Europe

Bulgaria’s Admittance to Schengen Puts It Back on the Golden Visa Map

Ivan Petrov
Sofia


Bulgaria, an EU member state since 2007, will join the Schengen Area on March 31st.  After that date, holders of Bulgarian residence permits will be eligible for visa-free travel to the remaining Schengen States. This enables investors in the country’s investor visa to access the EU and abolishes the inconvenience of visa applications and border checks. 

A review of Bulgarian investor visa terms

To qualify for immediate permanent residency (PR), investors can choose between six investment types, starting at EUR 250,000:

[The Bulgarian lev (BGN) is pegged to an exchange rate of BGN 2 = EUR 1]

  1. Stocks of a listed company traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange-Sofia: BGN 2 million
  2. Units in one or more of several types of funds (UCITS, ETFs, and AIFs) focused on the Bulgarian market: BGN 1 million
  3. Companies carrying out a Certified Priority Investment Project: BGN 2 million
  4. Companies employing Bulgarian staff: BGN 500,000 + 10 employees
  5. Private companies invested in any sector and geography: BGN 6 million
  6. Investment Projects (different from the Certified Priority Investment Projects): Minimum investment depends on the sector

The wide selection of investment options allows investors to choose an asset or a mixture of assets that suits their investment profile.

So far, most investors have qualified through investments in UCITS, ETFs, and AIFs.

Collective Investment Schemes (UCITS) – an EU version of Mutual Funds

Currently, there are more than 120 UCITS in the form of mutual funds in Bulgaria.

The mutual fund issues units that give the right to a share of the fund’s assets and other rights given by law or in the rules.

To make an investor eligible for the program, a mutual fund needs to

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  • have a net asset value of more than BGN 5 million
  • be licensed in Bulgaria 
  • be strategically focused on equity and corporate bonds (not government bonds) of Bulgarian companies traded on stock exchanges or multilateral trading facilities

Pre-clearance process

Crucially, before investing, the applicant must undergo pre-clearance. This is carried out by the Bulgarian Investment Agency (BIA). Pre-clearance aims to provide assurance for anti-money laundering (AML) law purposes.

The documents needed include a bank reference for a Bulgarian lev or euro account for the investor demonstrating the funds, as well as a CV or similar and a criminal record from the country of origin or current permanent residence. 

Visa and Permanent Residence

Once the pre-clearance and investment certification process has been completed, the investor can apply for a Long-Term D visa.

Review of the Long-Term D visa application takes approximately a month and, after the visa grant, investors can make their first trip to Bulgaria to apply for PR status. 

The PR status application normally takes two months or less. A second trip to Bulgaria can then be planned for the issuance of a Bulgarian PR ID card. 

Bulgarian Citizenship Application

After the grant of residence, investors simply need to wait for five years before applying for citizenship. While applicants must maintain a physical address in Bulgaria (any type of residence works), there is no physical presence requirement at any stage of the process, including at the citizenship stage.

Various government bodies, including the State Agency for National Security and the Ministry of Interior, participate in the citizenship review process. Two milestones ought to be mentioned:

  1. the opinion of the Citizenship Council based on which the Minister makes a recommendation to the Vice President and 
  2. the issuance of a decree by the Vice President

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Ivan Petrov AuthorSubscriberParticipant

Having studied, lived, and worked in China for almost 8 years, Ivan has strong intercultural skills and extensive knowledge of China and East Asia. Prior to joining NBLO, Ivan was a lecturer in the Chinese department at the University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. His personal interests include current affairs and social media. He is fluent in English and has professional knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.