Payment system licence in Cyprus - YB Case 2024

Payment system licence in Cyprus

Payment system licence in Cyprus

Cyprus, due to its strategic geographical location and favourable tax policies, has become a focal point for numerous fintech companies and investors seeking to expand their presence within the European market. Acquiring a payment system licence in Cyprus presents extensive opportunities for companies to operate within the European Union, facilitating access to established infrastructure and international payment systems.

This topic presents a comprehensive examination of the prerequisites, procedures, and pivotal aspects entailed in acquiring a payment system licence in Cyprus. We will delineate the legal framework, elucidate the role and stipulations mandated by the Central Bank of Cyprus, explicate the procedural steps for application, and delve into the oversight of licensed entities. Furthermore, this discourse will expound upon the benefits of licensed operations, including tax advantages and prospects for international business expansion.

Overview of the nation's financial market and its attractiveness for fintech companies

The Cyprus financial market has consistently demonstrated robust growth and development, rendering the island an enticing nucleus for international investments and pioneering advancements within the fintech sector. The regulatory milieu, established upon European standards and directives, furnishes propitious conditions for the operation and advancement of fintech entities. The island offers a distinctive amalgamation of financial instruments and services, underpinned by highly proficient professionals and contemporary IT infrastructure.

A pivotal factor rendering Cyprus appealing to fintech enterprises is its tax strategy. With a corporate tax rate pegged at 12.5%, Cyprus boasts one of the most competitive rates within the European Union, thereby alleviating the tax burden on enterprises. Moreover, the existence of numerous double taxation prevention agreements with over 60 countries enhances avenues for tax planning and mitigates tax risks.

The legal framework in Cyprus, predicated on English law principles, ensures lucidity and predictability in commercial undertakings. The regulatory framework, aligned with the latest European regulations and directives, delineates explicit criteria for the regulation of payment services, virtual currencies, and data protection within Cypriot jurisdiction, furnishing a robust foundation for innovation and expansion of fintech ventures.

Significantly, Cyprus actively fosters technological and financial innovation, cultivating an optimal environment for both nascent startups and established enterprises within the fintech domain. A well-developed telecommunications infrastructure and pervasive access to digital technologies expedite the integration of innovative mechanisms encompassing mobile payments, blockchain technologies, and artificial intelligence. Government incentives, in the form of investment programs and project financing, further catalyse industry growth.


Cyprus's status as a full-fledged member of the EU confers unimpeded access to the pan-European market upon firms domiciled on the island. International collaboration within the EU and beyond fortifies partnerships and unlocks novel markets. The Cyprus financial market stands as a burgeoning arena for fintech entities aspiring to innovate, streamline operations, and expand globally. Regulatory and fiscal incentives, coupled with advanced infrastructure and a supportive ecosystem for innovation, position Cyprus as a premier hub for fostering the development of the fintech industry in Europe.

The significance of attaining a payment system licence in Cyprus

Securing licensing authorization to operate payment systems within the Republic of Cyprus and the European Union represents a pivotal endeavour for enterprises aspiring to conduct operations within these jurisdictions. The licensing process attests to a business's adherence to pertinent regulations and laws, whilst facilitating access to an extensive array of financial instruments and markets.

Regulatory environment
In accordance with the PSD2 and nation's legislation, authorization to operate a payment system enables the provision of payment services across the EU. This necessitates stringent adherence to transaction security criteria, safeguarding consumer information, and ensuring transparency in financial transactions.
Fostering trust
The issuance of authorization to operate a payment system in Cyprus bolsters consumer and business partner confidence, serving as a testament to exemplary quality and integrity. For fintech enterprises, consumer, and partner confidence constitutes a pivotal determinant in fostering collaborative engagements and fostering service utilization.
Global expansion
For enterprises harbouring aspirations of international expansion, obtaining a Cyprus payment systems licence facilitates ingress into the EU market through a streamlined “certification” process. This obviates the need for separate licensing endeavours in individual EU member states.
Competitive advantages
Possessing a payment system licence in Cyprus confers competitive advantages upon enterprises, encompassing participation in state and international tenders, access to innovative financial products and instruments, and facilitation in engagements with banking and financial institutions.
Adherence to regulatory standards
Acquiring authorization mandates strict adherence to Cyprus and EU regulatory and legislative standards, encompassing AML and CTF strategies, in addition to safeguarding client funds and personal data. This fosters heightened financial stability and equitable market relations.
Support for innovation
The Cyprus regulatory framework ardently champions innovative advancements within the fintech sector, offering flexible conditions for experimentation with novel financial technologies within regulatory sandboxes. The Cyprus payment system licence empowers enterprises to actively implement pioneering solutions, thereby fortifying their market positioning.

