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Cyprus has emerged as a prominent financial hub within the European Union, boasting an advantageous blend of accessibility, favourable taxation, and stringent regulatory standards. The banking services sector, in particular, offers substantial allure, notably through the acquisition of a Cyprus banking licence. This licence is instrumental for rendering services within the European Union and presents numerous advantages. However, securing such a licence demands a profound understanding of the Cypriot legal framework alongside European standards and regulations.

This article serves as a brief guide to the process of obtaining a banking licence in Cyprus, delineating all requisite steps and requirements for prospective applicants. We delve into the legal foundation, documentation prerequisites, procedural intricacies, and furnish recommendations to streamline the licensing journey.

Legal framework for banking licences in Cyprus

Against the backdrop of escalating global financial regulatory standards, Cyprus assumes a strategic stance as a major European financial centre, furnishing unparalleled opportunities for international banking institutions and investment firms. Central to this paradigm is the Cypriot legal framework, meticulously crafted to mirror and meet the highest international standards and conventions.

Cypriot legislation articulates a stringent regulatory framework for the functioning of financial entities via the Credit Institutions Law. This statute delineates exhaustive criteria and prerequisites for institutions desiring to engage in banking activities within the jurisdiction, encompassing capital adequacy, risk management, and corporate governance. Additionally, it articulates the conditions for application and the criteria underpinning the issuance of banking licences by the Central Bank of Cyprus.

Cyprus is mandated to integrate into its national legislation the directives of the EU pertinent to the financial sector, including the CRD IV, the BRRD, and the CRR. This assimilation ensures uniformity in regulation within Cyprus in consonance with European norms, bolstering investor protection and fortifying the resilience of the financial infrastructure.

The CBC assumes the mantle of primary regulator and overseer of the financial sector within the island. Endowed with extensive powers, the CBC is entrusted with the issuance of licences to credit institutions and the routine monitoring and supervision thereof. This remit encompasses an appraisal of the financial soundness of banks, the competence of their management, and the efficacy of risk control and management protocols. Furthermore, the Central Bank retains the authority to intervene in instances of financial irregularities or malpractices, thereby upholding a high standard of customer interest protection and perpetuating the stability of the financial infrastructure at large.

Supervision and regulation of banking activities in Cyprus

The European CB assumes a pivotal role in shaping monetary policy within the eurozone and exercises direct oversight over the region's premier banks through the SSM mechanism. Within the framework of the SSM, the ECB meticulously evaluates banking risks, verifies compliance with European standards, and retains the authority to implement corrective measures to forestall banking crises. For banks operating in Cyprus, as members of the eurozone, this translates to direct oversight by the ECB for the largest institutions, thereby ensuring an augmented level of stability and security.

The local CB serves as the principal regulatory and supervisory authority for the banking sector within the island. Tasked with the licensing of banks within the Cyprus jurisdiction, the CBC oversees ongoing supervision and regulation of banking activities in alignment with national legislative frameworks and EU regulations. The CBC conducts periodic assessments and audits to ascertain banks' compliance with capital and liquidity prerequisites, in addition to evaluating the efficacy of their risk management protocols.

Routine assessments and audits

The CBC routinely undertakes assessments and audits of banks to gauge their financial robustness, risk management protocols, and adherence to regulatory mandates. These evaluations encompass both routine annual audits and ad hoc inspections triggered by identified risks or emergent issues. The overarching objective of such audits is to foster transparency within the banking sector and preclude economic disarray.

Cypriot banking institutions are mandated to exemplify unwavering adherence to standards of professional integrity, thereby earning the trust of both clientele and regulatory entities. This necessitates steadfast commitment to principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability. Integral to this ethos is the implementation of both global and local regulations pertaining to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing initiatives.

Taxation of banking organizations in Cyprus

The fiscal framework of Cyprus constitutes a cornerstone of its allure as a financial hub. Banks operating within Cyprus are subject to an array of tax obligations.

