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Citizenship procedures sideline foreign nationals

Foreign nationals wanting to gain Cypriot citizenship usually find themselves side-lined by the system says Ombudsman, Eliza Savvidou.

The lack of an institutionalised process, unimaginable delays, high application levies and a lack of transparency often leads to the sense that the state is indifferent to applicants for citizenship.

“The discrete way in which applications are scrutinised, making it difficult to control the process, as well as the final decisions, add to the problem,” said Savvidou.

“This results in most immigrants living on the sidelines of society; with limited employment opportunities and social benefits,” explained Savvidou.

In order to promote a more correct and institutionalised process, the state must decide to what extent it wishes to grant citizenship to foreigners that have lived in Cyprus for an extended period of time, and introduce real and essential criteria in order for applications to have a better chance of approval.

A big problem in the process is the delays which are experienced and although the Ombudsman recognises the large workload handled by the relevant state services, but delays of five to six years are inexcusable.

What is even worse, notes Savvidou, is that delays may overlap the applicant’s valid residency permit, something which is essential when making an application.

Eurostat figures released in June 2016, show that Cyprus granted citizenship to 2,274 people in 2014, 67% of which were non-EU nationals, including 616 Russian nationals. For the same year, Greece granted citizenship to 20,900 people, the United Kingdom 125,600, Sweden 43,500 and Germany 110,600.

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