Bulgaria might be a small gem in Eastern Europe, but the Balkan nation certainly has a steady (but quiet) reputation for granting non-Europeans a permanent residence permit and a path toward an EU passport through the Bulgarian Golden Visa program. Previously referred to as Bulgarian citizenship by investment, the Bulgaria Golden Visa is an attractive Bulgarian Investment Visa granting non-EU citizens and their family members permanent residency status and the possibility of gaining Bulgarian citizenship in exchange for an investment.
Applicants can permanently reside in Bulgaria and obtain a Bulgarian passport after completing a mandatory permanent residency period of five years.
Find out how to acquire Bulgarian permanent residency and citizenship with our ultimate guide, where we’ll walk you through:
- Bulgarian Golden Visa benefits
- Investment options to obtain permanent residence
- The path toward Bulgaria citizenship
- Program fees
Is it possible to obtain Bulgarian citizenship by investment?
It is not possible to apply for a Bulgarian passport through investment. Bulgaria offers a Golden Visa program to attract foreign investors seeking permanent residency in the country in exchange for economic investment. After making the required investment, investors are granted permanent residence, which gives them freedom of movement throughout the EU.
Successful applicants of Bulgaria’s Golden Visa program first obtain a permanent residence permit; After five years of residency, they’re eligible to be granted citizenship by naturalization. Provided foreign investors maintain their investments and have a firm grasp of the Bulgarian language, they and their family members can become Bulgarian citizens. This grants the right to live, work, and study in any EU country, while enjoying visa-free access (including visa-on-arrival) to 170 countries worldwide with a Bulgarian passport.
While there are many citizenship by investment programs, like Dominica citizenship by investment or Turkey investment citizenship, for instance, Bulgaria’s Golden Visa program doesn’t offer a direct route to citizenship. With that said, Bulgarian permanent residency has fantastic benefits, such as access to the world’s most significant free-trade environment.
Why consider Bulgaria citizenship?
Despite its EU membership, Bulgaria has successfully maintained its distinctive charm, captivating history, age-old traditions, and awe-inspiring landscapes. Strategically located between Western and Eastern Europe, Bulgaria has direct connections to EU member states and Eastern European countries, such as Turkey, making it a perfect country for international business.
As an EU citizen, you enjoy enhanced global mobility, with the freedom to travel and invest in property throughout the European Union while also gaining a Bulgarian passport, offering visa-free travel to 170 countries.
Differences Between Bulgaria's and Other Countries' Citizenship by Investment Programs
Bulgaria’s program is newer in comparison to other nations’ programs, thus it includes significant advantages, particularly in terms of investment opportunities.
Fiduciary and intellectual property donations are two of the alternatives offered under the Bulgaria citizenship by investment program. In other words, an applicant can buy intellectual property rights or stock in firms registered on the Sofia Stock Exchange.
Another key alternative is investment in Certified Priority Investment Projects (CPIPs) that is similar to the USA’s Golden Visa Scheme (EB-5 Investor Visa).
Bulgarian Citizenship Benefits
With a Bulgaria passport, you’ll enjoy visa-free access to 170 countries, including the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, the British Virgin Islands, and Japan. As a Bulgarian citizen, you can also apply for the USA E-2 Visa, an Investment Visa provided under the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the USA and Bulgaria.
Family members qualify for Bulgaria Golden Visas
Your spouse of at least five years and dependent children (unmarried and under 18) qualify for the same permanent residence and citizenship benefits.
Unlimited access to the EU
Under the right to freedom of movement guaranteed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), Bulgarian passport holders can live, work, and study anywhere in the European Union.
Exciting investment projects on offer
As an investor, you can choose from six different types of investment projects approved by the Bulgarian government.
Dynamic market in an EU country
While the country’s foreign affairs may garner little attention globally, Bulgarian citizenship brings instant access to its leading science and technology scene, along with its strong logistics sector.
Bulgarian Investor Visa Requirements
Thanks to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, the eligibility criteria for obtaining a Bulgarian Investor Visa are quite straightforward; You must:
- Be over 18 years old
- Be a non-EEA citizen
- Hold a clean criminal record and be a non-criminal offender
- Pass medical tests
- Have enough funds to make the necessary investment
- Provide proof as to where the funds come from
- Maintain the investment for at least five years
Bulgaria has six investment options to obtain a Bulgarian permanent residence permit. The following is a breakdown of all the eligible investments for obtaining permanent residency:
Investment options for permanent residence
Buy units and shares in investment funds
An initial investment in a Bulgarian company
Buy shares of a Bulgarian commercial company
Acquisition of rights under concession agreements
Increase the capital of a Bulgarian company
Increase the capital of a Bulgarian company not listed on the securities market
- Make a minimum investment of BGN 1 million (about $558,000) in the capital of a trade company: The condition is that the contribution towards the assets must create at least ten full-time jobs for Bulgarians. The Ministry of Economy must also approve the investment.
