The new Bulgarian citizenship by investment program is now official. All rumors that it will be cancelled are now in the past. Bulgaria becomes the only EU country to offer true Golden Passport.
If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.Albert Einstein
Bulgaria revamps its citizenship by investment program in 2021
You can skip the introduction and scroll down straight to the conditions of the new program!
For faster processing of your application, you can fill in the pre-application information form. Once we receive your input, we will contact you with further details. The application form will open in new window.
Enhanced investment choices
On 26.02.2021, the Bulgarian parliament voted some important legislative amendments that relate to the citizenship by investment program. Namely, the “Law for the foreigners in Bulgaria” and the “Law on the Bulgarian citizenship” were enhanced significantly. We are happy that our work with the authorities has not been wasted. As result, Bulgaria is now having a much better investment citizenship program, with much wider range of investment choices.
Huge interest for the new CIP
The decision of the parliament gave birth to the NEW 2021 Bulgarian citizenship by investment program. The relevant laws came into force after they were published in the State Gazette nr.21 on 12.03.2021. The conditions of the new program are even better for the investors than were the conditions of the old program. Logically we are already witnessing huge interest for the new program.
Some background of the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program
The rumors that the Bulgarian investment citizenship will be canceled evaporated
For about two years now, the Bulgarian program was heavily denigrated by foreign citizenship agents. These attacks were coming mainly from “competitors” from Cyprus, Malta and other exotic islands. They were all claiming that the Bulgarian program will be canceled, so the clients would better opt for their CIPs. Luckily none of these rumors materialized. On the contrary, it was Cyprus that canceled its program. This was done after harsh criticism from the European Commission and a huge political scandal on the island.
The Bulgarian program becomes the only EU citizenship by investment program
The Bulgarian passport – the only EU passport you can legally get fast!
From 2021, Bulgaria is de-facto the only EU country to offer sustainable and feasible true citizenship by investment program. And don’t be fooled by any misleading offers for Golden Visa or permanent residence schemes. These don’t even come close to full EU citizenship (aka Golden Passport).
After the new Bulgarian citizenship by investment program was revamped in February-March 2021, the Bulgarian passport becomes the only EU Golden Passport!
Very fast legal timeline of only 12 months
The investment program provides the opportunity to become eligible for Bulgarian citizenship in as little as in 12 months. Citizenship is unconditional and for life. The children of the applicant can immediately apply for Bulgarian citizenship on basis of origin.
About the new Bulgarian fast-track citizenship program
and how it can change your life forever
Restrictions across the board, if you hold the “wrong” passport
We believe that everyone should be allowed unrestricted travel to any country in the world. We advocate that everyone should be allowed to choose his residence – anywhere in the world. And last, but not least, we believe there should be no borders or entry visa restrictions. Unfortunately there are, plenty of. Living standards differ from country to country. Hence, many governments are restricting access to their soil, one way or another. Citizens of the less fortunate countries suffer from discrimination and their travel rights are being violated, even suspended completely.
How hard it is to get “quality” citizenship
Getting citizenship via “standard” naturalization
Unfortunately, changing citizenship or obtaining another one, is not an easy undertaking. Usually, citizens of the western countries enjoy the best travel privileges worldwide. But getting citizenship there requires lengthy legal residency period (usually 10+ years), comprehensive language and history exams. But even then, the process of approving these applications takes another 2 to 5 years. All this is making the total waiting period, in the majority of the cases, to be more than 15 years.
Bulgaria is not giving easy “standard” citizenship
Bulgaria, as full EU member, makes no exception of this rule for its “standard” citizenship procedures. In order for the application to be approved, the candidate should pass comprehensive language test and cancel his existing citizenship(s). This may not be always necessary though. The applicant must then go through a number of administrative procedures before his application will be eventually approved.