Aligned with other legal entities domiciled on the island, banks are obliged to remit corporate tax on income at 12.5%, positioning Cyprus with one of the most competitive rates within the European Union. This levy applies to income garnered both domestically and internationally. Notably, income derived from securities transactions enjoys tax exemption, thereby enhancing the attractiveness of investment endeavours within Cyprus.

The majority of banking and financial services are exempt from VAT. Nevertheless, ancillary services tangential to core banking activities may be subject to VAT at the standard rate of 19%. Banks are mandated to register for VAT if they furnish taxable services, notwithstanding the predominant exemption of their activities from value added tax obligations.

Expansive financial operations under a banking licence in Cyprus

A banking licence in Cyprus empowers financial institutions to deliver a comprehensive suite of financial services and transactions, thereby facilitating seamless customer service and global business endeavours. Below, we outline the key activities permissible under a banking licence in Cyprus.

Depository services

Foremost among the services sanctioned by a Cyprus banking licence is the acceptance of deposits from both individuals and corporate entities. This encompasses the establishment and management of depositor accounts, alongside the provision of diverse savings products with varying profitability conditions and terms. Deposits serve as the cornerstone for financial institutions to fund various operations, including the extension of loans.

Lending facilities

The licensing of banks in Cyprus confers the prerogative to extend loans to individuals and organisations alike. This encompasses consumer lending, mortgage facilities, corporate loans, and an array of other loan products. Furthermore, it encompasses the provision of guarantees and collateral, as well as the facilitation of clients' commercial activities through financing solutions.

Payment services

Cypriot credit institutions are empowered to furnish an extensive spectrum of payment services, streamlining monetary transactions domestically and internationally. Such services encompass bank transfers, issuance, and management of payment cards, cheque processing, and the facilitation of online payment systems.

Trading in financial instruments

Banks licensed in Cyprus are authorised to engage in trading activities involving a broad array of financial instruments, both on behalf of clients and for proprietary trading purposes. This encompasses transactions involving securities, currency pairs (Forex), derivative financial instruments (such as futures and options), and other financial products across international and domestic markets.

Provision of payment and EMI services 

An intriguing facet of a banking licence in Cyprus is the ability to provide payment services and electronic money issuance services sans the necessity for a separate licence. This broadens the horizons for financial institutions, empowering them to introduce innovative fintech solutions and furnish clients with contemporary and user-friendly mechanisms for payment processing and capital management.

Bank licensing procedure 

In Cyprus, the process of obtaining a banking licence entails a meticulous, multistep procedure that demands rigorous preparation and attention to detail. The Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) serves as the primary regulatory authority, meticulously evaluating applications against predefined standards and criteria. Below, we outline the key stages and assessment criteria employed by the CBC when reviewing applications for a banking licence.

Stages of application review

1. Preparatory stage:

Prospective applicants are advised to thoroughly acquaint themselves with Cyprus legislation, EU directives, and the regulatory prerequisites stipulated by the Central Bank of Cyprus pertaining to the establishment and operation of credit institutions.

It is advisable to engage in preliminary consultations with the Central Bank and, if necessary, seek guidance from financial and legal advisors to discuss the intricacies of the proposed activities and licensing criteria.

2. Documentation compilation:

Applicants are required to compile and submit a comprehensive array of documents.

3. Submission of application:

Upon compilation of the requisite documentation, the application, along with the complete set of documents, must be formally submitted to the Central Bank.

4. Application assessment:

The CBC conducts a preliminary examination of the submitted documents to ascertain their completeness and adherence to basic requirements. Subsequently, a thorough analysis of the provided information ensues, encompassing evaluation of the business model, financial performance, management team, and risk management systems.