Review of regulations in the Republic of Cyprus regarding payment services and digital currency

Regulatory oversight concerning payment systems and digital currency in Cyprus is governed by a series of pivotal legislative enactments aimed at harmonising domestic statutes with European Union directives and standards. These legislative instruments form the bedrock for the lawful operation and advancement of the fintech sector, delineating the prerequisites for licensing, oversight, and service provision within Cypriot jurisdiction.

EMI legislation

Legislative endeavours pertaining to digital currency have been undertaken with the objective of regulating the activities of electronic currency entities in Cyprus, establishing benchmarks for their creators, managerial personnel, and safeguarding user assets. Paramount facets of these statutes encompass licensing requisites for electronic money institutions in Cyprus, minimum capital thresholds, and anti-money laundering provisions. Additionally, these laws govern the issuance and utilisation of digital currency in payment transactions, safeguarding consumer interests.

Legislation on payment services and access to payment systems

These legislative frameworks assimilate the tenets of the PSD2 regarding payment services into Cypriot legislation, furnishing a legal framework for the operations of payment institutions within Cypriot jurisdiction. This encompasses licensing criteria, the execution of payment procedures, and the safeguarding of payment data. These statutes introduce measures aimed at bolstering consumer protection, encompassing provisions for transparent settlements, claims processing, and obligations for payment institutions to ensure the security and reliability of payment systems.

PSD2 implementation in Cyprus

This Directive, crafted to bolster the development and integration of the European payment services market, endeavours to enhance the efficiency and security of payments within the EU while fortifying user protections. PSD2 introduces innovative payment services, including account aggregation and payment initiation, augmenting the capabilities of fintech entities and fostering competition within the payment services landscape.

In Cyprus, adherence to the PSD2 and domestic legislation necessitates payment institutions to enact measures for robust user authentication and secure payment processes. This encompasses the development and deployment of technologies to mitigate unauthorised access to accounts and safeguard data confidentiality.

The implementation of the PSD2 in Cyprus serves to fortify ties with the pan-European payment system, furnishing enterprises with opportunities to expand their operations and introduce innovative payment solutions. Consequently, this bolsters the development of the Cyprus financial sector, augmenting its allure for investment and the operations of fintech enterprises.

Central Bank functions and regulations

The CBC assumes a central role in the regulation and oversight of payment systems and digital currency entities within the nation. Its remit encompasses authorising activities, supervising licensed entities, and verifying their adherence to established standards and criteria.

Regulations regarding authorised capital

Authorised capital represents a cornerstone ensuring economic stability and confidence in payment institutions in Cyprus. The CBC prescribes the minimum authorised capital, contingent upon the scale and nature of services rendered:

  • €20K for entities engaged in money transfers
  • €50K for organisations issuing and accepting means of payment
  • €1250K for entities offering a spectrum of payment services

These criteria are designed to ascertain that entities possess adequate economic resources to prudently manage risks and fulfil obligations to their clientele.

Terms and conditions for service provision

The CBC sets forth criteria and conditions governing the internal organisation of licensed electronic money institutions in Cyprus:

  • Premises and infrastructure: each entity must maintain an officially registered office within Cyprus, equipped with requisite infrastructure to conduct operations, inclusive of contemporary IT systems ensuring the security and stability of payment processes.
  • Personnel: entities are mandated to retain qualified personnel, inclusive of two executive directors domiciled in Cyprus, possessing relevant education and experience within the financial sector.

Safeguarding customer funds and AML measures

The CBC advocates for the implementation of mechanisms to safeguard customer funds and the adoption of effective anti-money laundering measures:

  • Segregation of funds: payment institutions in Cyprus are obligated to segregate customer funds from institutional assets, depositing them in separate accounts with reputable financial institutions.
  • AML systems: entities are enjoined to formulate and implement comprehensive AML/CTF programmes, encompassing rigorous KYC protocols and transaction monitoring.