Even plain EU residence permit is hard to get
Obtaining standard track citizenship would be at least feasible, if the western countries (including Bulgaria) were issuing easily residence permits. Because, without residence permit, the counting clock for the required residency term doesn’t start ticking. Unfortunately, this is definitely not the case – EU residence permit is a headache on its own.
Perfect solution for the financially independent
But what if you are financially independent person with sustainable and successful career or business model. In such case, you simply can’t afford your travel privileges to be restricted. If you have accumulated certain wealth, you can’t accept any constraints to be imposed on you or on your family. You should be able to decide your own future. You should be able to decide in which country you will spend your life or retire.
So is there a way out of this situation? There certainly is!
EU citizenship – definitely the best bet
The ultimate solution is to obtain fast-track citizenship by investment. And of course, the citizenship should be from the “right” country. It should offer you much better travel rights and freedom of settlement (among other things). Different countries from just about every corner of the world are offering some kind of “Citizenship by Investment” initiatives. From St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean to Vanuatu in the South Pacific, there are different citizenship alternatives. But can they even compare to a full EU passport and Bulgarian citizenship? Absolutely not!
In the EU itself, Bulgaria’s fast-track citizenship program was not the only one (pre 2021). Cyprus and Malta were also offering their own fast-track citizenship programs. But was there even a place for comparison? We strongly recommend you reading the Bulgarian fast-track citizenship vs other countries investment citizenship programs. Of course, after Cyprus cancelled its CIP at the end of 2020, this comparison became obsolete. Currently, Bulgaria is practically the only EU option for fast track citizenship.
We will outline below, why the “Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment” program of 2021 is one of a kind. Also what the main advantages of holding Bulgarian passport are. We will also explain how the program works and how you can benefit today from an unique life changing opportunity.
The advantages of the “Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment” program of 2021
Unlimited residency, working & political rights EU-wide (and beyond)
One of the major innovations established by the Treaty of Maastricht on European Union is the creation of European citizenship over and above national citizenship. Every citizen who is a national of a (EU) Member State is also a citizen of the Union (EU). This citizenship vests new rights in Europeans, viz.:
- unconditional right to travel and reside freely in the Community;
- the right to vote and to stand as a candidate for European and municipal elections in the State in which he resides;
- assistance by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any EU Member State while abroad;
- the right to petition the European Parliament and to submit a complaint to the Ombudsman.
The implications of the above rules are immense. EU citizens enjoy unprecedented rights within the whole Union and even beyond (i.e. Switzerland, EU overseas territories, etc.), something unseen anywhere else.
EU freedom of movement
One of the most important values and principles of the European Union is the unrestricted and unconditional freedom of movement of its citizens. These rights apply to all EU persons and are one of the cornerstones of the EU. No other national, of any other country in the world, has similar rights. The freedom to reside, work, study, and retire in more than 30 countries is something unique for the mankind. The 30+ countries include all EU members states plus other European countries, such as Switzerland and Norway. The ultimate living rights apply even to distant EU overseas territories. Did you know that as Bulgarian citizen, you can live without any restrictions or formalities in Martinique in the Caribbean?
As Bulgarian citizen, within the EU and most other European countries (ie Switzerland), you don’t even need carrying your passport. ID card is sufficient to cross any order via the express “EU only” gates (available at all EU airports). While in the Schengen area, you won’t be even bothered to show your ID.
The fact that everyone with Bulgarian (or other EU) citizenship can freely decide on where to reside, without any formalities, is something many foreign nationals consider to be “too good to be true”. But it is true – being Bulgarian citizen, you can live in Paris, Rome, Berlin, Zurich or Geneva – anywhere you wish. Historical Prague, beautiful Greek island or ice-cold Finland – you have full rights, as EU citizen.
Visa-free travel with your Bulgarian passport & EU diplomatic protection
Alongside the unlimited living and working rights within the EU, being Bulgarian citizen allows traveling to almost any country worldwide visa-free. At the moment, Bulgarian passport holders enjoy visa-free travel to about 160 countries1. And the list expands constantly, mainly because of the EU common visa reciprocity policy2. Be it Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, just name it – Bulgarians travel freely worldwide without the need to obtain visa.
