Bulgarian citizenship by investment via the Golden Visa route

The EU investment citizenship landscape was seriously shattered in 2021-2022. The European Commission has put enormous pressure on the national EU governments to end all EU citizenship by investment programs (CIP). The majority of the CIP were transitioned to a Golden Visa, with path to EU citizenship. Bulgaria was no exception as it transformed the old Bulgarian CIP of 2021 to the New Golden Visa Bulgaria program.

So welcome, buckle your seatbelts and read on to find out how can you make the EU – your new home!

The old Citizenship by Investment programs

You can review the old CIP that were discontinued in 2021 and 2022:

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.

Toni Morrison

Golden Visa Bulgaria - Bulgarian passport

The Bulgarian Golden Visa program of 2022

You can skip the introduction and scroll down straight to the conditions of the Golden Visa Bulgaria program!

For faster processing of your application, you can fill in the Golden Visa information form. Once we receive your input, if we believe your application would be feasible, we will contact you with further details.

investment choices for Bulgarian Golden Visa

Wide range of investment choices

In 2022, the Bulgarian parliament decided, under heavy international pressure, to transform its CIP to a Golden Visa program. While this was disappointing move for many, Bulgaria remained one of the only few EU countries to be able to maintain its investment residency program. And indeed, it even offers path to full Bulgarian citizenship.

We have been actively involved with the Bulgarian authorities to assist in creating the right legal framework. The legal basis that suits both the investors and the EU regulators. As result, Bulgaria has maintained its leading role in the EU investment immigration field. Now it is offering a wide choice of investment options for one to start a new life in the EU.

long-term visa at sunset

EU Golden Visa – the only legal path to full citizenship

After the end of the true EU investment citizenship programs in 2021-2022, Golden Visa remains the only choice that leads to full citizenship. Luckily Bulgaria has solid legal framework that gives the investors the confidence that they will get permanent residence permit and will be able to obtain Bulgarian citizenship through an accelerated route. Make no mistake about it, getting Bulgarian citizenship is not an easy procedure. Even the permanent residence permit (PR) is a challenge. But with the right legal advisor, you are just a step away from your PR. And at later stage, to full citizenship.


Bulgarian passport and citizenship

The ultimate goal of the Golden Visa program – Bulgarian passport and full EU citizenship

Bulgaria is one of the few EU countries to offer true Golden Visa program. With an investment requirement starting at 500 000 BGN (256 000 EUR) only, the country is providing the opportunity to non-EU nationals to obtain EU permanent residency and full Bulgarian citizenship.

The Bulgarian Golden Visa program is a two-stage process. At the start, the Golden Visa applicant needs to obtain preliminary approval (more on that later) in order to effect the investment. Once the approval is received and the investment done, the applicant can obtain Bulgarian permanent residence permit.

Full Bulgarian citizenship after five years

Armed with the PR card, the foreigner becomes eligible for full Bulgarian citizenship in 5 years after the PR status is granted. Please note that certain conditions apply, so please contact us for details.

Preliminary approval for the investment – NEW

New and very important requirement

Not every investor, not every investment qualifies

The world is changing dynamically. New challenges are presented to the international investors. Ten years ago, any investor would have been welcomed in virtually any country in the world. It is not like that anymore, at least in the EU. Investors, especially those who apply for Golden Visa, are put through a serious screening. Any trace of doubt about the legitimacy of their investment or business activities, will result in immediate rejection. For this not to happen in a later stage, the Bulgarian Parliament has voted for a requirement of preliminary approval of the planned investment. The idea is to give the qualifying investors the peace of mind that once approved at the start, the likelihood of the Golden Visa application to succeed is quite realistic.

Although the requirement for preliminary approval is definitely an administrative burden for the Golden Visa applicant, it is also a tool that gives the qualifying candidates more confidence along the way. Our role is extremely important to facilitate the process of obtaining preliminary investment approval. Although the formalities to obtain preliminary approval are quite complicated, we have outlined the most important requirements below:

The money must be available

One of the most important requirement is that the money for the investment must be available. Therefore the Golden Visa applicant must provide a bank reference, stating that the required investment capital (ie 512 000 EUR) is available on the applicant’s account. The bank should be registered in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland or other country, which applies the anti-money laundering measures as described in the Bulgarian legislation.

