Immigration to Cyprus is largely for work. But with policies ranking 2nd last of all 31 MIPEX countries, Cyprus discourages long-term integration. The law creates the least favourable conditions for these workers to access and integrate long-term on the labour market. They have few real opportunities to participate in democratic life or to naturalise. Cyprus’ policies on family reunion and long-term residence score closer to countries far outside the scope of EU law (IE, UK).

In 2008, the Supreme Court found that government policy to prevent many temporary migrants from accessing long-term residence was justified under the Directive but without referring to the European Court of Justice. This policy was also called into question by the European Commission. Cyprus responded by enacting Law 143(I) 2009, where it imposes new integration requirements on potential applicants. Cyprus, like many countries, does best on promoting integration when fighting discrimination. Scoring at the European average, broad protections in law are still difficult to enforce and receive limited support from the State.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 July 2008
Government adopts Programme for integration of immigrant students into public schools
0 January 2008
Long-term residence
Motilla: Supreme Court confirms government’s restrictive policy on long-term residence
-4 December 2009
Long-term residence
Law 143(l) on language and integration assessment for longterm residence.
0 December 2009
Family Reunion
Law 143(I): more favourable family reunification for migrant workers in international companies.

Key Findings

  • At 35 points, Cyprus is the only country far below average and falling further behind, ranking 2nd last of all 31 countries. 
  • Cyprus has least favourable policies on labour market mobility, access is critically unfavourable. 
  • New integration requirements for long-term residence further restrict policies that already exclude many from applying, argued by Supreme Court. 
  • Migrants wishing to reunite their families face the most restrictive eligibility conditions. 
  • While all migrant children can access compulsory schooling with some measures to target needs, undocumented may be excluded in practice. 
  • Immigrants’ limited access to Cypriot nationality. 
  • Anti-discrimination is an area of strength for Cyprus but needs better implementation. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

    Add to MyPdf

    Cyprus and SK set nearly unfavourable legal conditions for labour market mobility, also scoring an absolute zero on access. The law severely limits non-EU residents’ long-term economic integration, unlike new countries of labour migration (IT, ES, PT, CZ). Newcomers are often refused work permits. Those granted one still cannot access numerous professions. Like only 9 other countries, the public sector is completely closed off. Non-EU migrant workers cannot access public employment services (as in only LV, MT and SK). They have the least favourable rights as migrant workers of all 31 MIPEX countries, with Cyprus alone denying them both equal working conditions and social security. Even as taxpayers, they cannot claim unemployment benefits or public allowances.

  • Show Family Reunion

    Add to MyPdf

    Immigrants face the 3rd most restrictive policies for reuniting families, close to countries outside EU law. 21-year-age limits are imposed on spouses (as only 7 others), but with no clear legal justifications why. Dependent children/parents (only 10) are also excluded. To reunite the family, sponsors pay disproportionate fees and prove full-time legal employment (5 others), despite the unfavourable labour market policies. Passing these hurdles does not bring full security, as permits can be lost on wide grounds, including where original conditions no longer apply. Reunited family members have limited access to employment and social benefits (unlike in 24 other countries, see recent changes GR, ES) as well as autonomous status, creating conditions of dependency and poverty.

  • Show Education

    Add to MyPdf

    While all migrants have legal access to compulsory education, a Circular from the Ministry of Education (2004) questions this right for undocumented migrant children. It may still give individual schools discretion to decide on admissions and has not been withdrawn. Students who enter the system may benefit from a 2008 Programme that commits to the smooth integration of non-Greek speaking students. The Ministry of Education acknowledges that this is a first step but efforts to integrate intercultural elements into the curricula are being met with resistance.

    Migrant children can generally access compulsory education and general support, although undocumented children may have difficulties (see box). If they have specific needs as migrants, pupils benefit from targeted measures slightly above average, which include standardised language support (also for parents) and teachers with training. However, apart from monitoring segregation in schools (see box), little more is done to encourage their contribution to society as other countries do; for example, by teaching migrant languages (22 countries) and cultures (14), or reaching out to parents (12). And while intercultural education is an official aim, government support to implement measures is unfavourable, with limited possibilities to adapt curricula in practice (see PT, ES). 

