Nicosia, Cyprus. Besides tax incentives, the island boasts a sunny climate and other amenities to 'digital nomads.' Photo: iStock

Cyprus is wooing would-be investors to the island by massively speeding up the process allowing third-country nationals to establish new businesses there.

According to the provisions of the government’s Fast Track Business Activation Mechanism, all necessary procedures for the registration and incorporation of a company in Cyprus will now be completed within seven working days, once all the required information has been submitted.

Furthermore, tech companies will get the added bonus of a warm welcome for any employees they choose to bring with them.

George Campanellas, chief executive of Invest Cyprus, the national investment promotion agency, said: “Companies are entitled to employ third-country nationals with a wide range of skills, from software and system engineers to cybersecurity specialists, provided that they first obtain temporary residence and employment permits. 

“Again, these requirements will be fast-tracked in order to allow specialist tech companies to hit the ground running when they come to Cyprus.

“Our aim is to make the experience as pain-free as possible for companies wanting to conduct business on the island or invest in new business.”      

Once a company submits all the required information, the Fast Track Business Activation Mechanism should see any remaining formalities done within a week.

If additional permits are required for the operation of a business, they will be supplied within 30 working days, with the exception of building and planning permits.

“The government has gone to great efforts to streamline the process, which is great news for new businesses that simply want to get on with the job,” Campanellas added.

The Fast Track scheme works by cutting much of the red tape that can drag at the heels of those establishing a new company on the island.

The Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry will now provide a single point of contact to assist businesses in company registration and name approval, registration with social insurance and employers’ registries, and registration for VAT (value added tax) and income tax.

In October, the Council of Ministers also approved a revision of the policy to facilitate the provision of residence and employment permits of third-country nationals.

Campanellas said: “Cyprus is perfectly positioned between east and west to make it an attractive proposition for ambitious companies looking to increase their global reach. In turn, Cyprus is keen to attract ambitious tech companies that can contribute positively to our country’s economic growth.

“All companies that opt to use the Fast Track Business Activation Mechanism will need to go through extensive due diligence checks, but as a result of the pandemic, the world – and the business word in particular – is changing, and Cyprus is positioning itself to be a positive part of that change.”

Over the past eight months, Covid-19 has made digital transformation imperative for companies hoping to survive the crisis, and Cyprus has had to catch up quickly.

With the pandemic pushing manufacturers to the limit, every organization across the globe has been forced to look again at how, why, and with whom it does business. And experts are predicting that the strongest recoveries will come from companies that learned valuable lessons from the pandemic, and used the events of 2020 to perform a factory restart.

“The old ways of doing business are starting to look increasingly out of date,” Campanellas said. “There is now a growing sense of responsibility within the business world to balance work and quality of life with a greater respect for the world we live in. Again, Cyprus is looking to be at the forefront of this positive change.”

The island’s commitment to a sustainable future was this month recognized by the Good Country Index (GCI), which ranked Cyprus 12th out of 149 countries, putting it ahead of powerhouses such as Singapore (13), Austria (14) and Ireland (15).

The GCI is a yearly study that examines and measures how nations contribute to the common good of humanity by looking at global contributions to health and well-being, to the planet and climate issues as well as contributions to prosperity and equality.

Elsewhere, Cyprus also scores highly on the common criteria for establishing an ideal corporate headquarters. According to Don Catalano of REoptimizer, a real-estate optimization tool, the main aspects for an ideal corporate headquarters include: ready access to a talent pool; proximity to businesses, services and transportation; room for expansion; and costs such as living expenses.

According to the European Commission, 55% of the workforce in Cyprus has a university degree, more than 100,000 workers come from EU countries, 76% of people speak English, and the island boasts the youngest workforce in the EU, suggesting they might be more flexible and adaptable to new technologies.

Limassol is also emerging as a growing tech hub, according to Deloitte, and the Global Innovation Index 2020 ranks Cyprus second in the Northern Africa and Western Asia region. Cyprus is also ranked fifth worldwide in terms of safety, and first among smaller countries.

Campanellas said: “Cyprus is becoming increasingly noticed as a good place to work, and even greater place to live. And as our island continues to welcome new investment, the quality of life and opportunities to be found will only get better.”

Companies interested in joining the island’s Fast Track Business Activation mechanism should have a physical presence in Cyprus, including established or operational independent offices separate from any private residence.

Existing companies should also have a minimum turnover of €500,000 (US$605,600) per year for three of the last five years. New companies will also need to provide a reliable five-year business plan illustrating growth potential.

Andrea Busfield

Andrea Busfield has been in journalism for more than 25 years, working as a reporter, features editor and copy editor for UK national newspapers, the chief civilian print editor of Sada-e Azadi in Kabul, and deputy editor of Gulf Times in Qatar. A published author, she now works as a freelance journalist based in Cyprus.