In Bulgaria there is a possibility to acquire Bulgarian citizenship through investment in the country. In this article we present the prerequisites and the procedure.
The procedure for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship on the basis of an investment is extensive, takes more than 18 months and goes as follows - first the foreign person must apply for a Visa D for long-term residence in Bulgaria. The foreign person must submit an application for the acquisition of a permanent residence no later than two months before the expiry of the Visa D. The foreign person can submit an application for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship one year after the acquisition of the residence permit. In the context of this process, the person must make two investments - each of which must amount to at least BGN 1,000,000 (approximately € 513 000).
A foreign person can receive a permanent residence permit in Bulgaria when he/she invests the sum of BGN 1,000,000 or deposits the same amount of money in a Bulgarian credit institution (art. 25, par. 1, p. 6 and 7 Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act):
- Through acquisition of shares in Bulgarian commercial companies traded on the regulated markets (stock exchange);
- By purchasing state or municipal bonds or Treasury bills with a maturity that is no less than six months. The investment must be maintained throughout the procedure, i.e. about 18 months. If the investment is withdrawn earlier, then the person must invest again. This follows from the requirement that the investment must be proved. It is recommended that the bonds/treasury bills have a longer maturity. If the person acquires Bulgarian citizenship before the date of maturity, they can withdraw their investment earlier than the date of maturity.
The state or municipal bonds or Treasury bills can be bought by the person from a bank. He/She must open an account in the same bank first. The amount of money is deposited in this account. The person must sign a commission agreement with the bank. The bank fees for this usually amount to one percent of the whole amount. After the payment the bank issues a certificate confirming that the person has purchased the state or municipal bonds or treasury bills.
- Through acquisition of rights in a Bulgarian commercial company, in which more than 50% of the shares are state- or municipality-owned (according to the Privatization and Post-privatization Control Act);
- Through acquisition of intangible rights (e.g. trade marks, patent rights, copyrights);
- By purchasing shares in Bulgarian commercial companies that are owned by the State or the municipalities (according to Privatization and Post-privatization Control Act);
- Through the acquisition of rights under concession contracts on the territory of Bulgaria;
- If the amount is invested in a licensed credit institution in Bulgaria in accordance with a signed Trust Deed. The contract period may not be less than 5 years and the sum must not be used as collateral for other loans.
Depending on the selected way, according to art. 25, par 1, p. 6 and 7 from the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act the foreign person proves his/her investment through the following documents that must be submitted:
- In the cases of a purchase of shares of a Bulgarian commercial company - Depot statement (for each deposit) or information about existing securities for all investments, issued by the Central Depositary JSC, Sofia;
- In the case of a purchase of state or municipal bonds or Treasury bills - certificate, issued by the Bank-depositary for government bonds acquired by the foreign person, and by the bank-trustee - for acquired municipal bonds or treasury bills.
- in the case of an acquisition of intangible rights - certificate from the Ministry of Culture or the Patent Office so the requirements under the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act can be fulfilled, as well as an evaluation of the objects of intellectual property made by an independent expert in accordance with the Independent Evaluation Experts Act;
- in the case of an acquisition of rights under concession contracts – certificate issued by the Privatization and Post-privatization Control Agency or by the competent local authority stating that the requirements in accordance with the Concessions Act are met (issued by the concession-giving authority) with respect to the requirements according to article 25, para. 1, p. 6, letter f from the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act.
Before these documents are presented to the Migration Agency at the Ministry of Interior they must be confirmed by the Bulgarian Investment Agency. An application and documents proving the origin of the money and bank certificates must be submitted to the Agency.
According to Art. 14a, par. 1 from the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, the foreign person that has had a permanent residence in Bulgaria for a year can double his/her investment under the same conditions or can invest BGN 1,000,000 in a Bulgarian commercial company. In the latter case the sum must be used for the implementation of a priority investment project that has received a certificate under the Promotion of Investment Act. With the second investment made the foreign person may apply for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship.
The interests on government bonds will be exempt from tax since the income from interest on bonds/treasury bills (pursuant to art. 195, par. 6 Corporate Income Tax Act) is tax exempt.
