analytical skills and the ability to express well intelligent arguments in a verbal or written manner. These are important qualities for a lawyer. I enjoy the profession and I believe it represents me as an individual.
3. How would you describe your work style?
I believe in using your time efficiently. If you can manage your time well and in the most efficient manner, you don’t need to work long hours. However, what I always say is ‘clients first’. At times I will work long hours if required, as most lawyers do. But I feel that balance between work and private life is very important and that also reflects on the quality of work.
Moreover, I believe that excellent communication with clients is extremely important. Communication has to be constant, it has to be clear and it has to be honest. I am also a firm believer that good and honest work pays off and regenerates more work and more clients.
4. On what field of law are you specialized?
I work mostly in Litigation, Immigration and Corporate Law. I am, however, involved in several other areas of law as well.
SCHEME FOR NATURALISATION OF INVESTORS IN CYPRUS BY EXCEPTION
5. What is the Citizenship through Naturalisation by Exception?
The government has created this program which allows non-EU citizens to obtain Cypriot/European citizenship by investing in Cyprus. A few other countries have similar programs but I believe the Cyprus program to be the most attractive one in Europe.
6. What are the criteria which should be fulfilled?
There are 8 different criteria. If an investor satisfies any one of these 8 criteria he/she can qualify to apply for the citizenship. To explain in depth all the different criteria in an interview would be difficult as it would require a very large written space. It is sufficient to say that these criteria involve investments on real estate, government bonds, fixed term deposits in Cypriot banks, incorporating/purchasing/participating in Cypriot companies, investments on the financial assets of Cypriot companies/businesses and even people whose deposits with the former Laiki Bank were impaired after 15th of March 2013 can apply for the citizenship. The minimum investment which can allow an investor to apply for the citizenship is 2,5 Million Euros. This only applies for collective investments schemes where the total investment is of a minimum of 12,5 Million Euros. For individual investors the required investment is a minimum of 5 Million Euros, except for people whose deposits were impaired at Laiki Bank. They have to prove that they suffered an impaired deposit of a minimum of 3 Million Euros. For additional information, readers of this interview can have a look at this article from our website:
7. Do any terms and conditions apply?
The applicant must provide a clean criminal record. Moreover, he/she must not be in the list of people whose property is under order by the EU to be frozen. The investor has to also maintain in Cyprus a permanent residence worth a minimum of €500.000. The applicant has to submit to the authorities a number of documents to prove that the above terms have been complied with and also to prove that the investment took place.
8. Is the process of examining an application time-consuming?
In Cyprus processing of the application only takes around 2-3 months. In other countries with similar schemes it can take as long as 24 months.
9. What is the payable fee of such application?
The applicant pays €2.000 at the time of submission of the application and €5.000 for the Naturalisation Certificate to be issued. The same fees apply for the investor’s spouse and adult child. The investor’s minor child only has to pay €80 with the submission of the application.
10. If the application for Citizenship through Naturalisation by Exception is granted, is the applicant allowed to come along with his family? If yes under what terms?
The spouse of the applicant can apply together with the applicant and she/he does not also have to invest in Cyprus. The children of the applicant until the age of 18 years old can also obtain the citizenship and even the adult children until the age of 28 who are financially dependent on the applicant (meaning University/College students) can obtain the citizenship.
11. In your opinion, what are the benefits of this scheme for Cyprus?
This scheme is highly beneficial to Cyprus. Minister of Interior Mr Socrates Hasikos recently stated that foreign investors who apply for the Citizenship or Permanent Residency have brought to Cyprus more than 1 Billion Euros within the last 15 months. At a time of a serious financial crisis, this program benefits the government, property developers, construction workers, estate agents, lawyers, accountants and other professionals. Moreover, Cyprus as a whole benefits from this scheme as investors who come to Cyprus are consumers who will spend money in Cyprus and provide income to all types of businesses, from a small supermarket to a large industry.
12. Would you suggest any other possible changes or actions which could result to better and more attractive terms?
Our scheme is already very attractive and although I have a couple of suggestions that would make this program even more desirable, I think the time is not right for such changes. The EU has recently put pressure on Malta to change their scheme and tighten terms and conditions. If we relaxed the criteria at this stage, the EU would most likely not be happy with such changes.
13. Do you believe the Cyprus government’s efforts to attract foreign investors are sufficient?
I think that private companies, such as leading property developers, do a lot to promote this scheme. But the government is also promoting this scheme and often organises business delegations to countries such as China in order to attract investors to Cyprus. I think this scheme is already very well known internationally to professionals and potential investors. At the moment, the Cyprus scheme for citizenship by investment is generally considered to be the best in Europe.
14. From which countries does Cyprus mostly expect investors?
Most of the investors for this scheme come from China, Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East.
15. Are efforts from the private sector to attract foreign investors more productive in comparison to the efforts from the public sector?
I believe so. The private sector is working very hard to attract foreign investors for this program. But as I said before, the government is also promoting well this scheme which is already very well known and highly estimated.
16. Why should an investor choose Cyprus for investing and not another European country such as Malta?I sincerely believe that at the moment the Cyprus program for citizenship by naturalisation is the most appealing in Europe. Malta is our main competitor as the minimum required investment for a citizenship in Malta is lower than the one of the Cyprus program. However, pressure from the EU led Malta to change the rules of this scheme. At the moment, to obtain citizenship in Malta a non-EU national has to live in Malta for a minimum of 12 months. In Cyprus, there is no requirement whatsoever to live here. Malta is a very small island, much smaller than Cyprus. So I think many investors are not keen to live in Malta for 1 year in order to obtain the citizenship. Moreover, prices of real estate in Cyprus are low at the moment but are expected to increase in 2-3 years. So investing in Cyprus at the moment is an intelligent move.
17. Are the recent developments in Russia regarding the rules of deoffshorization of the Russian economy going to prevent Russian investors from investing in Cyprus? What’s your personal opinion on this?
These developments might affect the number of Russians registering companies in Cyprus. But the citizenship by investment scheme is not affected by these developments. Cyprus still offers what even leading international companies consider to be the most appealing scheme in Europe for citizenship by investment.
As one person could conclude through this article, the scheme for naturalisation of investors by exception provided by Cyprus is very attractive to investors and beneficial to Cyprus. It has been recognised that both the government and the private sector have made a lot of effort to assist the economic recovery of Cyprus. Cyprus has always been a country of high interest for investors and we should promote the benefits and opportunities by offering the best possible investment options.
Interview by: Elsa Savva, Law Student at Alexander College