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"He used to be a German, but he completely recovered." - Boris Akunin
We are sure that Mr Akunin had nothing against the Germans (albeit the scent of sarcasm). On the contrary, Germany is a great nation and the German passport is currently the number one passport in the world for number of countries that can be visited visa-free. The quote above is only to illustrate that one’s citizenship status can still be changed, even if the person doesn’t qualify for citizenship by birth or by origin.
The process of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization is definitely the most comprehensive legal procedure one can undertake in order to change his citizenship status. In general, there are three main options in order to obtain citizenship by naturalization in Bulgaria, namely:
- Naturalization through permanent (long term) residency;
- Naturalization for special merits;
- Naturalization through investment, also being referred to as Citizenship by Investment (or fast-track Citizenship).
In this article, we will explain in more detail the first two options. For more information about the third option, please refer to Citizenship by Investment.
Naturalization through permanent (long term) residency
The Bulgarian law foresees that a person can obtain Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization if the following conditions are met:
- The applicant is of legal age;
- The applicant has received permanent residency permit not sooner than 5 years ago1;
- The applicant has no criminal convictions;
- The applicant has sufficient income or profession in order to support himself in Bulgaria;
- The applicant has proficiency in Bulgarian language;
- The applicant has no other citizenship(s) or will relinquish its existing citizenship(s) at the moment when the Bulgarian citizenship will be granted.
1 Please note that the general requirement for 5 years of permanent residency transforms (in the common case) to a whole 10 years waiting time before Bulgarian citizenship application can be submitted. This comes from the fact, that under the normal procedure, permanent residency can be applied for, only after 5 years of long-term residency. A notable exception of this rule are the special conditions that apply to "Citizenship by Investment", where citizenship is granted in only 12 months.
There are many exceptions to the conditions above. For instance, citizens of the EU as well as spouses of Bulgarian citizens will not be required to relinquish their current citizenship(s). Preferential conditions are also applied to refugees and stateless persons.
Important sub-category is the naturalization process, often being referred to as "Citizenship by Marriage", for spouses of Bulgarian citizens. In these cases, the Bulgarian legislation foresees number of advantages, such as shortened residency term requirement of only 3 years, etc.
Of course, the legal provisions are much more complicated than that and we will be not able to explain all details and small print on this website, so please contact us for any additional information you might require.
Naturalization for special merits
Citizenship for special merits can be granted to a person straight away if the Bulgarian State has interests in its naturalization or if the person has special merits towards Bulgaria in the public field, the economy, science, technology, culture and sport.
Although quite vague, the legal provisions that apply for citizenship for special merits towards the State are being applied strictly and there are very clear internal regulations as to how the citizenship is being granted and approved by the state citizenship Commission. Our experience shows, that in many cases, this procedure is quite feasible, provided the application is prepared professionally with sufficient backing as to the candidate’s personal achievements. If you think you may be able to fulfill the requirements of this option, please go straight to the Bulgarian Citizenship for Special Merits section.