II. Visa D for long-term residence in the Republic of Bulgaria
This type of visa is governed by the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act and in the Ordinance on the conditions and order for issuing of visas and on the regulation of visa regime. The Visa D cannot be used for travel purposes within the Schengen area or the European Union because Bulgaria is not a member of the Schengen area yet.
The foreign person must submit an application for a Visa D for a long-term residence in Bulgaria (according to art. 15 par. 1 from the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act). This visa is valid for a maximum of 6 months and entitles the holder to stay in the country up to 180 days.
The Visa D gives the person the right to entry of the Republic of Bulgaria multiple times as long as it is valid.
A. Application for issuing of a Visa D
The applicant must submit an application to the consulate or to the diplomatic mission of the home country or another country where the person has resided for more than three months. The person cannot apply for a Visa D in Bulgaria, because the applications for issuing visas must be submitted abroad.
The application must be submitted in a form that is provided in the Ordinance on the conditions and order for issuing of visas and on the regulation of visa regime. It must be submitted in person by the applying person not earlier than three months prior to the date of the planned trip. At this time the first investment in the amount of BGN 1,000,000 must have already been made. If the request for issuing a Visa D is rejected, the amount will be returned to the account of the foreigner.
The following documents must be submitted:
- Valid identity document for travelling abroad that must meet the following requirements:
a) it expires at least three months after the scheduled departure date; in case of multiple entries and exits - after the planned date of the last departure; in duly substantiated emergencies, this condition may be omitted;
b) it contains at least two blank pages.
c) it has been issued in the last 10 years;
- a photocopy of the pages of the document for traveling abroad with personal data and visas and/or photocopy of the permits for the states alongside the distance and for the state that is the purpose of the travel if it is necessary;
- Picture (scanned or taken during the submission of the application);
- Ten fingerprints (these are done when the person is in the consulate);
- Certificate for paid visa fee (100 EUR).
The applicant must submit the following documents depending on the purpose of the trip:
- Police clearance certificate, issued by the home country;
- Documents proving the purpose of travel (purpose of the trip is the acquisition of permanent residence);
- Documents that prove that the applicant has or will have accommodation;
- Documents that prove that the person has sufficient funds available so that he/she can provide for his/her livelihood while residing in the country (e.g. bank statements. The minimum wage in Bulgaria is BGN 380 (approx. € 200) gross, i.e. the person must at least have that much);
- Documents from which an estimate of the person's intention to leave the country before the expiry of the visa period can be made (this requirement in the discussed case – namely, acquiring citizenship with investment,will not apply because it is assumed that the person can afford their accommodation, if they can make an investment);
- A valid health insurance for travel abroad with a minimum coverage of € 30,000 for the entire period of the intended stay. The insurance contract must be concluded in the state of permanent residence of the applicant;
- Documents that prove the purpose of the stay under the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act, and documents proving the investment - Certificates issued by the Bank and Investment Agency (e.g. certificates for the purchase of shares in Bulgarian commercial companies, which are traded on the regulated markets; certificates for the purchase of government bonds; for ownership of Intellectual property rights, rights under concession contracts).
Within 2 weeks after the submission of the application the competent local authorities must make an appointment with the applicant for the conduction of an interview.
The application for issuing of a Visa D is sent through the Consulate Relations Department to the authority for administrative control of foreign persons in Bulgaria. After permission from the Consulate Relations Department witha motivated opinion by the authority for administrative control of foreign persons in the Republic of Bulgaria and the State Agency "National Security" Visa D is issued or refused by the consular officer. In your case, the time limit for a decision by the authorities a is 35 days after the request submission.
For facilitation of the process for persons applying for a visa D, the person must call the diplomatic mission/consulate and schedule an appointment. On this date, the person must submit all required documents and an interview is conducted. The deadline for the decision is 35 days. The diplomatic missions in the different countries choose different procedures after the expiry of the period - the person must either both call and ask or he/she receive an e-mail.
B. Family members
According to art. 2, par. 3 from the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act members of the family of a foreign person are his wife/her husband and children that are under the age of eighteen years and are not married. For this reason the children that are of age cannot apply for a visa D. But they can apply for a visa D and citizenship due to investments.
