The regulatory framework with regards to the hiring of third country nationals for exchanges, career development, internships or other non-economic purposes that has only recently been re-formed by the adoption of the Law on Aliens and Immigration (Prerequisites for entrance and residence of Third Country nationals for the purpose of research, studies, training, voluntary work, exchange of pupils or education program) (Law 7(I)/2019), was adopted to align with the Directive (EU) 2016/801 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing.
According to the aforesaid newly introduced legislation, entrance visas and residence permits are granted to third country nationals purporting to enter the Republic of Cyprus and temporarily reside thereat for the purpose of research, studies, training, voluntary work, educational projects or in the course of exchange of pupils programs. In this respect, it is worth to mention that it is up to the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus to determine the volumes of admission of third-country nationals (except so far as students are related), considering and/or relying on the proposal of the Minister of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance and following consultation with the involved social partners.
In particular and subject to the specific rules and regulation governing each of the qualifying categories, the right to apply for such a permit is vested to persons falling under any of the following categories:
(a) researchers holding a doctoral degree or a similar qualification are entitled to be granted access to doctoral programmes and/or research organizations for the purpose of conducting research activity associated with the researcher’s degree or title, for a period of at least 1 year (with a right to renew) or for the duration of the research, if shorter; in this regards, it should be stressed that researchers covered by community or multilateral programs containing mobility measures may be entitled to a longer permit.
(b) students admitted to a full-time academic course (researcher’s main activity) leading to a higher education qualification (duly recognized in the Republic of Cyprus), including any academic foundation programme and/or training course, are entitled to a permit for a period of at least 1 year (with a right to renew) or for the duration of the research, if shorter; in this regards, it should be stressed that students covered by community or multilateral programs containing mobility measures or by agreements concluded between higher education institutes may be entitled to a longer permit.
(c) pupils admitted to a state or regional programme of secondary education (duly recognized by the Republic of Cyprus) in the course of a recognized pupil exchange scheme or educational project are entitled to a permit for the duration of the program they attend or for a year at maximum (with a right to renew once for such additional period as required for the completion of the relevant program);
(d) trainees, holding a higher education degree or attending an academic course in a third country leading to a higher education qualification (duly recognized in the Republic of Cyprus), who aim to attend a training program and/or course for the purpose of gaining knowledge, practice and experience in a professional field are entitled to a permit for a year or for the duration of the training if shorter or for a period equal to the relevant agreement for training (with a right to renew once); and
(e) volunteers purporting to participate to a voluntary service program and/or scheme in the Republic of Cyprus, is entitled to a permit for the period of the relevant agreement.
In light of the above and in so far as the family members of third country nationals admitted to the Republic of Cyprus for the purpose of engaging in non-economic purposes are concerned, it is of utmost importance to clarify that, subject to the satisfaction of the criteria and/or exceptions set out in the Cyprus law, only researches holding a valid permit are entitled to apply for family reunification in order for their family members (irrespective of whether the family relations have been established prior or after the date the third country national entered the Republic) to enter and reside in the Republic of Cyprus. In case of approval of such an application, a residency permit is granted to the applicant’s family members for a period of a year with the right for such residence period to be renewed provided that its duration shall not exceed the expiry date of the applicant’s residence permit.
Subject to the specific provisions of the respective legislation, the notion of ‘family members’ includes the researcher’s spouse as well as his minor, unmarried and financially dependent children. In this regards, it is underlined that in order for the partner of such a third country national to be qualified as a family member of the latter, he/she must be married to the said third country national either by religious marriage or by way of a civil marriage or civil union, which -subject to the provisions of the Cyprus laws- are considered as legal marriages. Although the religious and civil marriage are only available to heterosexual couples, the civil union arrangement is available for homosexual couples as well; however, in so far as the notion of ‘family members’ is concerned, it should be stressed that the civil union arrangement does not give the spouses any of the rights granted under the Law on Adoption (Law 19(I)/1995) or the Law on the Application of Medically Assisted Human Reproduction (Law 69(I)/2015), the scope of which is in fact limited to heterosexual couples who have committed a legal marriage or the like or they are in a stable and lasting relationship.