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Retiring to Cyprus

There are compelling arguments for considering Cyprus as a place for retirement. Property is relatively inexpensive, the people are welcoming and the climate is warm.

Occupying a strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus is where east meets west. The island can be considered the easternmost point of Europe. It can certainly claim to be the most easterly member of the EU. 

Cyprus has straddled one of the major geographical, cultural and commercial divides between Europe and the Middle East since the first settlers arrived from Asia Minor during the Stone Age.

As the mythological birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love, there is no little irony in the fact that ‘Aphrodite’s Isle’ has subsequently seen more than its fair share of enmity and strife – not least in the ongoing partition of the island following the Turkish invasion in 1974.

English is the semi-official language spoken by more than three-quarters of the 1.18 million population, the Cypriot legal system is based on English law, the island’s banking system is modelled on the UK’s, and Britons comprise more than half the annual two million tourists. They also represent the largest expatriate community – estimated to be more than 65,000 permanent residents.

Climate

Cyprus enjoys the warmest winter climate of any country in the EU. Even in winter, when snow covers the Troodos mountains, the temperature in the coastal zone where most expatriates choose to live is rarely colder than 17C by day and 8C by night.

The climate is at its most appealing in late spring or early autumn. High summer can be stiflingly hot with temperatures between 30 to 40C and air conditioning units in most properties are called into 24-hour operation.

Property

Cyprus was hit hard in 2013 when its banking system collapsed. The country was forced to borrow €10bn from the EU, European Central Bank and IMF, there were queues for cashpoints from dawn and savers’ bank accounts were raided to help pay back the state’s debts.

But in March 2016, Cyprus exited its bailout programme and no longer needs financial support. Its banking system is now on firmer ground, unemployment has dropped and the economy is growing again.

The property market has taken a turn for the better too. House price falls are decelerating and sales were dramatically up in 2016 compared to previous years. Prices, however, are still around 30% lower than pre-crisis levels and there are currently about 5,000 sales a year compared with 18,000 a year in 2002-2007.

Healthcare

In common with much of the rest of western Europe, public and private sector healthcare services coexist relatively efficiently, allowing patients to cherry-pick consultations and surgical procedures as they prefer.

Most doctors, nurses and support staff in Cyprus speak English, but difficulties in communication can still arise, especially when a complicated procedure is being explained. If in doubt, patients should ask for help with translation.

If you are considering private healthcare, AXA International quote €6,100 per person per annum for a comprehensive cover policy with no excess and inclusive of taxes, based on a couple who are aged 65 and in good health.

State healthcare is inexpensive and sometimes even free for EU citizens. Emergency medical care is free to all citizens and expats alike, but routine doctor and hospital appointments are often chargeable and with inpatient and outpatient care, there is likely to be a fee.

Since 2013, nominal charges have been introduced for treatment for most Cypriot citizens and permanent expat residents. For those who do not hold a medical card, some charges will be higher.

State healthcare is available to anybody paying into the Cypriot social security system, but may also be available to those in receipt of a UK state pension, long-term contribution based incapacity benefit or bereavement allowance. In order to qualify it will be necessary to apply for a S1 form (certificate of entitlement) from the UK Pension Service.

Of course, Brexit may change all that. Refer to www.retiringtoeurope.com for important Brexit updates.

Money

There are various tax issues Britons face when moving to Cyprus. With specialist advice from an adviser with a good understanding of both jurisdictions, you can make your money work for you, protect it against foreign taxes and make the most of the opportunities available.

Some Cypriot taxes sound the same as taxes in the UK but are calculated differently. And in some cases, what is tax-free in the UK is not tax-free in Cyprus.

Moving

If you are a British citizen, you currently do not need a visa to enter the Republic of Cyprus. If you intend to stay for more than three months, you must apply for a residence permit through your local immigration office, using form MEU1A. There is a fee, but the permit does not need to be renewed. After five consecutive years of residence, you can apply for a permanent registration certificate.

A UK state pension can be paid directly to a British expatriate in Cyprus. There may be further entitlement to benefits, including sickness and bereavement allowance, depending on individual circumstances. 

  • This article is just a brief taster of the book ‘Retiring to Europe’, which is out now. Find out how to get all the information at www.retiringtoeurope.com. There you can download the comprehensive guide free of charge and receive Brexit updates.

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