The source of funding must be clear

In order for an approval to be obtained, the source of the money must be absolutely transparent. The candidate for Golden Visa should be able to prove the money is not coming from any shady business and that all taxes have been fully paid in his home country (or where his tax residence is). We will of course fully assist the applicant to meet all legal requirements.

Criminal record certificate

The applicant must provide criminal record certificate in order to obtain preliminary approval for making an investment. It should be noted that the law doesn’t specifically state that any criminal conviction will result in rejection of the application. There are different types of convictions, some may have expired, others quite minor or not considered a crime in Bulgaria. The authorities will have the final say if any irregularities are present.

Approval by the State Agency for National Security

One of the important steps in obtaining preliminary investment approval is the necessity that the application is approved by the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security and the Ministry of Interior. Their approval should be obtained by the Investment Agency within 25 days. In some situation this period can be extended by another 10 days and the applicant may be requested to provide additional documentation.

A problem well put is half solved.

John Dewey

No financing allowed

Another new requirement is that for the preliminary approval to be obtained, the applicant should provide assurances that the investment will be not used as collateral towards credit institution. Previously, with the old CIP, some investors used to fall for the so-called “financed investments”, which was not appreciated by the authorities, but not strictly forbidden. This is not possible anymore.

How the Bulgarian Golden Visa works

the different stages explained in detail

STEP ONE – The preliminary due diligence process (not to be confused with the preliminary approval for the investment)

sunset - success with Golden Visa

In our days nobody can even think of getting EU permanent residence permit without passing a due diligence. The EU governments, Bulgaria not being an exception, will only accept eligible candidates for residence and citizenship. No candidate with unclear past will be let through. Of course there are no ideal people and we don’t believe each and every Golden Visa applicant has perfect past. But within everyone’s 50 shades of grey, one must be able to show to the authorities his strengths and explain his weaknesses (if any).

Obviously at this stage, our support will be of extreme importance. We will need to be convinced ourselves first that the Golden Visa candidate is reputable and will not pose any risk for the Bulgarian authorities. Not everyone can become our client for PR and citizenship. We have solid reputation with the governmental institutions and will not be willing to jeopardize it.

Once we are convinced that the applicant is “suitable” and has serious chances to pass through all stages of the Golden Visa application, we will move forward. This step is extremely important. We will do our utmost, after having accepted the client, to demonstrate to the authorities that all legal formalities will be observed. We are by law obliged to comply with certain anti money laundering and KYC procedures.

Our role during the due preliminary diligence

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.

About 90% of all Bulgarian Golden Visa applications will fail without proper and professional due diligence. Sounds scary right? The government aims however for this number to increase to 100%. Many foreigners tend to believe that the simple fact that they have significant resources will guarantee them access to the EU. Nothing can be further from the truth though. Let’s face it, the EU doesn’t really need any money. Мoney from private investors? Think again. Do you really believe that a million or a two will help the Bulgarian economy? Of course not. The authorities in Bulgaria care of one thing only – (ultra) legal compliance and accepting only 100% eligible candidates.

No-one is allowed to give any guarantees for successful outcome

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.

Nobody should guarantee anything to the Golden Visa applicant prior to the due diligence. There are many “international agents” that will try to lure clients with false guarantees. This is illegal and can be even classified as “fraud”. No-one can guarantee anything that doesn’t depend on him, but on the Bulgarian authorities. Any such guarantees are useless, misleading and fraudulent in their nature.

STEP TWO – The preliminary approval to effect the chosen investment

We have already explained above most of the particularities of the preliminary investment approval. To sum it up, this step was introduced with the legal amendments of 2022 when the old Bulgarian CIP was transformed to the New Golden Visa program. The preliminary investment approval is absolutely essential and without it, the application can not be submitted. It is worth mentioning that the Law states that even when approval has been granted, it is not sufficient as legal ground for the applicant to obtain Bulgarian visa D. The necessity to obtain visa D is another controversial issue, which we will cover in detail in another writing.

STEP THREE – Effecting the investment

The Bulgarian Golden Visa route provides a wide range of investment choices. The minimum investment required starts at 256 000 EUR. The most cost-effective investment choices are those where the required investment minimum is 1 024 000 EUR though. We provide full guidance on the most secure and profitable investments. For this purpose, we liaise the client with the most reputable Bulgarian institutions that are authorized to effect the investment transaction.