- Invest at least BGN 1 million in Exchange Traded Funds or alternative investment funds: The minimum net asset value requirements apply in both cases. The funds must be licensed and registered by the Financial Supervision Commission, and the investment strategy must mainly focus on Bulgarian companies. In addition, the investment must be in either assets and/or bonds of Bulgarian companies traded, including special purpose investment companies. You can choose from private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds.
- Make a minimum investment of at least BGN 1 million in rights under concession contracts in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria.
- Invest at least BGN 2 million in the share capital of a Bulgarian trade company: The investment must be implemented as a priority investment project certified under the Investment Promotion Act and verified by the Ministry of Economy. Alternatively, the investment must be focused on shares or bonds of companies traded on a Bulgarian-regulated market or multilateral trading facility in Bulgaria.
- Invest BGN 6 million in the capital of a non-publicly traded Bulgarian company.
In each case, the Bulgarian Investment Agency (BIA) requires that the investment be maintained for a minimum of five years in order to maintain the permanent residence permit.
Path to obtaining Bulgarian citizenship
The Bulgarian citizenship by investment program, previously offering Bulgarian citizenship two years after meeting the investment requirements, is no longer in operation. After receiving the investment certificate issued by the BIA and then permanent residency, foreign investors must complete a minimum residence period of five years before they can submit a Bulgarian citizenship application.
Step-by-step Guide to Obtaining Citizenship
1. Go through the Golden Visa pre-approvement and make the required investment
2. Receive an investment certificate issued by the Bulgarian Investment Agency
3. Apply for the Golden Visa at a Bulgarian Embassy
4. Apply in person for Bulgarian permanent residency and reside in Bulgaria for five years
5. Apply for Bulgarian citizenship
- Go through the pre-approval process
Introduced in March 2021 by the Bulgarian Investment Agency (BIA), the pre-approval process requires the main applicant to go through a due diligence check to ensure the source of funding for the investment is legitimate. The required documents include:
- A criminal background certificate
- Source of funds information
- Information on the applicant’s professional background
- Proof of ID
- Proof that the applicant has the funds to make the investment
- Make the investment
You must make your investment in Bulgarian Lev, and three financing options are on the table; You can finance the capital yourself, finance it through the Bulgarian government, or finance it externally. What is crucial is demonstrating the legitimate source of the funds.
- Obtain the investment certificate
Upon approval of the investment, you will receive an official certificate of investment issued by the Investment Agency. This is a document that gives you the right to apply for the Golden Visa.
- Apply for the Golden Visa
The next step of the Golden Visa process is to apply for an Investment Visa. You can do so by going to your nearest Bulgarian Embassy or Consulate and submitting all the required documents, including your certificate of investment. With this visa, you can apply for a permanent residence card in Bulgaria.
- Become a permanent resident
Submit all the necessary paperwork to a Migration Office in Bulgaria and obtain your permanent resident card. You’ll also receive your Bulgarian Unified Civil Number (EGN), which is a tax identification number.
- Apply for Bulgarian citizenship
You can apply for Bulgarian citizenship at your nearest Migration Office in Bulgaria. The minimum eligibility requirements are that you have held permanent residency for at least five years, can understand and speak Bulgarian, and have a source of income to support yourself in Bulgaria. Naturalization also requires that you have no criminal record or have proven to be rehabilitated.
Bulgarian Golden Visa application processing time
The entire process of obtaining Bulgarian permanent residency takes about six months. After receiving your certificate of investment from the BIA, an application for an Investor Visa submitted to your nearest Bulgarian Embassy takes around 30 days to be processed. Upon submission of the Investor Visa to a Bulgarian Migration Office, the processing time for a permanent residency permit is typically about 45 days.
Bulgaria has an attractive tax system for residents and citizens. Personal income is taxed at ten percent, with five percent taxed on dividends. It’s considered one of Europe’s lowest tax countries. The attractive tax system also extends to businesses, with the corporate tax rate amounting to just ten percent.
Document checklist for the Bulgarian citizenship
Here is the general documentation required to obtain Bulgarian citizenship:
- Birth certificates of all the applicants
- Valid passport of each applicant
- Proof of residency (recent utility bill)
- Colored passport-size photos of each applicant
- Applicant’s marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Death or divorce certificate of the spouse (if applicable)
- Proof that all the applicants have a clean criminal record
- Proof of proficiency in the Bulgarian language
- Proof of an income source to support yourself and any dependents in Bulgaria
- Proof of having passed medical checks
The Advantages of the Bulgarian Citizenship Application Process
No requirement for physical residence enforced: Unlike the rules for naturalization in many other European countries, there is no requirement to physically reside or work in Bulgaria for a minimum period to apply for Bulgarian citizenship.
