A recent survey commissioned by NatWest Bank relating to retiring abroad, the nations people favour for their overseas retirement and the reasons for considering leaving the UK behind revealed many interesting findings such as the fact that cost and standard of living are driving factors behind many would-be expatriate retirees’ thoughts about moving abroad when they retire. Today we will be speaking about retiring to North Cyprus and whether it is a good choice to set up a retirement home.
Until a few short years ago the only expats living in North Cyprus were a tiny, close-knit community of people who had lived through the 1974 troubles or who had ties and links to the island following the division of Cyprus. They understood the politics, appreciated the people, revelled in the fact that they had beautiful North Cyprus practically to themselves and lived with the day to day problems the local people had to endure such as power cuts and water shortages.
And then came investment to the island, a raising of awareness of the delights of North Cyprus, Cyprus’s entry into the European Union and a slow but steady increase in the number of expatriates moving to North Cyprus to set up home.
This has had a number of knock on effects – both positive and negative!
On the positive side of things it has brought investment into infrastructure so that road and air access has vastly improved, there are far fewer power cuts, and even the water shortage problems are being addressed. Additionally, there are expatriate communities along the coast from Tatlisu and Esentepe in the East to Karsiyaka and Lapta in the West. There are pubs and clubs, organised activities and many events which expats and locals alike all get involved with – and so those moving to live in North Cyprus today can have as active and varied a social life as they choose.
On the negative side of things property prices have been pushed up, there are the inevitable ‘British pubs’ serving all day breakfasts now to be found in corners of Northern Cyprus and the shops, banks, roads and even flights to and from the island are far busier!
In terms of the realities of retiring to Northern Cyprus there are many facts and aspects to consider.
First things first, property in TRNC may have gone up in value but it is still for sale at a fraction of the price it is in the UK or in south Cyprus for example. Having said that, not all property in North Cyprus is well built and a great deal of due diligence has to be done by the purchaser before they sign any contract on a property. If you’re buying off plan ensure you’re buying from a developer with a proven track record. If buying anything at all ensure there is no mortgage on the land you’re buying on and make sure that the vendor has the clear right to sell. Also, appraise yourself of the different types of title deeds available for real estate and make sure you have water tight build guarantees written in to your contract. I.e., get a good lawyer!
Next up, if you’re going to be living in North Cyprus year round, get central heating put in to your villa or apartment. Don’t argue – just do it! Temperatures dropped so low in Cyprus sometimes that earlier this month snow fell in lower lying areas and elsewhere there were hail storms and horrible howling winds. For a short period of the year, the weather in Cyprus is horrible, you will want and need central heating and you will regret it if you do not have it.
Next up – the cost of day to day living in TRNC can be more than affordable. However – if you insist on being a heavy consumer of electricity and petrol you will find your expenses soon add up each month. Also, if you insist on shopping in Tempo and Lemar for English brand products rather than buying in season fruit and vegetables and whatever is more readily available on the day from the butcher, you will again see your living expenses stack up! Simply put, if you shop like the locals do and think about what you consume you will enjoy an affordable cost of living.
The good news for those who like eating out and going to the pub to socialise sometimes is that there are so many pubs and cafes and restaurants and the vast majority of them are affordable if not cheap, so you will be able to enjoy a varied and enjoyable social side of life for less when living in TRNC.
As a British retiree or someone retiring to the island who holds an EU passport, you can take up residency in Northern Cyprus easily. You have to begin the residency process within three months of arrival on the island – DO NOT leave it longer as you will be fined for each day over three months that you stay! You go to the main police station in Kyrenia, Famagusta or Nicosia with your passport, you then have to have a brief medical test at an authorised clinic, provide proof of your address and that you have the means to support yourself, get what’s called your ‘in and out certificate’ from the main police station in Nicosia, (this is a piece of paper showing how many times you have entered and left the country prior to applying for residency), and then you take all the paper work to the immigration department in Nicosia and sit back and wait for a stamp to appear in your passport! It sounds complicated but it really isn’t – however, because it does require you to put in a few hour’s leg work running between all the official offices, you can employ a runner to do all the hard work for you.
To find a runner contact the British Residents’ Society, visit the Friday market at the Pegasus pub which is in Karaoglanoglu, or ask round the local pub for some help! It really is that informal and easy. You need to renew your residency every year for five years and then you can apply for permanent residency. The rules change all the time though, so just ask at the police station when you go there for advice about the current rules.
In terms of getting your pension income when you live in Northern Cyprus – the best way is to retain your UK bank account, get the money paid into that and either access the cash with a hole in the wall card as and when you need money, or open an account in the TRNC and pay a cheque from your UK account into it each month. If you do an international transfer it will cost you a fortune, but if you pay a British cheque into your account it costs little or nothing – however, it can take a month to clear!
As you will be resident in Northern Cyprus you can de-register for tax in your previous nation by contacting the tax authority there and telling them that you have moved abroad. When they accept that you are no longer tax resident you become liable for income tax on your pension in Northern Cyprus. However, this is only on the money you remit to the country and you should take advice on how to handle your financial affairs from a tax adviser or accountant. There are many Brits living on the island who keep all of their money in an account external to the nation and therefore pay little or no tax. Whether this is legal or advisable for you depends on your own personal circumstances – again, we reiterate that you must take advice and this article does NOT constitute advice!
Finally – in terms of considering Northern Cyprus as an attractive retirement destination it does have a great deal in its favour. It is beautiful, for the majority of the year it has a fabulous climate, property is affordable, the cost of living can be cheap, the standard of living can be on a par with that you would enjoy in the UK, you can legally move to the island and potentially even reduce your tax bill. Health care is affordable and readily available – although retiring expats should consider a private health insurance policy. If you look at health insurance make sure you’re covered in North Cyprus and also think about what you would do if you needed long term care – there are not the same facilities in Northern Cyprus as there are in the UK for example.
As a potential nation for retirement abroad, Northern Cyprus is certainly a strong contender.