According to the Refugee Law, recognised refugees are granted, as soon as possible, a residence permit valid for three years. The permit is renewable for three-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 of family members of beneficiaries of refugee status that do not qualify individually as refugees to be valid for less than three years renewable, however in practice this limitation was 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 one year is issued as soon as possible after international protection has been granted. This permit is renewable for two-year periods for the duration of the status. Again, there is no possibility for such permits to be renewed for longer periods.
Moreover, 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.
In practice, long delays are systematically encountered in the issuance and renewal of residence permits for both refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and during 2022 delays increased due to the CRMD prioritising Temporary protection holders who receive their residence permits within 5-7 working days on average. Specifically, a BIP, once granted international protection or in the case of renewal, is required to book an appointment on the online platform of the CRMD in order to submit the application in the city in which they are living (if in Nicosia at the CRMD Office, for other cities at the AIU of the that city). Depending on the city, appointments are extremely scarce and can take up to 6 months to secure one. Furthermore, and based on many complaints, throughout 2022, the scarcity in appointments was mainly due to the online platform being abused by agents who book appointments and would then sell these. In early 2023 the operation of online platform was gradually terminated due to the abuse.
From the submission of the application to issue a residence permit another 4-5 months will elapse until the permit is issued. 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 certain rights, such as state assistance via the Guaranteed Minimum Income scheme. However, there are rights that cannot be accessed or are problematic to access such as access to the health system, social schemes for persons with disabilities and opening of bank accounts. Access to a bank account also impacts employment as employers request a bank account to transfer salaries and may refuse to hire or proceed to terminate employment, furthermore, employers are often reluctant to hire or maintain employment of an BIP whose residence permit is not valid in fear that they may be employing someone without legal status.
Regarding family members, up to 2019 the CRMD issued residence permits for family members of recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection that did not exist prior to the entry of the refugee into Cyprus; the permits referred to a ‘spouse or child of a refugee. In 2019, the CRMD ceased this practice with the justification that it did not have a legal basis and was merely a practice. However, since then the CRMD has not provided an effective alternative status or residence permit leaving persons who have been living for many years in the country without status, residence permit, access to rights, and in many cases leading to loss of employment and the main income of the family. Specifically, in the case of family members of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, as this status is mostly granted to Syrian nationals, their family members will be granted protection on their own right, however this policy affects mixed marriages of Syrians with third country nationals where again the CRMD refuses to provide a status with rights.
The Ombudsman in a report on the issue and the Commissioner for Rights of the Child in response to complaints submitted have both identified it as a gap in the law that violates the principle of family unity, calling on legislative amendments and for the administration to take steps to identify an interim solution in the meantime. To date no legislative amendments have taken place. From 2020 and continuing in 2022, the Asylum Service has set up a procedure by which they assess the protection needs of family members. If it is decided that there are protection needs, a decision is issued granting international protection which includes the names of the family members. However, in practice such decisions have been issued only for minor children of beneficiaries of protection and not for spouses or adult children, leaving them without status, and access to rights. According to the CRMD, spouses will receive a humanitarian status without defining if they will have access to rights; humanitarian status as it currently stands provides a right to remain but no access to rights (exceptionally the right to labour may be provided). At the end of 2022, such decisions were issued by the CRMD which granted humanitarian status to the spouse and/or parent of BIP, according to which the “special residence permit” was valid for 12 months, granting the right to work, subject to the authorisation of the Labour Department. However, the residence permit will be issued only once and before the expiration of the 12 months, the applicant has to apply for a residence permit for employment reasons, which requires a specific employer to support the application.
 Article 18A Refugee Law.
 Article 19(4) Refugee Law.
 Articles 18A and 19(4) Refugee Law.
 Based on information from beneficiaries/cases represented by the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Cyprus Mail, ‘Government admits abuse in migration department’, available at: http://bit.ly/3LRW4Qx; Politis, ‘He knew about the agents… at the Migration Department and Nouris turned a blind eye’ available at: http://bit.ly/3TQG8jf; Phileleftheros, ‘Brake on online appointments by the Migration Department – Abuse by agents’ available at: http://bit.ly/42IGm02.
 Report of the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights regarding the Family Unity of beneficiaries of International Protection, ‘Έκθεση Επιτρόπου Διοικήσεως και Προστασίας Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων αναφορικά με την Οικογενειακή Ενότητα δικαιούχων Διεθνούς Προστασίας’ available at: https://bit.ly/3nsaoF1.
 Based on the response to individual complaints submitted by the Cyprus Refugee Council before the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child.
 Based on information from the representation of beneficiaries of International Protection by the Cyprus Refugee Council.