1 It is extremely difficult to determine the exact number of visa-free countries for any particular passport holder. For the sake of accuracy, when determining which country provides visa-free access for certain nationals, it needs to be taken into account the different visa regimes in existence, such as “visa on arrival”, “free transit visa for extended period”, “electronic visa waiver”, “e-visa”, etc. Bulgarian citizens are currently ranked number 9 in the world by most current statistical data. The 9th place is shared with shared with Australia and three other EU member states. The ranking is based on number of countries that provide visa-free entry to Bulgarian nationals.
2 The European Parliament and the European Council have adopted a Regulation 1289/2013 with the aim to apply full visa reciprocity mechanism for the EU member states. The visa reciprocity is a legal mechanism aiming to achieve completely visa free travel for citizens of all (EU) Member States to every non EU country whose citizens can travel visa-free to the EU.
EU only airport gates
Many countries around the world provide dedicated EU citizens only gates at their airports. These facilities enable EU nationals to pass faster and with fewer formalities. Border checks are being simplified and transit times shortened – all because of the prestige of the EU citizenship.
Consular assistance for EU nationals
Another advantage of having EU citizenship is the consular assistance that the EU is providing to all of its citizens. The rule is that each EU citizen has the right of consular protection from any EU diplomatic/consular authority worldwide. This is of course when there is no such authority from the home country of the EU citizen. Bulgaria, as relatively small country, is obviously not represented in each and every country around the globe. No more worries in these cases – the citizens of Bulgaria have the option to chose any other diplomatic EU mission. Be it the embassy of Germany, France or the Netherlands, Bulgarian nationals will have their interests protected while abroad.
Low taxation, access to EU healthcare and social security system, right to own real estate in the EU
Although the EU has common legal system, shared values and principles, the taxation rates differ between the member states. Bulgaria is enjoying one of the lowest tax rates in the EU – 10% flat on both personal and corporate profits. As an additional advantage, many types of profits are completely free of tax in Bulgaria. Profits from shares, bond coupons, investment funds, etc. are tax exempt. This is another advantage of the Bulgarian citizenship, as it provides extremely favorable business opportunities to the Bulgarian citizens. This comes on top of the unique capital preservation opportunities in Bulgaria.
Access to the EU social system
EU citizens have access to the social security and medical system in all member states, depending on their choice of residence. As Bulgarian citizen, you and your children will also have full access to the best schools and universities in all member states. Additionally, if there are scholarship fees, you will be charged at “domestic EU rates”, rather than “international fees”, which are much higher. Student credit facilities are also being provided to EU citizens at preferential conditions.
Investment in EU real estate
There are many non-EU citizens who opt for the Bulgarian fast-track citizenship program, for completely different reason (other than freedom of movement, etc.). This is namely to obtain legal right to invest in real estate properties that are only available to EU citizens. These are in general either exclusive properties with extremely high investment potential (including land plots) or historical (heritage) properties. Either way, there is a very good reason why the EU is restricting the sale of these estates to non-citizens.
How the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment program of 2021 works
the different stages explained in detail
The first stage – the preliminary due diligence process
So, you have decided to go ahead and change your citizenship status. Then lift your sails and prepare yourself to explore a whole new world of opportunities. But first things first – the preliminary due diligence.
We, as your consultant and legal advisor in the process of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship, will need to verify the legal feasibility of your application first. People with criminal background, unclear (suspicious) source of funding or any other irregularities will be rejected by the Bulgarian government and will not be able to obtain citizenship.
Our assistance during the due diligence procedures
Here is where our assistance proves to be invaluable. Our estimates show, that without the adequate initial legal support and advice, more than 85% of all applications would have been rejected by the state straight away. Not because there would have been something wrong with these candidates, but because the foreign citizenship applicant would not be simply able to present his case and background in a proper way. Source of funds is of extreme importance for example, but stating simply “personal savings” doesn’t do the job in Europe anymore. We are proud to confirm that we have never had a single (legally justified) rejection in cases where our preliminary due diligence conditions have been successfully met.
