After Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, the country became an attractive and secure place for foreign investments. To further boost the country’s economic growth, the Bulgarian Parliament passed in 2009 number of amendments in the Bulgarian Citizenship, Foreigners in Bulgaria and Investment Promotion laws, which enabled Non-European citizens and their families, who invest in Bulgaria, to apply for permanent residency and citizenship in a much simplified and shortened procedure.
Non-EU nationals and their families (spouse and children below 18) can apply for Permanent Residence in Bulgaria if they invest in several financial instruments. Permanent residence permits are issued by the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior. This entitles the person to the same rights as a Bulgarian citizen, except the right to vote.
Bulgaria offers permanent residency through investment of €511,292 (BGN 1 million) in government bonds. The government bond portfolio is for an investment period of at least five years. No further investment is required. The investor will receive annual interest and at the end of the five-year period, the full amount of BGN 1 million (€511,292) will be returned to the investor. The investment is fully guaranteed by the government bonds. They are usually seen as a low-risk safe investment. Evidence of source of funds might be required. The bonds are pledged by the government of Bulgaria and carry an investment credit rating of BBB by S&P and Baa2 by Moody’s. Since 1997 there is a currency board, established in Bulgaria and BGN is pledged to the Euro at the rate 1,95583. In exchange for a safe and state-guaranteed investment, applicants from all nationalities can obtain permanent residence with only 2 statutory visits to Bulgaria. The applicant will have to travel to apply for his Permanent Residence Permit, and later to apply and obtain his ID card.
The Applicant must not be an EU citizen. He must possess a valid passport or another foreign travel document and must have a clean criminal record.
Close family members of the investor are eligible to acquire permanent residence and obtain Bulgarian citizenship in several ways. The main applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under 18 are eligible to become permanent residents after the main applicant is granted resident status. A main applicant’s spouse is only eligible if the spouses have been married for no less than five years at the time of application. Spouses and children of the applicant are eligible to acquire permanent residence. Though, they will not be granted citizenship at the same time as the applicant. To be eligible to apply the applicant must make a full investment option of at least BGN 1,000,000 (€512,000).
The applicant must apply for a permanent residence permit and ID card in Bulgaria. If eligible, the investor can apply for citizenship in Bulgaria or at a Bulgarian consulate abroad. Applicants are not required to be in Bulgaria during the whole process. However, when applying for a permanent residence permit and ID card the investor is required to be present in Bulgaria. There are a number of documents that have to be prepared and legalized including, but not limited to, criminal record certificate, marriage license, proof of funds, etc.
The Investor may apply for Bulgarian citizenship by investment if he holds the permanent residence and maintains the investment for five years. There is no physical residence requirements or fluency in Bulgarian language as required by the general naturalization rules.
Bulgarian citizenship requirements for investors are as follows:
- Be of the age of maturity (note: children under 18 obtain citizenship when one of their parents becomes a citizen);
- Must have maintained permanent resident status and a valid residential address for the past five years;
- Has not been sentenced for a premeditated criminal offence and is not subject to criminal proceedings for such an offence;
- Possesses an income and/or occupation allowing him or her to subsist in the Republic of Bulgaria.
On the Standard Track, an applicant would become a permanent resident on completing the qualifying investment. After holding a qualifying investment for 5 years, on further application, such a resident would qualify for citizenship.
In December 2013, the Bulgarian Parliament passed legislation and made changes to the Bulgarian citizenship Act, according to which if an investor doubled the investment at any time after the first year from receiving permanent residency, he becomes eligible for citizenship within a further 6 months, rather than having to wait for the 5-year period to run out.
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 your investment in bonds in the second year followed by application for a Bulgarian citizenship and passport with the Ministry of Justice. The investor may apply for Bulgarian citizenship & passport at the nearest Bulgarian embassy or general consulate;
- Hold additional investment for a period of two years after citizenship is granted.
If Investors utilize the above mentioned options, they will be eligible for citizenship within 6 months of the additional investment. This means an investor can get Bulgarian citizenship within just 2.5 years, without any physical residency requirements. Maintaining the investment for 2 years you will get a lifetime Bulgarian citizenship and passport.