Evaluation criteria:

  • Evaluation of the authorized capital to ensure compliance with requirements.
  • Examination of financial projections and the institution's capacity to attain financial sustainability.
  • Evaluation of the governance structure and corporate governance procedures for adequacy and effectiveness.
  • Assessment of the reputation and professional aptitude of managers and key stakeholders.
  • Verification of the institution’s adherence to Cyprus legislation, EU directives, and international standards.
  • Evaluation of the presence and adequacy of risk management systems, covering financial, operational, and market risks.
  • Comprehensive scrutiny of the business plan to ascertain its viability, encompassing the marketing strategy, product portfolio, and growth strategy.

Upon completion of all review stages, and if the assessment yields positive outcomes, the Central Bank of Cyprus issues a decision to grant a banking licence to the financial institution in Cyprus. Approval of the application confers upon the institution the right to conduct banking operations in accordance with Cyprus legislation and regulatory prerequisites.

Required documentation for banking licence application in Cyprus:

The submission of an application for licensing a banking institution in Cyprus necessitates the provision of a comprehensive dossier of documents, delineating all facets of the applicant’s activities, aligned with the criteria stipulated by the Central Bank of Cyprus. The following is an exhaustive list of documentation and information that must be prepared and submitted during the licensing process:

  1. Application for licensing: a formal written request addressed to the Central Bank of Cyprus seeking a banking licence.
  2. Charter: constituent documents, including the organization's charter, registered within the jurisdiction of Cyprus.
  3. Certificate of registration: official certificate validating company registration.
  4. Business Plan: Elaborate development plan outlining the bank's trajectory, encompassing marketing strategies, financial forecasts spanning 3–5 years, risk analysis, and mitigation strategies.
  5. Policies and procedures: documentation delineating internal policies and procedures, including risk management protocols, AML/CTF/KYC procedures, and personal data protection protocols.
  6. Biographies and professional resumes of the management team, affirming their qualifications and experience within the finance sector.
  7. Certificates affirming the good conduct of each member of management and key shareholders of the organization.
  8. Documentary evidence confirming the amount of authorized capital meeting CBC requirements.
  9. Independent audit reports for the preceding three years for operating enterprises associated with the applicant, if applicable.
  10. Outline of methods and processes for monitoring and managing financial, operational, and market risks.
  11. Strategic action plan delineating measures for restoring operations in the event of financial impediments or other emergencies.

All documents must be translated into Greek or English. Diligent adherence to the stipulations set forth by the CBC enhances the likelihood of a successful banking licence application in Cyprus.

Applicants' requirements for a banking licence in Cyprus

Securing a banking licence in Cyprus necessitates stringent adherence to a plethora of prerequisites established by the CBC. These requisites encompass legal compliance, minimum initial capital thresholds, and the proficiency of executive leadership. The overarching objective is to fortify the stability and dependability of the nation's financial framework.

Legal entity registration:

Prospective applicants must be registered as a legal entity within the confines of the Republic of Cyprus. This may entail the establishment of a new entity or the expansion of existing companies seeking to augment their service portfolio through the inclusion of banking activities.

Authorized capital:

To procure a banking licence in Cyprus, a min. authorized capital is mandated, the magnitude of which is determined by the Central Bank and may vary contingent upon the nature of envisaged operations. Ordinarily, this threshold stands at no less than €5 million. Applicants are obligated to furnish substantiation of the requisite authorized capital in the form of bank statements or documentation attesting to their readiness and capacity to inject the stipulated funds.

Executive leadership qualifications:

Executive directors and key managerial personnel are mandated to possess appropriate educational qualifications and professional acumen in finance, banking, or risk management. A track record of occupying managerial roles within the financial sector is regarded as advantageous.

Impeccable business reputation:

Officials must uphold an unblemished business reputation devoid of instances of bankruptcy, criminal prosecution, or financial malfeasance. Scrutiny of reputation may entail the procurement of certificates from law enforcement agencies or ancillary documentation validating the integrity and probity of candidates.

Preference for Cyprus residents:

While not invariably obligatory, preference is accorded to candidates domiciled in Cyprus to ensure their accessibility for operational exigencies and interactions with regulatory entities.