No guarantees without proper due diligence
We strongly advocate against practices, where the client is guaranteed successful outcome from the beginning, without any preliminary due diligence and feasibility assessment. If you are ever assured that your application will be approved, while you haven’t even provided copy of your passport, then we advise you to walk away from any such offers.
Preliminary due diligence – a must after the 2021 amendments
The regulations of the 2021 program require a more throughout check of the candidate prior to the initiation of the investment formalities. This entails, but is not limited to providing:
- Documents that identify the person’s identity without any trace of doubt;
- Evidences that prove that the person has the required amount for the chosen investment;
- Documents that show clearly the real source of the funds;
- Statement or declaration, confirming whether the person is PEP (political exposed person);
- Documents, showing the person’s business and investment activities;
- Certificate for lack of criminal convictions;
- Any other documents that the investment agency may require.
The second stage – your first investment and the permanent residency status
Under the fast-track citizenship program, the applicant has to invest initially an amount that ranges from 256 000 EUR to 1 024 000 EUR, in order to obtain permanent residency status. It is worth noting that permanent residency is the highest grade residency status in Bulgaria and it provides many rights and privileges to its holder. It is often being confused with the long-term residency, which is completely different and of much lesser value.
The investment choices – more options than with the old program
In order to obtain the permanent residency, the applicant, according to art. 25, par. 1, p. 6, p. 7, p. 13 and p. 16 of the “Law for the Foreigners in Bulgaria” has to invest the aforementioned amount in one or more of the following:
- Shares of Bulgarian listed companies, traded on regulated market, for 1 024 000 EUR;
- Bulgarian corporate bonds, traded on regulated market, for 1 024 000 EUR;
- Bulgarian concession contracts and rights, for 512 000 EUR;
- Shares of investment funds (EU regulated UCITs and ETFs) with investment focus on Bulgaria, for 512 000 EUR;
- Shares of alternative investment funds (AIFs) with investment focus on Bulgaria, for 512 000 EUR;
- Investment in Bulgarian company carrying on a Certified Priority Investment Project (CPIP, basically an analogue of the EB5), for 1 024 000 EUR;
- Participation in certified investment project – the minimum investment depends on the particular project;
- Participation or creation of Bulgarian trading company, for 256 000 EUR and employing 10 Bulgarian nationals.
We will be providing full and comprehensive information about all available options. Please contact us for details.
Investment remains always on the name and the account of the applicant
It is very important to know that whichever investment option you choose – the investment will always be on your name. We will never ask you to transfer it to any third party. It is your ultimate protection. We urge you to immediately seek legal advice if you are asked or offered to invest by transferring the investment amount to someone else, . You can also read the word of caution section for additional information. The article has been written for the old program, but is pretty much relevant to the new 2021 program as well.
The third stage – your second (final) investment, your Bulgarian citizenship and EU passport
The fast-track citizenship program foresees that 12 months after the permanent residency status has been granted, the applicant can make a second investment (making the total investment to range from minimum 512 000 EUR to maximum 2 048 000 EUR) and can then apply immediately for Bulgarian citizenship. The second investment can be done as per one of the following 4 options. The citizenship candidate needs to:
To double his investment, in case the investor has chosen investment as per p. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 during the second stage when he has obtained permanent residency.
To invests additionally 512 000 EUR in Bulgarian company that carries on Certified Priority Investment Project (CPIP, as per p. 6).
To maintain his participation in certified investment project (as per p. 7) and to ensure that the investments in the project have been maintained above the required minimum for investment class “A” as per the Bulgarian Investment Promotion Act.
To increase his investment in the capital of Bulgarian company with 256 000 EUR (increasing the total investment to 512 000 EUR) and to increase the number of Bulgarian employees from 10 to 20 (as per p. 8).
