Bulgaria: Linking the East and West

Bulgaria is a picturesque small country situated in Southeastern Europe, occupying the northeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula.Since ancient times, the country has served as a major crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa, linking the East and West.

After World War II, Bulgaria became a Communist country and was part of the Eastern Bloc. However, after the Communist domination ended in 1990, Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a free market economy.

Today, Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy. The country became a member of NATO in 2004, the European Union (EU) in 2007 and joined Europe’s passport-free Schengen group of 25 nations in March 2011. It is also a member of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

Bulgaria has experienced very rapid economic growth in recent years, especially after becoming a part of the EU. Bulgaria has a well-developed energy sector, mining industry and tourism industry.

Residency by Investment Program of Bulgaria:

The Bulgarian business immigration program was introduced in May 2009. It was put forth by the Bulgarian government to attract high net worth individuals to invest in Bulgaria thereby bringing in foreign investment. In return, the investor and his immediate family members receive Bulgarian residency, and subsequently Bulgarian citizenship. When an investor becomes a Bulgarian permanent resident, he automatically becomes a permanent resident of the European Union at the same time.

Investors who through the business immigration program, wish to obtain Permanent Residence Permit, issued by the Ministry of Interior need first to qualify for a Certificate of the Ministry of Finance confirming a foreign direct investment of 1,000,000 BGN (€511,292) in accepted Governmental Bond Portfolio. There is a strict statutory procedure to be followed in order to obtain that Certificate in regards of source and origin of the funds as well as the allowed financial transactions. However, the entire process is very fast and efficient.

 Who can qualify?

To qualify for residency by investment program of Bulgaria, an investor must:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be a non-EU citizen
  • Possess a valid passport or another foreign travel document
  • Have a minimum net worth of BGN 2,000,000 (€1,022,000) for financed option
  • Have obtained the funds legitimately (proof of funds is essential)
  • Invest BGN 1,000,000 in government approved bonds
  • No criminal record
  • Furnish all necessary documents
  • Complete and sign all necessary forms and agreements
  • Pay the application fee
  • Be willing to make the minimum statutory trips to Bulgaria in order to complete all the application formalities.

There are two options available to an investor for making an investment:

  1. Making a full investment:

The investor must invest BGN 1,000,000 (€511,292) in fully guaranteed government bonds for 5 years. At the end of 5 years, the invested amount is returned back in full to the investor, without the incurred interest.

  1. Opting for financed investment:

The investor makes a one-time payment of €170,000to a government approved financial intermediary, who then invests the investment amount of €511,292 in government bonds on behalf of the investor. The amount of €170,000 is used to cover the financing costs of financing the full investment amount on behalf of the investor. This one-time payment of €170,000 is not returned to the investor.

  1. Fast track option:

Offered in accordance with the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act, the Investor Program for Residence and Citizenship includes a fast-track citizenship option. It is also one of the fastest programs to lead to residence.

The fast-track option allows investors to apply for citizenship faster by doubling their investment. The requirements for this option are as follows:

  • Have at least one year of permanent residency status.
  • Double the investment by purchasing €512,000 in government bonds or in the capital of a Bulgarian company that is carrying out a Priority Investment Project (as defined in the Investment Promotion Act).
  • Hold a second additional investment for a period of two years.

Financing options are available to qualified applicants.

Applications for the fast-track program are examined under express procedure. Under the fast-track option, citizenship is can be acquired within two years.

Citizenship requirements:

Once an investment is made and approved, the investor is granted Bulgarian residency. It usually takes around 6-9 months to complete all the formalities and obtain Bulgarian residency.

In accordance with the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, foreign investors who hold a permanent resident permit for at least five years are eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship. The requirements are as follows:

  • Must have maintained permanent resident status and a valid residential address for the past five years.
  • Must have never been sentenced by a Bulgarian court for a capital offence or accused in criminal proceedings for such a crime (unless he/she has been rehabilitated).
  • Investors will need to file a citizenship application and pass medical tests in their current country of residence.

Benefits of the program:

  • The most interesting feature of the program is the exemption of physical residency, which means that after obtaining residency, investors are not required to physically reside in Bulgaria for a certain period of time to obtain citizenship. They have to however, maintain residence in Bulgaria.
  • Since Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, its residents enjoy visa-free travel and the right of residence in any other European country.Therefore, after becoming a Bulgarian resident, an investor and his immediate family members can live, study, work and retire in any EU member country.
  • Bulgaria offers the lowest tax rates and free-trade environment within the EU. It offers potential investors with a uniquely diverse and cost effective business environment. It is presently one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.
  • The operational costs in Bulgaria are one of the lowest in Europe and investors can have access to a highly-skilled labour force. The trade and tax laws in Bulgaria are also very favourable to businessmen. Additionally, its strategic geographical location is highly suitable for business expansion across continents such as Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
  • Residents of Bulgaria enjoy the high quality of life that Europe has to offer. They have access to a quality healthcare and education system. They can also apply for jobs advertised anywhere in the EU.
  • Free movement within the Schengen zone after Bulgaria becomes a member state.
  • Access to high-quality health care in Bulgaria and the EU.
  • There are no language requirements.
  • There is no obligation to relinquish current nationality.
  • As of 1 January 2017, Bulgarian citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 154 countries and territories, ranking the Bulgarian passport 20th in terms of travel freedom.

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