What are the investment choices for the Golden Visa program

The applicant is presented wide choice of investment choices, as per art. 25, par. 1, p. 6, p. 7, p. 13 and p. 16 of the Foreigners Law. These are namely:

  1. Shares of Bulgarian stock-exchange traded companies – 1 024 000 EUR or more;
  2. Publicly traded Bulgarian corporate bonds – 1 024 000 EUR or more;
  3. Bulgarian concession rights and contracts – 512 000 EUR or more;
  4. Investment funds (EU regulated UCITs and ETFs), investing in Bulgaria – 512 000 EUR or more;
  5. Alternative investment funds (AIFs), investing in Bulgaria – 512 000 EUR or more;
  6. Bulgarian Certified Priority Investment Project (AKA the Bulgarian EB5) – 1 024 000 EUR or more;
  7. Certified investment project – minimum amount vary;
  8. Bulgarian commercial company – 256 000 EUR and employing ten Bulgarian nationals.

The investment options may vary in some cases and are subject to preliminary approval. Please contact us for any additional information.

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 current program as well.

STEP FOUR – obtaining PR (Golden Visa)

citizenship Bulgaria at sunset

Once the approved investment is effected, the applicant can apply for Bulgarian permanent residence permit. Often, a visa D needs to be obtained in advance. This is a controversial legal issue, so please contact us for details. The PR card needs to be applied for in person so a trip to Bulgaria is needed.

It is important to remember that the investment needs to be maintained for 5 years after the PR status is granted. If the investment is liquidated earlier than in 5 years, the applicant will be deprived of his PR rights and will be not able to apply for Bulgarian citizenship consequently.

The Golden Visa holder must also declare to the authorities any change in his investment, even if it is not liquidated. Last, but not least, the investment may not be used as collateral in order to obtain credit facility. Failure to comply with these conditions will result in termination of the PR status.

The spouse of the applicant will become also eligible to obtain PR (conditions apply). The minor children also can obtain long-term residence permit. In some cases, adult children will be also eligible to obtain long-term residence permit (conditions apply).

STEP FIVE – applying for Bulgarian citizenship and passport

This is the final stage and the ultimate goal for most Golden Visa applicants – the Bulgarian passport. Being one of the strongest passports in the world, the Bulgarian passport provides ultimate freedom and almost unlimited visa-free travel possibilities. The Golden Visa applicants become eligible for Bulgarian citizenship in 5 years after PR status is granted. Certain conditions apply, so please don’t hesitate to contact us for details.

If all conditions are met, our lawyers will lodge the citizenship application with the Ministry of Justice. The applicant will need to attend an interview in Bulgaria or at Bulgarian embassy abroad. The procedure ends with a citizenship decree that is issued by the Vice President.

EU citizen – goal achieved!

Being an EU citizen is not only enjoying the full benefits of the European democracy. It is also law abidance and certain responsibility towards the European society. With our support however, the integration with the EU institution and society will start as early as the PR application and will become a smooth transition for each and every applicant.

More information about the Bulgarian Goden Visa

The timeline of the procedures

The timeframe of the application process can differ greatly. It depends not only on the Bulgarian authorities, but also on the applicant’s readiness to provide the required documents (ie criminal record certificate). The process also depends on the speed, at which the investment is performed, the availability of the funds, etc. In general however, the following approximate timeline applies:

1stPreliminary due diligence by our lawyers. We often need to see the applicant either in our offices or abroad, in his home country. We make frequent international visits, so such a visit can often be arranged at minimal or no cost at all for the client.
2ndObtaining preliminary approval for the investment from the authorities and effecting the investment.
3rdObtaining investment certificate form the Investment Agency. Obtaining investor visa D. We provide support together with the Bulgarian embassies and consulates so the visa is issued in the shortest time possible.
4thApplication 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.
5thApplication 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.
60thBulgarian Citizenship application.

For how long should the investment be kept

In order to maintain its PR status, the Golden Visa holder, as explained already, should keep the investment for at least 5 years. The investment should always, at all times, remain on the account of the PR holder – no exception of this rule! This is both for the safety of the investor and for compliance purposes.