Short naturalization time-frame and favorable investment requirements
In other words, the law foresees that the citizenship can be obtained in only 12 months from start to end. Of course this is technically not possible as there is always some extra processing time for due diligence procedures, document preparation, etc. You will find further down below the detailed timeline of the program so you can calculate for yourself when you can expect to become EU citizen if you start right now.
The process enters its final stage after the second investment condition is fulfilled. Our lawyers are lodging formal citizenship application with the Ministry of Justice. Consequently, a citizenship decree is being issued by the vice president through the office of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. It is worth stating that the fast-track citizenship program doesn’t require the candidate to pass any language, history or other tests, nor to surrender his existent citizenship(s). It also doesn’t require actual stay (residency term) in Bulgaria in order for the citizenship to be granted.
EU citizen – congratulations!
And that’s it – you are now officially Bulgarian and EU citizen. Your citizenship is unconditional and for a lifetime. Your dependants, their dependants and so on, they are all considered to be Bulgarian citizens as well (see Citizenship by Origin). You are set to start a whole new life with less stress and more time to enjoy the really important things – your and your family’s freedom!
More information about the new 2021 fast-track citizenship program
The timeline of the citizenship application process
Our clients are constantly asking us to provide clear timeline of all stages during the citizenship application and all processes prior to its submission and approval. While no two cases are the same, below is the average processing time, showing the different (main) stages.
|#Month||Description of the procedures|
|1st||Preliminary due diligence. Personal meeting with the client (in cases when the client requires in-depth legal consultation or when the preliminary due diligence can not be completed otherwise), either in our offices, online (because of covid) or visit to the client’s home country. Pre-approval procedures with the authorities as per the new 2021 program’s requirements.|
|2nd||Obtaining investment certificate. Obtaining investor visa “type D” (legally required, may be in month #3). We provide full support through the Bulgarian diplomatic missions so the visa is issued in the shortest time possible.|
|3rd||Application for permanent residency (personal presence of the applicant in Bulgaria may be required). Registration in the municipality and in the register. Obtaining permanent residency permission and Bulgarian ID card.|
|4th||Application for permanent residency for the main applicant’s family members (if applicable). As all our clients are registered in pre-approved regions of the capital Sofia, family members can obtain residency status almost instantly.|
|15th||Effecting the second investment by the client. Certification procedures. Submitting the application for Bulgarian citizenship.|
|17th||Citizenship application approval and issuance of the citizenship decree.|
For how long should you keep the investment
By the Bulgarian citizenship law, the investment should be held for at least 2 years after the citizenship decree has been signed. The investment is never blocked or restricted in any way though. This is probably the reason why many unregistered and unlicensed agents are advising liquidating the investment right after the citizenship has been acquired. As legal conformity is our top priority, we strongly advocate against such practices and warn that the investment should be held as explained above. On top of that, the Law for the foreigners foresees that the investment is held for 5 years. Please contact us if you need further information about the legal requirements.
The semi-fast-track citizenship by investment option
While we firmly believe that the ultimate goal for everyone should be the full EU citizenship status, there are some cases when the applicant is content with Bulgarian permanent residency. Some clients from certain countries (with favorable visa-free travel possibilities) are often utilizing the semi-fast-track citizenship option in order to relocate to Bulgaria or to obtain much more favorable tax status than in their own country. For example, there are more and more US citizens that apply for the semi-fast-track option and obtain full Bulgarian citizenship at a later stage.
A provision in the new 2021 Bulgarian citizenship law exists that allows the applicant to effect only the initial investment (the second stage) and to obtain immediately permanent residency status, as explained above. Rather than increasing the investment (as per the third stage) after one year, as with the standard fast-track option, the applicant can opt not to make any additional investments in which case he will be able to apply for and obtain Bulgarian citizenship after a period of 5 years. The citizenship will be granted without any language or history exams and without the requirement to surrender any existing citizenship(s).