Cyprus and the Schengen Zone: Update on the Prospects of Joining

By Marios Konstantinou

Updated: May 19, 2024

The Schengen Zone allows speedy travel from one country to another without unnecessary formalities. This association includes 29 countries.

Is Cyprus in the Schengen zone?

As of May 2024, Cyprus is not part of the Schengen Zone. However, the process of joining the Schengen Zone has started.

This means that national visas issued by the Embassies of Cyprus are valid for Cyprus only. They do not permit the holder to enter other Schengen zone countries.

Latest updates

On November 21, 2023, Cyprus Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos announced that one of the key foreign ministry goals in 2024 is to join the Schengen Area. This objective is part of the ministry's action plan and budget, which has been increased by 8.9% to support this initiative. Access to the Schengen Area is crucial for Cyprus in achieving broader objectives, such as national protection and reunification (source).

On July 25, 2023, Cyprus successfully issued its first alerts in the Schengen Information System (SIS), marking a significant milestone for the European Union. This integration makes Cyprus the latest of the 34 participants, including 25 EU Member States and 4 Associated Countries, to operate the SIS fully. The SIS is a critical IT system for border management and internal security in Europe, facilitating the exchange of information on persons and objects of interest among national authorities (source).

Schengen area countries

As of May 2024, the Schengen Area comprises 29 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

What is the Schengen Zone?

The European Union (EU) provides standardized laws for 27 different countries. Members share a single market where all members act as one, allowing for the free movement of goods. The EU applies standardization to travel, permitting free movement of people.

The Schengen Area (or Schengen Zone) is a border-checks-free area that allows free movement for nearly all EU citizens and third-country nationals with a Schengen visa. Travellers can travel from one country to another without passport checks or other formalities.

Non-EU citizens travelling to Europe can apply for a Schengen visa. This allows them to travel to any member for 90 days.

Also, the EU is implementing a new system called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Under ETIAS, non-EU citizens must complete an online application with a biometric passport. ETIAS is expected to be active in May 2025 (source etias.com).

Travellers can apply online, and the process should not take longer than 10 minutes. Visas last for three years and allow for multiple entries during that time.

The Schengen Countries Zone also dictates cooperation amongst national police and judicial systems. Police from one country can pursue a suspect in another. Courts allow for the extradition of suspects quickly.

Not all EU nations are included in the Schengen agreement: Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ireland. Also, some are in the Zone without being EU member countries: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

The Benefits of Cyprus in the Schengen Zone

Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 and adopted the Euro in 2008, creating economic standardization. However, it hasn't joined the Zone due to continued disputes over Cyprus's national borders.

Cyprus is difficult to access as an island nation. As such, it would receive far fewer benefits from the Zone than nearly all European nations. However, substantial gains are still expected.

Almost four million people visited Cyprus in 2019, and the total revenue from tourism was 2.7 billion Euros. Income from tourism accounts for more than 20 per cent of the country's GDP.

Making access to Cyprus easier will increase tourism. When Switzerland joined the Zone, its tourism numbers shot up.

Cyprus will see an increase in immigration and cross-border trade. Bilateral trade between two members of the Zone increases by .09 per cent annually.

Border controls are costly in themselves. Waiting in long lines means less time to work, which drives down productivity. Workers can head directly into Cyprus and work immediately, driving money into the local economy.

Real Estate Prices

If Cyprus joins Schengen, real estate prices will increase. This is because the demand will soar. Non-nationals will probably have most of the country's real estate, developing it into high-end projects.

It is unclear how high prices will rise. Returns on investments may vary, but investors can expect some sort of profit.

Nicosia and Limassol are the two biggest metropolitan areas in the country. Both are cities on the rise, with fast-growing cultural and industrial hubs. Purchasing and selling real estate in either area will likely lead to substantial profits.

Also, an important aspect that will affect the increase in demand will be the following: Once Cyprus joins Schengen members, its permanent residency will equal a Schengen visa. This allows passport-free travel in the zone and will be very attractive for foreigners, and thus, the demand for residency through property investment is expected to increase.

Joining the Zone

In September 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides announced that Cyprus had started the process of joining and getting Schengen membership. All EU member states are required to apply (in case they wish to join) so that the evaluation process can start.

States must meet several requirements, but Cyprus is meeting them. In November, experts with the EU assessed whether Cyprus could protect travellers' personal information. They concluded that the country could.

The country now must show that it can maintain border integrity and security. This is especially important because Cyprus is an island. Cypriots cannot pool resources with others to protect the border.

It is unclear when Cyprus will receive formal approval to join.

Can you go to Cyprus with a Schengen visa?

It is possible to enter Cyprus with a valid Schengen Visa (category C, double or multiple entries). This type of visa is regarded as identical to a national entry visa. It allows transit or entry and stay for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.

The Cyprus-Schengen Relationship

Cyprus is about to join the Schengen Zone in 2024. The Schengen Zone is a union of more than two dozen European countries. The Cyprus-Schengen relationship will fuel tourism and increase trade. Real estate demand and prices are expected to rise. The application process is ongoing, but Cyprus has passed its first requirements.

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