Adherence to these stipulations is pivotal for the successful acquisition of a banking licence in Cyprus. Prospective applicants are urged to undertake comprehensive preparatory measures for the application process, with meticulous attention directed towards the precision and comprehensiveness of furnished information. Collaboration with adept legal advisors can significantly streamline this process, amplifying the likelihood of securing a licensing endorsement.

How not to make a mistake when choosing a jurisdiction to obtain a banking licence?

Selecting the appropriate jurisdiction for obtaining a banking licence is a crucial decision that requires meticulous consideration and comprehensive evaluation. To minimize the risk of making mistakes in this process, consider the following strategies:

  1. Conduct thorough research: start by conducting extensive research on potential jurisdictions. Evaluate factors such as political stability, regulatory framework, tax policies, economic environment, and legal system. This will provide a comprehensive understanding of the jurisdiction's suitability for your banking operations.
  2. Assess regulatory environment: analyse the regulatory environment of each jurisdiction under consideration. Look for jurisdictions with robust regulatory frameworks that prioritize stability, transparency, and investor protection. Consider factors such as the reputation of regulatory authorities, adherence to international standards, and the ease of compliance with regulatory requirements.
  3. Consider economic and political stability: stability in economic and political domains is essential for the long-term viability of a banking operation. Choose jurisdictions with a stable political environment, sound economic fundamentals, and a low risk of geopolitical instability. This will help mitigate risks associated with economic downturns or political upheavals.
  4. Evaluate tax regime: assess the tax regime of each jurisdiction, including corporate tax rates, tax incentives for banking institutions, and any tax treaties in place. Select jurisdictions with favourable tax policies that align with your business objectives and minimize tax liabilities.
  5. Review legal system and infrastructure: consider the quality and efficiency of the legal system and infrastructure in each jurisdiction. Look for jurisdictions with well-established legal frameworks, efficient dispute resolution mechanisms, and modern banking infrastructure. This will facilitate smooth operations and ensure legal compliance.
  6. Seek expert advice: consult legal advisors, financial experts, and industry professionals who specialize in banking and regulatory matters. They can provide valuable insights, assess the pros and cons of different jurisdictions, and help navigate complex regulatory requirements.
  7. Consider market access: evaluate the jurisdiction's access to markets and potential for business growth. Choose jurisdictions with access to international markets, strategic geographic location, and opportunities for expansion.
  8. Conduct due diligence: perform thorough due diligence on each jurisdiction under consideration. Investigate factors such as the jurisdiction's reputation, track record of regulatory compliance, and any past regulatory issues or controversies. This will help identify any red flags or risks associated with the jurisdiction.

By following these strategies and conducting diligent research and analysis, you can mitigate the risk of making mistakes when deciding a jurisdiction to obtain a banking licence. It's essential to approach the decision-making process with caution, attention to detail, and a focus on long-term sustainability and success.


In summary, securing a banking licence in Cyprus represents a strategic move for organisations aiming to expand their global footprint and capitalise on the jurisdiction's advantageous offerings. However, navigating the licensing process demands meticulous preparation, keen attention to detail, and a profound understanding of Cypriot laws and regulations.

Throughout the licensing journey, businesses may encounter various hurdles in meeting prescribed procedures and criteria. In such instances, the expertise of a reputable law firm like IQ Decision can prove invaluable. Possessing profound knowledge of Cypriot law and regulatory intricacies, coupled with extensive experience in financial law, IQ Decision stands poised to deliver comprehensive advisory services, including:

  • Preparation and submission of documentation for licence acquisition.
  • Consulting on corporate governance and structural considerations.
  • Assistance in adhering to tax obligations and optimising tax burdens.
  • Support throughout routine inspections and audits conducted by regulatory bodies.

By engaging the services of IQ Decision, companies can streamline the process of obtaining a banking licence in Cyprus, mitigate risks, and expedite the realisation of their business objectives within both the Cyprus and international financial arenas. With a commitment to excellence and client satisfaction, IQ Decision serves as a trusted partner in navigating the complexities of the banking licensing landscape.