  • Show Political Participation

    Add to MyPdf

    Cyprus excludes non-EU residents from democratic life as in other new and minor countries of immigration. Despite EU and Council of Europe standards, political participation is absent from Cyprus’s integration strategy. Non-EU residents cannot vote or stand in elections(unlike 19 countries, including new countries of immigration HU, SI and recently GR). Political liberties fare better (as in 20 countries) and migrants can join political parties, unlike many countries in Central Europe. Immigrants are not structurally consulted by the government (as in 15 countries and recently GR). Migrants can establish their own association but its impact will be limited, without dedicated state funding to represent their communities’ interests (see PT).

  • Show Long Term Residence

    Add to MyPdf

    Supreme Court backs government policy

    In early 2008, in the case Motilla, the Supreme Court confirmed the restrictive government policy preventing many temporary migrants from applying for longterm residence. The court found that the nature and purpose of a potential applicants’ residence could be considered to see whether they had ‘put down roots.’ It claims this was justified under the EC Directive on long-term residence. This interpretation of EU law has not been confirmed as the Cypriot Court did not send a preliminary ruling request to the European Court of Justice.


    From infringement to obstacles

    The Commission considered that Cyprus had incorrectly implemented Article 3(2)(e) of the Long-term Residence Directive by preventing migrants who resided strictly on a temporary basis from applying for the status. In 2008, it requested explanations from the Government on its policy. In response Cyprus removed the temporal criterion under Law 143(l)/2009 (although still limiting ‘formally restricted’permits), but this amendment cannot bypass Motilla, which directly interpreted the EC Directive. The new law implements new integration conditions, which will constitute a further obstacle for most applicants.

    Policies slightly discourage long-term residence and are the 2nd least effective for integration after the UK, which is far outside the scope of EU law. Many non-EU residents cannot even apply for long-term residence since several temporary residence permits cannot be considered for the 5-year residence requirement (see boxes).

    Migrants who meet the limiting eligibility criteria still have to fulfil conditions that are the least favourable for promoting integration (after UK, CH, DE). They must pay excessive costs (€430). Although the state provides non-EU residents with unfavourable legislation and conditions on the labour market, applicants are expected to provide proof of permanent employment contracts of at least 18 months (jobs required in only 6 other MIPEX countries). Since 2009, they must now pass a new language test (level A2). They must also demonstrate knowledge of the current political and social situation in Cyprus (as in only 6 countries). With little support provided, these integration measures, scoring 39 on MIPEX, are more of a barrier (e.g. DK, GR, RO, SK) than an incentive (e.g. CZ, PT, FR). The official aim of the law was to respond to Commission concerns (see box) and facilitate foreign investment. However only migrants working in international companies need not fulfil the integration requirements when they apply for the status (and then, just for the first renewal). There are no other exemptions, unlike the general trend to exempt vulnerable migrants and consider individual abilities, even in countries with otherwise difficult integration conditions (DE, NL, IT).

    Successful applicants have the poorest rights of all countries (with FR, IE). They have no clear residence right on retirement and limited access to housing (unlike 29 of the 30 countries). Half-way security grants them a 5-year permit that can be refused or lost for fraud, security threats or criminal record, but not if they lose their job. Some personal circumstances will be considered before withdrawal but this will not guarantee protection from being deported, no matter how long they have lived in Cyprus (unlike IT, PT, RO). 

  • Show Access to Nationality

    Add to MyPdf

    Migrants’ children/grandchildren are not considered Cypriot at birth despite mounting international trends (now 15, recently GR, LU). Foreigners wait at least 8 years to apply, passing a long, costly and discretionary procedure with no support where they can be refused for ‘lack of good character’. This contrasts with other countries (GR,LU, PT, DE) that remove such vague conditions and set conditions that encourage success. They have no entitlement to citizenship (in 10 countries). If they succeed, they are more insecure than elsewhere. They can lose their status on wide grounds, regardless of statelessness or time. At least first generation migrants need not renounce their previous nationality (as in 18 countries), which would be a major barrier to naturalisation.

  • Show Anti-discrimination

    Add to MyPdf

    The law protects all residents against discrimination on any ground (including nationality) in all areas of their life, yet it is missing key definitions (e.g. discrimination by association, multiple discrimination). Victims can bring a civil or criminal case and obtain legal aid. Proceedings are complex, with no possibility for alternative dispute resolution (unlike 19 countries) and with limited sanctions available. The Equality Body has slightly favourable powers but limited staffing. It issues recommendations and leads investigations but cannot pursue a claim in court on victims’ behalf (unlike 12 countries). The State provides for some dialogue on discrimination issues but has no obligation to promote equality in its work.