A “Citizen of the Republic” is a person who, on 26/07/2002 (date of enactment of the relevant Law), has acquired or is entitled to acquire the status of citizen of the Republic or who, after the said date, acquired the status of citizen, in accordance with the provisions of the Law or on the basis of Annex D to the Treaty for the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. The issue of citizenship is regulated by the Civil Registry Law of 2002 (Law 141(I)/2002) (“the Law”), and more specifically but not exhaustively, by Part VII of the Law.
In Cyprus, the Law provides four ways through which a foreign person can acquire the status of Cypriot citizen:
- Citizenship by birth or descent
- Citizenship by registration
- Citizenship of the Republic by virtue of naturalization and
- Honorary naturalization of a foreigner for reasons of public interest.
In this Article, we will elaborate on the third way of citizenship, with reference to the legal requirements and criteria which must be fulfilled, as well as the basic principles which govern the issue after the recent amendment of the Law. By Law 149(I)/2023 (“the Amending Law”), a new Article 111B has been added, which specifies the qualifications required for a person to hold and be eligible to acquire the status of Cypriot citizen by virtue of naturalization. This article does not cover the requirements that must be met for the application made by a foreign person who resides in Cyprus with the purpose of highly skilled employment, as laid down in subsection 2 of Article 111B(2) of the Amending Law.
The legal conditions for acquiring citizenship by virtue of naturalization
The granting of citizenship of the Republic of Cyprus by virtue of naturalization is regulated by Article 111 in combination with the new Article 111B and Table Three.
Article 111 of the Law provides that the Minister of Interior (“the Minister”) when an application is submitted to him in the prescribed form and manner by any foreign adult and with full capacity, who satisfies the Minister that he holds the qualifications for naturalization, in accordance with the provisions of Article 111B, may grant him a Certificate of Citizenship as it is formed by Table Three. Inter alia, the qualifications that a person must meet to be eligible for Cypriot citizenship by virtue of Article 111 have to do with the following:
- The duration and legality of the applicant’s residence in Cyprus,
- His/her good character,
- His/her knowledge of the Greek language and basic elements of the contemporary political and social reality of the Republic,
- Whether he/she has adequate accommodation and stable and regular financial resources sufficient to support himself/herself and his/her dependent family members; and
- His/her intention, in the case of a certificate being granted, to:
- reside in the Republic of Cyprus, or
- enter or continue to be in the Republic of Cyprus public service.
The keyword in the context of Article 111 is the term “may.” Remarkably, for an application by virtue of Article 111 to be granted, the applicant must satisfy the Minister of Interior that, in his case, the above conditions are cumulatively met. In other words, the applicant must fulfill all the requirements, and failure to satisfy even one of them leads to the rejection of the application. Although the applicant has this obligation, even if he satisfies the Minister that he meets the criteria, the Minister still has the right to reject the application.
The legislator, using the term “may,” gives the Minister of Interior, during the examination of such an application for citizenship, significant discretionary power. However, the Minister shall exercise this discretionary power in good faith. Thus, the mere fulfillment of the conditions set out in Article 111 and the criteria set out in Table Three of the Law does not automatically lead to the approval of the application. For such an application to be approved, in addition to the applicant’s will, which is expressed through the submission of the application, the expression of the will of the State which may grant the citizenship must coexist.
Therefore, the Minister must consider other factors in exercising his discretionary power except for fulfilling the required conditions and criteria. Such factors may be the ability of the applicant to be part of the social environment of Cyprus, his sincere desire to become a Cypriot citizen, and his good behavior. Also, it could be considered that he may have learned and spoken the Greek language satisfactorily, as well as his knowledge of Cyprus culture, ethics, customs, and, generally, his participation in the local way of life. These factors should be counterbalanced with the general interests of the State and evaluated in relation to any economic, demographic, and national problems. The drawing of conclusions and, therefore, the exercise of discretion and the judgment of the State on the submitted application should, however, comply with the principle of good faith and be the result of conducting due diligence.
According to the relevant case law, granting citizenship by virtue of naturalization is a power that belongs to the sovereign nature of the State. The State has the power to grant citizenship to persons it wishes, with the only limitation of that power being that it needs to be exercised in good faith. Therefore, the decision to give a foreign person the status of Cypriot citizen clearly falls within the discretion of the Minister of Interior. The competent Court, which in our country is the Administrative Court, has no jurisdiction to intervene if this power is exercised in good faith.
To sum up, based on the relevant legislation, an applicant for citizenship by virtue of Article 111, as a national of a foreign country, is given the right to apply for the acquisition of the status of a citizen of the Republic of Cyprus; and the State of Cyprus has discretion as to its granting. Indeed, there are specific conditions and criteria that must be met, but nevertheless, the naturalization of a foreign person falls within the discretion of the Minister of Interior as an expression of the exercise of State sovereignty. The Law gives the Minister the discretionary power to accept the request for naturalization of a foreign person but does not grant the foreign person an absolute right to citizenship by virtue of naturalization.
At Y. Vasiliou & Co LLC, we have the knowledge to provide a legal opinion on the matter, as well as the expertise to detect the errors and/or irregularities in a decision issued by the Republic and bring the case before the Court, having as our main concern and scope the protection of the impacted person’s legal rights.
This article is written and published for informative purposes only and does not consist of legal opinion. For further information and legal advice on citizenship issues, do not hesitate to contact us at +357 24 727 313 or by email at [email protected].