Leniency with criminal history: Having a criminal conviction in your home country will not be taken into consideration if you can provide evidence of rehabilitation.
Dual citizenship: Although Bulgaria doesn’t allow dual citizenship for all foreign nationals, natural-born citizens, EU citizens, and foreign spouses of Bulgarian nationals who obtain Bulgarian citizenship can keep their original nationality. A foreign national from a non-EEA country would have to relinquish their current nationality to become a Bulgarian citizen.
Common Misconceptions about Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment
The Bulgarian citizenship by investment program previously allowed foreign investors to obtain citizenship in Bulgaria through a fast-tracked application process. Foreign investors could gain EU citizenship in exchange for investment within two years of applying. Family members, including a spouse and unmarried children under 18, were also eligible for the expedited route to citizenship and a Bulgarian passport.
The Bulgarian government decided to terminate the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program in 2022, making naturalization the only route to Bulgarian citizenship for foreign nationals without ties to Bulgaria. To be granted Bulgarian citizenship, applicants must be permanent residents for at least five years and proficient in the Bulgarian language. The foreign spouse of a Bulgarian citizen can be granted Bulgarian citizenship after three years of permanent residency.
Individuals who obtain Bulgarian citizenship by birth are not deprived of their right to maintain Bulgarian citizenship if they acquire a second citizenship. The foreign spouse of a Bulgarian citizen and EEA nationals are also permitted to become dual citizens. Prospective Bulgarian citizens who are eligible for citizenship under Bulgaria’s naturalization laws are required to renounce their current citizenship before they can proceed with the citizenship application.
Global Citizen Solutions: How We Can Help
Expats and foreign investors can encounter many difficulties when applying for a Bulgarian Golden Visa, which is why it is worthwhile to have an expert on hand to provide personalized Bulgarian visa assistance throughout the application process.
Our specialists can help you with the following:
- Minimize the visits you have to make to the designated country
- Have someone who works solely on your behalf
- Reduce the hassle associated with putting your application together
- Acquire insider knowledge from someone with years of experience in the market
Let’s get you moving forward in your quest to obtain a Bulgarian Golden Visa. Get in touch with us to book a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Bulgarian Golden Visa
What is the Bulgarian Golden Visa?
The Golden Visa in Bulgaria is a residency by investment program granting permanent residency in Bulgaria in exchange for economic investment. The investment amount starts at BGN 1 million (about $558,000), and there are several investment options, including investment in a Bulgarian company or purchasing units in an investment fund.
What are the eligibility criteria to apply for Bulgaria citizenship by investment?
Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship by investment is no longer possible under revisions to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act. Foreign investors can obtain permanent residency in Bulgaria in exchange for an economic investment. After a period of five years as permanent residents, visa holders become eligible to pursue Bulgarian citizenship.
Does Bulgaria have a residency by investment or citizenship by investment scheme?
The Bulgarian Investment Visa scheme is a residency by investment program. You will become a permanent resident after passing the program’s due diligence checks and making the required investment. Eligibility for Bulgarian citizenship is granted after maintaining five years of permanent residency.
What's the minimum investment required for Bulgaria permanent residency?
A minimum investment of BGN 1 million (about $558,000) is required to secure permanent residence in Bulgaria.
Do I need to travel to Bulgaria to apply for permanent residence?
After submitting an Investment Visa application to the nearest Bulgarian Embassy or Consulate in your home country, you will need to make at least one trip to Bulgaria to submit your biometric information and apply for a permanent residence permit. At the same time, you will also be issued a Bulgarian Unified Civil Number (EGN)–a national ID and tax number.
How do you apply for Bulgarian citizenship?
To apply for Bulgarian citizenship, you must complete five years of permanent residency status in Bulgaria, be proficient in the Bulgarian language, and have a source of income to support yourself in Bulgaria. After satisfying these criteria, you will be eligible to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. Note that if you are a non-EEA national, you do not qualify for dual nationality and would need to relinquish your current citizenship in order to apply for Bulgarian citizenship.
How long does it take to acquire my Bulgarian permanent residence permit?
Obtaining permanent residence through the Bulgarian Golden Visa program takes about four to six months after making the minimum investment.
Are my family members eligible to become Bulgarian citizens?
The family members of a foreign national who gains Bulgarian citizenship are eligible to acquire citizenship. Qualified applicants include the citizen’s spouse and unmarried children under 18.
Is Bulgaria part of the EU?
With its EU membership acquired in January 2007, Bulgaria is entitled to the full range of benefits associated with EU membership. As an EU citizen, you can live, work, study, and travel anywhere in Europe’s Schengen zone.