The “Four Eyes” principle

The “four eyes” principle advocates for critical decisions within an entity to be sanctioned by at least two individuals, fostering thorough analysis and risk mitigation. This precept applies to executive management personnel, who must not only demonstrate requisite knowledge and experience but also inspire confidence and possess unblemished reputations.

By promulgating these stipulations, the Central Bank of Cyprus endeavours to fortify the stability and security of the financial sector, safeguard consumer interests, and bolster the evolution of an innovative financial ecosystem in Cyprus. Entities compliant with these requirements not only attain the prerogative to operate within regulated markets but also garner the trust of clients and partners.

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Procedure for obtaining permission to conduct payment activities in Cyprus

The licensing process for payment system institutions in Cyprus necessitates meticulous adherence to standards endorsed by the CBC. Successful completion of this process mandates the meticulous preparation, submission, and subsequent assessment of documents by the regulatory authority.

Phase 1:

Preparation of constituent documentation

The inaugural stage entails the formulation of a robust business plan, incorporating a delineation of prospective activities, management structure, financial projections, and measures aimed at meeting AML and KYC protocols. The development of internal protocols, aimed at ensuring payment security and safeguarding customer information, is also pivotal.

Phase 2:

Legal entity registration and account opening

Subsequent to the formulation of a business plan, the organisation proceeds with the registration of a company in Cyprus, encompassing the selection of a corporate name, determination of the management structure, and official registration with pertinent governmental agencies. This is succeeded by the opening of a corporate bank account with a local financial institution, facilitating the deposit of authorised capital and financial transactions.

Phase 3:

Contribution of authorised capital and engagement of mandatory personnel

In accordance with CBC criteria, organisations applying for a payment system licence in Cyprus are mandated to contribute their share capital to a corporate account at this juncture. The minimum capital requisite varies contingent upon the nature of payment services offered. Additionally, organisations are required to recruit qualified personnel, inclusive of at least two executive directors, who conform to the “four eyes” principle.

Phase 4:

Documentation registration and submission to CBC

The subsequent stage entails the preparation and submission of a comprehensive dossier of documentation to the CBC, encompassing:

  • A business plan inclusive of financial projections.
  • Documentation validating compliance of authorised capital with CBC standards.
  • Information regarding managers and shareholders, affirming their reliability and professional acumen.
  • Elucidation of internal risk management procedures, AML policies, and security protocols.
  • Documentation substantiating the existence of an office in Cyprus.

It is imperative to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the information furnished, as this significantly influences the application review process.

Phase 5:

Application review procedure and consultation with CBC representatives

Following the submission of documents, the dossier is meticulously scrutinised by experts from the CBC. During the application review process, supplementary information or clarification may be sought. Emphasis is placed on the assessment of the credibility and viability of the proposed business plan, the composition of a proficient management team, the efficacy of risk management mechanisms, and strategies for operational fortification. The CBC may also arrange a consultation with the management team of the organisation to comprehensively discuss aspects of the business plan and organisational structure.

Phase 6:

Issuance of a licence permit

In the event of a favourable determination to issue a licence, the organisation is authorised to conduct payment activities in accordance with the laws of Cyprus and the standards of the European Union. A licensed entity is obligated to furnish periodic reports to the CBC detailing progress, compliance with legal requisites, and identified risks.

The CBC's review period typically spans 3 to 6 months subsequent to the submission of a complete dossier of documents. The entirety of the licensing process for electronic money institutions in Cyprus, from the incorporation of the enterprise to the acquisition of a licence, may extend up to one year contingent upon the complexity of the application and the extant workload of the regulator.

Supervision and management

Upon licensure, e-money enterprises in Cyprus fall under the continuous monitoring purview of the CBC, encompassing scrutiny of financial statements, regulatory adherence, transaction security, and risk management protocols. Emphasis is placed on risk mitigation procedures, AML and CFT strategies, and customer confidentiality protocols. The objective of such oversight is to uphold the stability and dependability of the Cypriot financial ecosystem while safeguarding consumer rights.

