THOUSANDS of European expats could face prosecution because they lack alien registration certificates and are unaware that the government has scrapped their ID cards, it emerged this week.
The discovery was made after one British permanent resident tried to replace her stolen Cyprus ID at a citizens’ service centre (CSC) but was told the card she carried since 2000 and its associated ID number were obsolete.
Instead, the Nicosia CSC officer told her she must return to the immigration office to apply for an alien’s registration certificate (ARC) or ‘yellow slip’ in order to access the services their cards provided.
Last year the Interior Ministry withdrew ID cards for non Cypriots who were not permanent residents, pending the introduction of a new biometric ID card.
However, the ministry confirmed the rules apply to all non Cypriots, regardless their marital or residential status, length of stay or the type of ID card, and that biometric cards will not be given to non Cypriots.
The outraged expat, who arrived in 1991, married a Cypriot in 1998 and received her Cyprus ID card in 2000 told the Sunday Mail: “It’s bloody ridiculous. I have been here 20 years. I have jumped through every government hoop imaginable, and to be told I now have to go and get a residents’ permit is ludicrous.”
Without the old ID, she has already run into problems at her local bank, which had continued to identify her by the obsolete number: “My passport and driver’s license were stolen with my ID, so in the end I had to ask my sister in law, who works at the bank, to vouch for me.”
“What happens now when I want to take my children to the hospital? Do I have to register as an alien when I am already a permanent resident?” She said.
A health ministry official confirmed that anyone who can demonstrate that they are an EU citizen, working and paying social insurance contributions can access government medical care.
He said those who previously had ID cards could register with their passports and social security information, however, the registration is much quicker and simpler for the health ministry with a yellow slip.
Another problem is that the yellow slip is needed to get a driving licence, so driving abroad is now impossible for this expat until she re-registers.
After several weeks of calling, the Sunday Mail eventually tracked down Immigration Services head Anny Shakkali, who said: “We stopped issuing ID cards (to EU citizens) last year. Now all non Cypriots should carry an aliens’ registration certificate. They cannot use their ID cards.”
The change in policy means it is not only permanent residents with foreign passports who now have to face the nightmarish and lengthy bureaucratic process of yellow slip applications.
EU citizens who were issued the foreigners’ ID cards must also get yellow slips, or face a fine of up to €2,539.
Shakkali claimed it was “impossible” for anyone to live in Cyprus for more than a year without obtaining the aliens registration certificate, despite having referred several cases to the police for prosecution. So how many are in this situation now?
The ministry does not know, but the total could be substantial: Shakalli acknowledged “tens of thousands” of Europeans had obtained ID cards over the years, although these people were not tracked in and out of Cyprus.
An informal survey of several EU expats by the Sunday Mail also showed several had been here longer than three months without obtaining their slips, and some who were still in possession of their redundant ID cards.
Last year, for example, the Sunday Mail reported the story of British expat Malcolm Jester, who moved to Cyprus in 1993, married a Cypriot and in 1995 began working in a kiosk, without registering: it was only when he was admitted to hospital in 2011 when he had been ‘off the radar’ for 18 years. He was landed with a €4,000 medical bill.
Jester’s story suggests that if you are long term expat with an ID card but no yellow slip, it pays to jump through the hoops before anything goes wrong.
To do this, you will need to visit the immigration office and provide several completed forms, photographs, a nominal registration fee and your passport.
By Patrick Dewhurst
Published on March 4, 2012