General employment of Third Country Nationals in the Republic of Cyprus & Intra-company Transfer

First and foremost, it should be stressed that in order for a third country national to be employed in the Republic of Cyprus (areas controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus), it is a prerequisite to obtain a Temporary Residence and Work Permit or equivalent approval following filing of an application to this end to the Civil Registry and Migration Department (Migration Section) of the Ministry of Interior (the “Civil Registry and Migration Department (Migration Section)”). In this regards, it is of particular importance to stress that by securing a temporary or even permanent residence permit, a third country national is not entitled to be employed in the Republic of Cyprus unless so is expressly provided in the terms of the specific permit and/or of the scheme under which the permit is obtained. The procedure to be followed, the supporting information / documentation required and the timeframe for the completion of the process vary in accordance to the specific type of permit.

Generally speaking, Cyprus legislation makes provision for sector-specific categories in which third-country nationals may be temporarily employed for the purpose of performing work, depending on their status in the Republic of Cyprus and/or the type of permit for which they have or are going to apply; such categories include, among others, general employees (admitted in sectors where there is need for support in the absence of local or European personnel), domestic workers, food handlers, athletes, coaches, livestock labourers, agriculture workers, priests, nurses, bartenders, creative artists, performing artists, creative supportive staff and the supporting staff of a performing artist. Of course, there is also the option for an employer to employ high-skilled third country nationals, in which case the procedure is more concise. In any case, the rules, terms, conditions as well as the volume of admission of third-country nationals to any such specific categories are determined by the Council of Ministers considering and/or relying on the proposal of the Minister of Labour.

A crucial criterion for applying for most of the types of work permits available, is for the employer to obtain and/or secure an approval from the Labour Department (Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance) (the “Labour Department”), which is the competent authority for securing that there are no Cypriots or citizens of Member States of the European Union, available or adequately qualified for the specific job or post prior to recommending the employment of third country nationals. To be more precise, the employer who is interested in employing third country national(s) must, upon receipt of the approval from the Labour Department, submit an application accompanied by -among others- the contract of employment and the remaining documents certified by the Labour Department, for the purpose of acquiring an entry visa that will enable the third country national to enter the Republic of Cyprus (in case he/she is not already in the Republic of Cyprus) and then, upon the arrival of the third country national in the Republic of Cyprus (if applicable), proceed with the submission of the main application for the registration and acquisition of the respective residence and work permit, depending on the type and nature of employment.

Apart from the above, there is also the option to transfer a third country national from a foreign company to a company situated and operating in the Republic of Cyprus. more specifically, the Civil Registry Law (Cap.105) has been amended for the purpose of accommodating the provisions of Directive 2014/66/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer (the “EU Directive 2014/66/EU”) relating to the intra-corporate transferee permit (ICP) that can be granted in order for third-country nationals employed by an employer entity or undertaking established in a third country to be able to be employed by an employer entity or undertaking of the same group of companies established in the Republic of Cyprus. In this regards, it is important to stress that in order for the involved undertakings to be qualified as part of a group of companies, the said entities or undertakings must be considered as linked in any of the following ways:

(a)    one of the undertakings holds, directly or indirectly, the majority of the subscribed capital of the other;

(b)   one of the undertakings controls the majority of the votes attached to the issued share capital of the other;

(c)    one of the undertakings is entitled to appoint more than half of the members of the administrative, management or supervisory body of the other; and

(d)   the undertakings are in fact managed on a unified basis by a common parent undertaking/owner.

In light of the above, it must be underlined that in order for an employer to be eligible to obtain a work permit for an intra-company transferred employee, it is a prerequisite that the said employer forms part of a group of companies within which the transfer shall take place, while such an employer must prove its good standing and clean criminal record, as well as its compliance with all its legal obligations, including the settlement of taxes and the payment of contributions for employees. In the same way, it is extremely important for the involved entities or undertakings, namely the foreign entity and the Cyprus one, to be able to prove the employment existing or future relationship, as the case may be, between each of them and the intra-company transferred employee by providing official documentation to this end, issued by the competent governmental authority or body of the respective jurisdiction.

All in all, there are different procedures on the basis of which a third country national may be employed in the Republic of Cyprus while each type of residence and work permit is subject to a series of benefits, limitations and restrictions. Lastly, we cannot disregards the fact that, apart from the classic / standard procedures for the general employment of third country nationals, the government of the Republic of Cyprus, in order to adapt to the evolved needs of our times, has also developed various schemes, strategies and programs that were in force from time to time while it has recently introduced and does currently apply a Strategy for attracting, among others, businesses of foreign interests for activities or/and expansion of their activities in the Republic of Cyprus, which may also serve the needs for the employment of third country nationals in various key positions provided that the employer and each of the prospective employees satisfy the relevant criteria set forth in the said Strategy.