  1. Regular reporting: entities licensed within the confines of Cyprus are mandated to systematically furnish reports on their commercial operations to the CBC, encompassing annual financial statements and regulatory compliance documentation.
  2. Communication of significant alterations: any material modifications in the operations of an institution, such as alterations in management structure or the introduction of new products or services, necessitate prompt disclosure to the CBC.
  3. Conducting audits: licensed entities are subject to compulsory audits conducted by independent audit firms to ascertain the accuracy of their financial statements and adherence to regulatory standards.
  4. Participation in training programmes: the CBC orchestrates training programmes and seminars for representatives of payment system entities, focusing on regulatory compliance, risk management, and the implementation of optimal financial practices.

The CBC is dedicated to expeditiously reviewing received information and fostering uninterrupted communication with payment institutions in Cyprus. In the event of discrepancies or violations, the entity may face penalties, directives to adjust operations in accordance with regulations, or, in extreme scenarios, revocation of its licence.

Key findings

The process of obtaining a payment institution licence in Cyprus, coupled with the “passporting” mechanism within the European Union, bestows distinct privileges upon organizations, facilitating seamless access to the unified market.

The certification process

The mechanism of “passporting” streamlines the licensing process for organizations operating in any EU member state, enabling them to offer services throughout the EU without the need for individual national licences. Rooted in reciprocal support and recognition of licences, this mechanism serves as a cornerstone of the European single market. To initiate this process, organizations apply to the CBC, submitting the requisite application. Subsequently, the organization's details are recorded in the unified European register, enabling them to commence operations in other EU member states.

Navigating regulatory hurdles and fees

Despite the advantages of passporting, companies may encounter regulatory disparities, including divergences in national AML and data protection regulations. Furthermore, the CBC retains the authority to levy a fee for processing a licensing application and facilitating the passporting mechanism. These fees are subject to variation, necessitating organizations to preemptively ascertain the prevailing terms and conditions.

Understanding licence categories

In conformity with European and local regulations, Cyprus offers various categories of licences for engaging in the financial services sector, encompassing payment systems and electronic money sectors. The CBC delineates comprehensive requisites for securing these licences, directed towards upholding transparency, security, and stability within the financial industry.

Selecting the appropriate licence

Selecting the appropriate type of payment operator licence in Cyprus requires careful consideration of various factors to align with the entrepreneur's business model, goals, and operational requirements. Here's a structured approach for a foreign entrepreneur to navigate this decision-making process:

  • Understand the business model and services offered
  • Evaluate regulatory requirements
  • Assess licensing categories
  • Consider capital requirements
  • Examine compliance obligations
  • Review operational flexibility
  • Seek legal and regulatory advice
  • Assess market opportunities
  • Factor in cost and time
  • Plan for growth and expansion

Navigating restrictions as a foreign entrepreneur

Foreign entrepreneurs seeking to register a payment operator licence in Cyprus may encounter certain restrictions and considerations. While Cyprus generally welcomes foreign investment and business activities, specific regulations and requirements must be adhered to.

  • Residency requirements
  • Corporate structure
  • Compliance with regulations
  • Due diligence and background checks
  • Language requirements
  • Professional advice
  • Taxation and financial reporting

By carefully navigating these considerations and seeking expert guidance, foreign entrepreneurs can overcome potential restrictions and successfully register a payment operator licence in Cyprus. Diligence, compliance, and strategic planning are key to achieving regulatory approval and establishing a successful payment services business in Cyprus.

Empowering your business with expert guidance

Institutions aiming to navigate the licensing procedure efficiently and avoid unexpected delays can benefit from the expertise of professional firms specializing in financial management and corporate law. YB CASE offers extensive experience in securing authorization for payment system operators and electronic money institutions in Cyprus. Our team of highly qualified experts stands ready to provide comprehensive support at every stage of the permit acquisition process.

Expert guidance every step of the way

From initial consultation to the meticulous preparation and submission of documentation, YB CASE ensures a seamless journey towards obtaining a permit. Our specialists offer invaluable assistance in monitoring and managing the activities of organizations post-receiving the licence certificate. By partnering with us, businesses simplify the document preparation process and mitigate the risk of permission refusal due to errors or inconsistencies in the information provided.

Unlocking your business potential with YB CASE

Let YB CASE be your trusted partner in navigating the complexities of obtaining payment system licences in Cyprus. With our proven track record and unwavering commitment to excellence, we empower businesses to achieve their goals and thrive in the dynamic financial landscape. Contact us today to embark on your licensing journey with confidence.

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