Cyprus startup visa scheme for technological entrepreneurs

PUBLICATIONS / Articles / 2017 / Cyprus startup visa scheme for technological entrepreneurs
Cyprus is aimed to attract top talents from all over the world with fast-track visas program for technological entrepreneurs. Apart from the attractive lifestyle of an island, convenient time-zone, and perfect weather conditions, the programme provides a place with lower operational costs than in mainland Europe and which has a competitive, EU-approved tax regime.

Entrepreneurs from the EU have already considered Cyprus with the conditions above, but these individuals do not need a resident visa. Now, it is time for tech-oriented start-ups benefit from the EU based tax-regime.

The start-up visa scheme for non-EU nationals, launched in February, is designed to give a further boost the island’s start-up ecosystem, which is learning and growing from an influx of some of the best brains in the field. Successful applicants initially get the right to live and work in Cyprus for at least a year.

In case, after two years, the enterprise is judged to be successful or demonstrates real potential to become a job-creating success, the visas can be extended for an indefinite period.

The programme is open to a sole founder of a start-up or a team of up to five. A founder must have access to €50,000 in capital, and their company’s head offices need to be registered in Cyprus.

Big tech players in Cyprus

Several global tech giants have well-established head offices in Cyprus, among them Viber, an online communications program that competes with Skype, and Wargaming, one of the world’s most popular and profitable publishers of video games.

In 2010 a team of foreign nationals, who needed a place within the EU with good taxation, set up Viber with headquarters in Limassol, Cyprus. Viber grew rapidly and in 2014 was bought by the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for $900 million. Viber’s founders each realised a multiple returns on their investments after paying the standard Cyprus company tax rate of 12.5 percent on their gains.

Another good example is a new arrival in Cyprus -Whipper, a “chat and play” gamified digital messaging platform aimed at millennials, which opened its headquarters in Limassol in June 2017. Its founding team includes executives, investors and advisors from Netflix, Riot Games, Amazon, Swiftkey, Expedia, and Viber.

Moreover, given that Cyprus already has a flourishing expatriate Russian-speaking business community, the programme is also expected to attract prospective tech entrepreneurs in Russian-speaking countries.

The global success of Wargaming, which has its headquarters in Nicosia, serves as a motivation for new tech entrepreneurs. The company began as a five-man startup in Minsk in 1998 and now employs several thousand people with 16 offices worldwide. Wargaming has made a billionaire of its Belarusian-born founder, Victor Kislyi, a chess champion and physicist by training, who resides in Nicosia when not travelling.

The visa scheme will also appeal to businesspeople from China, now a world leader in the technological industry. Recently, Cyprus has become home and gateway to EU market to a growing Chinese business community.
Applicants must be able to show why and how the startup is innovative. In the case of an already existing startup, an external auditor must certify that at least 10 percent of the operational expenses went to research and development in at least one of the previous three years. For a new enterprise, the evaluation is based on the startup’s business plan.

A delegation from the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) will be in Dubai in October to promote Cypriot startups and the Cyprus startup visa scheme at Gitex Technology Week, an annual global showcase for the tech industry that attracts a huge and influential audience.

The reason is that Cyprus is on the doorstep of the Middle East, the visa programme so far has generated the most interest from tech entrepreneurs in countries from the region. They are attracted by the benefits of doing business in Cyprus while home is just a short flight away.

To know more about registering your entity in Cyprus or start-up visa scheme you can contact our team at Freemont offices in Limassol or Nicosia.

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