According to the Refugee Law,1 recognised refugees are granted, the soonest possible, a residence permit valid for 3 years. The permit is renewable for 3-year periods only, and there is no possibility for this permit to be issued for longer periods. The law also allows for the residence permit to family members of beneficiaries of refugee status that do not qualify individually as refugees, to be valid for less than 3 years also renewable, however in practice this limitation is rarely applied.
In the case of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status and their family members, the law states that a renewable residence permit valid for 1 year is issued the soonest possible,2 after international protection has been granted. This permit is renewable for 2-year periods for the duration of the status. Again there is no possibility for such permits to be renewed for longer periods.
According to the Refugee Law residence permits for both refuges and subsidiary protection beneficiaries provide the right to remain only in the areas under the control of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), therefore excluding beneficiaries from the right to remain or even visit areas in the north of the island that are not under the control of the RoC.3
In practice, delays are systematically encountered in the issuance and renewal of residence permits for both refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection that lead to obstacles in accessing rights. Specifically, a person, once granted international protection or in the case of renewal, will approach the responsible authority in order to apply for a residence permit and will be given an appointment to submit the application. The appointment is given within 2 weeks up to 2 months and during this time beneficiaries of international protection do not have access to all rights afforded by the law, such as access to state benefits and access to the labour office. Nevertheless, other rights are accessible during this time, including basic Education for children, Health Care, as well as Access to the Labour Market, as the decision granting the status will suffice as proof that the person has a right to work under the same conditions as nationals.
From the submission of the application for the residence permit, another 2-3 months will often elapse until the permit is issued. However, during this period, and as a result of advocacy interventions from NGOs and UNHCR, the receipt that is given when the application for the permit is submitted is accepted to access all rights. The only remaining issue during this period is the refusal of commercial banks to open bank accounts until the actual permit is issued, which in turn may affect access to state benefits as a bank account is required in order to submit the application for benefits.