The wife/husband can apply for a visa D, when her husband/his wife already has a permanent residence in Bulgaria. The person who has a permanent residence in Bulgaria must submit an application for drawing together the family according to art. 12 from the Ordinance for the application of Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. Within two months a decision is made. The decision and a health insurance must be submitted by the wife/husband to the Consulate or the diplomatic mission of the country of origin or another country in order for a visa D to be issued for her/him.
The possibilities for the wife/husband and children is applying for a visa C (for short-term residence).
III. Application for permanent residence
The permanent residence in Bulgaria is governed by the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act and by the Ordinance for its implementation.
According to the in the provision of art. 25 par. 1, p. 6 and 7 from the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act, a foreign person may submit an application for permanent residence in the Migration Agency at the Ministry of Interior.
Deadline for the submission of documents
The application must be submitted at least two months prior to the expiry of the visa D, if the foreign person applies for residence permit in Bulgaria for the first time.
The foreign person personally submits a request to the Migration Agency at the Ministry of Interior and the following documents must be enclosed:
- Evidence that the state fee of 10 BGN has been paid;
- Copy of the passport with the pages where the photo and personal data are visible, copy of the visa D and the stamp of the last entry in the Republic of Bulgaria. The copy of the passport is compared to the original;
- Evidence that the foreign person owns an apartment or has rented one (lease contract) - the person must have a real apartment. An inspection is also carried out;
- Police Clearance Certificate (the certificate must be issued by the country of origin and by the country where the person has resided for more than than 1.5 years, i.e. when the person has resided in a country different from the country of origin, he/she must submit two Police Clearance Certificates. These must not be in Bulgarian, but they must be provided with an apostille, translated in Bulgarian and legalized at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria).
Depending on the selected option, according to art. 25, par. 1, p. 6 and 7 of the Foreign Persons in the Republic of Bulgaria Act the foreign person proves his/her investment through certain documents (see above).
The director of the Migration Agency at the Ministry of Interior send the documents to the State Agency "National Security" for evaluation.
The processing of the documents related to the application is done within three months and a decision is made. In case of legal and factual difficulties and need for further documentation, this period may be extended by a further two months. In such case the foreign person is informed and has to file the additional documents and/or information within a week. If no action is taken within the prescribed period, the proceedings are terminated by a rejection and the application will not be processed anew.
After a positive decision by the Migration Agency at the Ministry of Interior, the applicant must first pay the fee of BGN 1,000.
IV. Application for the acquisition of citizenship
The legal regulation can be found in the Bulgarian Citizenship Act and the Ordinance No. 19 from 19.02.1999 on the application of Chapter V of the Bulgarian citizenship Act.
In order for the foreign person to be able to acquire Bulgarian citizenship (fast procedure), he/she must make a second investment in the amount of BGN 1,000,000. This investment must be carried out according to the same conditions as the previous one. One year after the issuance of the permanent residence permit (acc. to art. 14a, p. 1 from the Bulgarian Citizenship Act) the foreign person may submit an application for acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship with the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice or at the consulate or at the diplomatic mission of the Republic of Bulgaria in the homeland or in an another country where the person has been residing for more than three months. The application must be written in Bulgarian and submitted in person. The following documents must be submitted in Bulgarian:
- Copy of birth certificate;
- Residence permits acc. P. II of this legal opinion; Police Clearance Certificate;
- Certificate issued by the public prosecutor confirming that no criminal proceedings have been initiated against the applicant for an intentional crime;
- Health certificate (this confirms that the person is not suffering from any acute infectious diseases or mental illness and could be issued by the family doctor or by a medical commission in the home country or in Bulgaria (because the person already has a permanent residence permit));
- Declaration acc. to Annex 4 of Ordinance No. 1 from 1999;
- Curriculum vitae;
- Copy of the passport;
- Receipt for paid state fee in the amount of BGN 100.
After submitting the documents an interview in Bulgarian is conducted with the candidate. If the person does not speak Bulgarian, an interpreter may be appointed. The questions that are asked during the interview, are determined by the Minister of Justice.
After six months the Minister of Justice introduces a proposal for the issuance of a President Decree, with which the applicant acquires Bulgarian citizenship. The acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship comes into effect with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria.