Bulgaria Golden Visa: A Streamlined Path to EU Residency and Beyond

Article written by Vasil Markov IMCM, Director of Advocate Markov

Following the closure of Bulgaria’s fast-track citizenship by investment programme in 2022, the government quietly introduced the Bulgaria Golden Visa in autumn 2023. Although the fast-track option is no longer available, the new programme offers increased transparency and flexibility.

Pre-Approval Stage

The government has implemented a pre-approval procedure with the Bulgarian Investment Agency. During this stage, applicants must:

– Demonstrate the origin of their investment funds

– Provide proof of a clean background

– Confirm they are not politically exposed persons

This pre-approval process takes eight to ten weeks. Once applicants successfully pass this due diligence process, they can choose to invest in either an AIF or an ETF. Applicants who do not receive approval will not have made any investments, thereby avoiding any potential wasted funds.

Time to Obtain Permanent Residency

Upon making the investment, the Bulgarian Investment Agency will issue an investment certificate within a few weeks, which must be included with your visa application documents. You will then apply for a D visa at your home country’s Bulgarian embassy or consulate, where processing can take a few months.

Investment Options for the Bulgaria Golden Visa

The Bulgaria Golden Visa programme provides a variety of investment options to obtain permanent residency. Investors must meet the minimum investment requirements and maintain the investment for at least five years. Here are the options with the lowest investment threshold of €512,000 for obtaining permanent residency in Bulgaria through investment:

– AIF Fund Investment (€512,000): The most common choice for investors is to invest in shares of an Alternative Investment Fund with a minimum value of €512,000. This amount can be invested in a single AIF or spread across several AIFs to mitigate risk. The AIF must be based in Bulgaria, managed by a Bulgarian fund manager, and invest solely in assets (shares and bonds) of Bulgarian companies.

– ETF Fund Investment (€512,000): Investors can also opt to invest in shares of an Exchange Traded Fund with a minimum value of €512,000. This amount can be invested in a single ETF or spread across several ETFs to mitigate risk. However, mixing investments between AIFs and ETFs is not permitted; investors must choose to invest solely in either AIFs or ETFs. The ETF must be based in Bulgaria, managed by a Bulgarian fund manager, and invest only in assets (shares and bonds) of Bulgarian companies.

After arriving in Bulgaria with your D visa, the process for obtaining permanent residency takes a few months. The permanent residency status is indefinite, though the residency card needs to be renewed every five years.

Benefits of the Bulgaria Golden Visa

The Bulgaria Golden Visa programme offers numerous advantages for those seeking a comfortable and secure lifestyle within the EU:

– Visa-Free Travel: Holders of the Bulgaria Golden Visa gain access to all Schengen and EU member states, facilitating hassle-free travel within Europe. Additionally, a Bulgarian passport allows visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 179 countries.

– Freedom of Travel within the EU: The Golden Visa permits visa-free travel and short stays (up to three months within a six-month period) in other European Union countries.

– Simple Renewal Process: The Golden Visa requires no language tests or interviews. To maintain it, you need to spend just one day in Bulgaria annually, with renewal needed only every five years.

– Path to Bulgarian Citizenship: After holding the Golden Visa for five years and passing a Bulgarian language exam, applicants become eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship.

Language Requirement for Citizenship

Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship requires passing a language exam or obtaining an exemption, akin to the Greece and Portugal Golden Visa programmes. Fortunately, there is an accessible solution: completing a 60 to 90-hour distance learning course that awards A1/A2 diplomas within a few months, exempting you from the official Bulgarian language exam.

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