ProACT Sam Orgill clarifies the wider implications for expats, their family, business and overseas property.
EU Schengen Zone Changes were initiated in 2019 but implemented only post Brexit. Multiple changes are having a wide-ranging impact in Cyprus and across the EU. These changes would have been introduced with or without Brexit. Cyprus has applied to join the EU Schengen zone and in July 2023 completed 5 of 6 steps to entry meaning by the end of 2023 Cyprus could be joining Romania and Bulgaria into the EU Schengen Zone.
While the Schengen Zone Short Stay rules have a direct impact on travel they are also driven by other considerations for the EU, customs, border security, and police cooperation against crime. The EU Schengen zone is all about protecting the integrity of the EU from criminal activity including illegal stays. This is enforced using police cooperation, information exchanges and using the short stay rules when expats are crossing a border into the EU. This involves using technology for exchange of information between Schengen zone countries, not just financial, but also identity, border crossings and criminal records.
As your big brother would say while watching you on his TV, ‘tax and residency are crimes that treat all people the same’ and can be tracked using technology.
INTERNATIONAL SHORT STAY RESIDENCY RULES
Under international law generally 90 day short trips are allowed for business, holiday or family visits. Each country can then make its own rules and apply them in the way they choose as a sovereign country. Two countries can agree to visa free travel across borders.
Currently any individual only needs a passport for visa free travel to cross a border into the EU. After a short stay up to 90 days, a traveller in Florida could travel 50 miles east to the Bahamas for a weekend and return back to the USA up to another 90 days short stay. If a visa is required, then usually this has to be obtained BEFORE you enter any country around the world.
Different visa applications are required depending upon the purpose and period of stay. Generally if more than 90 days travel is required, with one or multiple trips then the visa could cover the period of the visit, or a fixed term period of say 6 months or a year. Beyond a year a longer term resident permit or visa is required, usually requiring a capital investment in business, property or a contract for a period of work, or study.
EU SCHENGEN ZONE – ICING ON TOP
The EU is not a sovereign country and does not directly control a member states visa, residency and tax rules. However EU membership means countries need to agree and follow EU membership rules and requirements. EU Freedoms are a key principle allowing movement of capital, trade, services and people. This in turn creates EU centric issues that need to be addressed.
The EU Schengen Zone was introduced in 1985 and is designed to ‘protect’ freedom of movement within the EU. The unique EU Schengen feature introduced an additional constraint of only 90 days in country residency is allowed during any 6 month period. This is different to the international short stay rule and the cause of complications. Within the EU Schengen zone the principle is a maximum 90 days stay in the zone in any 6 month / 180 day period.
Any non EU traveller into Cyprus or other EU Country could travel into the EU with passport or Schengen visa for a short stay of 90 days then leave. Expats without a Resident Permit as a non EU Traveller will not be allowed to travel back into that EU country until after 180 days.
CLOSING THE DOOR ELECTRONICALLY
Generally EU travellers can move freely throughout the EU – always having their registered Identity card available for inspection. In Britain there remains no requirement for an ID card to be held by citizens. Internationally people can travel across borders using Passports.
The EU and UK are separately both introducing Electronic Travel Authorities for international short stay travel into countries. This exists for other countries already. This provides a cohesive online tech solution for the EU to control their external EU border and internal State Borders.
The electronic travel authority in the Schengen area will be known as the European Travel & Information Authorisation System (ETIAS). An electronic travel authority is obtained online and needed before checking into flights. Airlines won’t let you board without a valid electronic travel authority, customs and border controls will block your journey. If leaving Cyprus and over extending a stay, you could be subject to a fine by the border police, and could lead to black marks against future travel into Cyprus.
SCHENGEN ZONE AREA
The Schengen Zone includes most EU countries, but not all. The Schengen zone also includes non EU countries as well such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway. EU member states Cyprus, Ireland, Romania & Bulgaria are not in a Schengen area, although Romania & Bulgaria should be in the area by the end of 2023 with Cyprus to follow.
Ireland is in the Common Travel Area (CTA) with the UK and currently has no plans to join the Schengen area. Travellers to Ireland who want to stay more than 90 days should apply for a longer stay visa before entering Ireland. Travellers to the UK can apply for extended stay after arriving in the UK.
European city states like the Vatican, Monaco are not in the EU but have open EU Schengen borders. Gibraltar, a British Territory, is in the Schengen Zone but not in the EU by special treaty. Remoter Islands are with European sovereign connections like Canary Islands, Madeira are in the Schengen Zone.
Greenland, a ‘district’ of Denmark with its local government and MPs, is not included in the Schengen zone – Greenland left the EU in 1985 as Schengen was being created. Greexit was 30 years before Brexit.
The EU Short Stay Rule 90 in 180 days restricts the rights of expats Living and Working Abroad to stay in their EU property for family or business reasons without longer term stay multiple visas or residency permit rights. From 2024 the EU electronic travel authority (ETIAS) will apply and help enforce the short stay rules. Expats or travellers with long term residency permits, permanent residency, EU citizenship or Schengen visas won’t need an electronic travel authority. The enforcement of short stay rules won’t be pretty from 2024 with the UK also introducing their own version for visitors to the UK.
EU citizens and country specific resident permit holders will not need an electronic travel authority, they should not be subject to short stay rules. Those with an EU Schengen visa won’t need the electronic travel authority but are subject to short stay rules in other countries than their primary country of stay. Visa free travellers to the EU will need the electronic travel authority and it will enforce short stay rules.
Breaking EU Short Stay Rules This could mean being refused boarding or border crossing or fined for an overstay on the way out – with future entry being refused as a sanction available through electronic means.
Expats with pre Brexit stays in Cyprus, owners of local property in Cyprus, or wanting work in Cyprus can apply for a Resident Permit and in time Citizenship to avoid Short Stay restrictions. Family can be added, but action is required.
Shorter term visas can be obtained to allow extended stays in a year without owning property or working in Cyprus, including working abroad.
Consider if you want the freedom for longer stays for residence, second home, family, property or business.
ProACT Partnership offers a free review to consider if you need a residency permit or visa to continue to enjoy Living and Working Abroad.
For information and guidance contact us