In Europe, citizenship acquisition typically involves three routes: birth, descent, or residence. Bulgaria offers a unique fourth avenue, "citizenship by investment," often associated with the "Golden Visa" concept. ETIAS provides a comprehensive guide, covering the process and motivations for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship through investment.
Considering Bulgarian citizenship is a significant decision that may arise in various circumstances. Here, we outline when individuals might contemplate this option.
Strategic advantages of Bulgarian citizenship: Bulgaria's citizenship offers several strategic advantages, particularly in the context of European Union (EU) membership.
Unrestricted movement across EU countries: Bulgarian citizens have the right to live, work, and study anywhere in the EU.
Bulgaria is not yet part of the Schengen Area: This means that Bulgarian citizens may still need to undergo border checks when travelling between Bulgaria and other Schengen countries.
Family members can also benefit from investment-based naturalisation: Spouses with over five years of marriage and children under 18 of Bulgarian citizens are eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship.
Dual citizenship is allowed: Bulgarian citizens can retain their existing citizenship(s) when obtaining Bulgarian citizenship through investment.
Bulgaria is known for its attractive tax rates: Bulgaria has a flat tax rate of 10% on personal income, with minor exceptions for capital gains and investment income.
Accelerated pathway to EU citizenship: The Bulgarian citizenship by investment program offers a relatively quick and easy way to obtain EU citizenship.
Privileged access to government-approved investment opportunities: Investors in the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program have access to a range of government-approved investment opportunities.
Personal reasons for seeking Bulgarian citizenship: Some people may seek Bulgarian citizenship for personal reasons, such as to be closer to family or friends in Bulgaria or to enjoy the Bulgarian culture and lifestyle.
Citizenship by investment involves a substantial financial commitment to the Bulgarian economy, resulting in the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship. This option offers a relatively swift and straightforward path to citizenship for individuals with the necessary capital resources.
Recent changes related to citizenship by investment were enacted last year. The concept of citizenship by investment was first introduced through the Immigrant Investor Programme in 2005. In 2013, the Fast Track program was introduced to expedite the process. Concerns regarding program abuse and money laundering have prompted enhanced security measures and the development of a modernised program.
The initial prerequisites for commencing the citizenship acquisition process are relatively straightforward, resembling common requirements for most applications. Before embarking on the journey to obtain Bulgarian citizenship, foreign investors must first apply for an investor visa, facilitating the acquisition of permanent residency before formal citizenship.
The essential requirements for applying for a foreign investor visa are as follows:
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and must not hold citizenship in any EU nation. EU citizens have the advantage of unrestricted movement within the EU, negating the need for a specific visa in this context.
Applicants must maintain a clean criminal record and be in good personal health. These criteria ensure the moral integrity of the individual and their ability to navigate the process successfully.
Investors should possess the necessary assets required to complete their investment.
To qualify for citizenship by investment, a contribution of one million Bulgarian Lev is required. The currency, denoted as BGN and pegged to the euro. The investment methods are subject to government approval and oversight.
There are six authorised approaches to making the necessary investment for acquiring citizenship:
Invest one million BGN in investment funds, which can include publicly-traded ETFs or alternative investment funds primarily focused on Bulgarian companies. This investment may involve private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, or a combination.
Allocate one million BGN to the capital of an existing company, with the stipulation that this investment must result in the creation of at least ten full-time jobs, a condition verified by the Ministry of Economy.
Make an initial one million BGN investment in the capital of a newly-formed company, where the investor serves as a shareholder and holds the majority of the company's capital.
Invest one million BGN under the acquisition of rights associated with concession agreements.
Commit to investing at least two million BGN in shares of an existing commercial company designated as a priority investment project, subject to monitoring and verification by the Ministry of Economy.
Inject at least six million BGN into a Bulgarian company not listed on the securities market, offering a broader spectrum of investment opportunities.
The journey toward obtaining Bulgarian citizenship unfolds over several steps with defined timeframes:
Initiate the process by undergoing pre-approval. The Bulgarian Investment Agency will meticulously review the provided information, assessing its authenticity and funding legitimacy. This stage necessitates proof of identification, background data, evidence of funding, and information about the funding source.
Allocate the required capital, which can be self-financed, externally funded, or government-backed. This step typically spans the second month of the process. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate from the Bulgarian Investment Agency, confirming your eligibility to apply for an investor visa.
Visit any embassy or consulate to obtain your investor visa, which occurs during the fourth month. Simultaneously, begin the compilation of essential documentation for a permanent resident card application.
Submit your paperwork and, if all proceeds as planned, you'll be issued a permanent resident card and a Tax Identification Number.
The process for your family members to join you can take several months, typically within eight months of your application. Note that additional fees may apply when pursuing familial citizenship.
Depending on whether you are on the ordinary track or fast track, specific financial commitments must be met. These divergent requirements will be elaborated on in the subsequent section.
In various immigration and citizenship processes, individuals often face the choice between two tracks: the fast track and the ordinary track. This comparison explores the key differences and factors to consider when making this decision.
1,024,000 EUR (doubled after one year of permanent residency)
Investment retention period
Time to citizenship
Spouses and dependents
Can acquire citizenship immediately following the applicant's naturalisation
Can acquire citizenship immediately following the applicant's naturalisation
The path to Bulgarian citizenship is a gradual one, not to be rushed. This process unfolds over time, allowing life to continue its normal course. Nevertheless, Bulgaria offers a range of advantages within the EU for those who meet the criteria and seek naturalisation.
What is Bulgaria's Investment Citizenship program?
Bulgaria's Investment Citizenship program, also known as its Golden Visa program, allows foreign investors to obtain Bulgarian citizenship through a substantial investment in the country.
What are the requirements to qualify for Bulgaria's Investment Citizenship program?
To qualify, you typically need to make a significant investment in the Bulgarian economy, such as buying government bonds or investing in a business. Specific financial requirements may vary, and you should consult with relevant authorities or experts.
Can you outline the general steps involved in obtaining Bulgarian citizenship through investment?
The process typically includes selecting a suitable investment option, fulfilling financial requirements, obtaining residency, and applying for citizenship. You will need to follow specific procedures outlined by the authorities.
What are the common investment options available for the program?
Common investment options may include purchasing government bonds, investing in Bulgarian companies, or contributing to strategic projects that benefit the country's economy. The specific choices and requirements can vary over time.
Is it required to live in Bulgaria during the application process?
Bulgaria's Investment Citizenship program typically requires obtaining permanent residency in the country. While you may need to spend time in Bulgaria during this process, you don't necessarily need to reside there full-time.
How long does it take to obtain Bulgarian citizenship through investment?
The timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances and the specific investment option chosen. Typically, it can take several years to complete the process, from obtaining residency to achieving citizenship.
Can family members be included in the application?
Yes, many investment citizenship programs, including Bulgaria's, often allow the inclusion of family members, such as spouses and dependent children, in the application.