Citizenship and Second Passport of Bulgaria
Bulgaria (officially the Republic of Bulgaria) is a country in Southern Europe. Bulgaria borders five other countries: Romania to the north, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. The Black Sea defines the extent of the country to the east. Bulgaria’s capital city and largest settlement is Sofia, with a permanent population of 1,378,000 people. In 1945, after World War II, Bulgaria became a communist state and was a part of the Eastern Bloc until the political changes in Eastern Europe in 1989/1990, when the Communist Party allowed multi-party elections and Bulgaria undertook a transition to parliamentary democracy and free-market capitalism with mixed results.
Nowadays Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and a founding state of the OSCE. Also Bulgaria has a high Human Development Index of 0.743, ranking 58th in the world in 2010.
Citizenship is based upon the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship, dated November 1998. Citizenship of Bulgaria can be acquired by birth, by descent, by naturalization, for special contribution to Bulgarian State, and on some other grounds. Below you will find a brief summary of grounds for Bulgarian citizenship.
Citizenship by birth: Birth within the territory of Bulgaria does not automatically confer citizenship. The exception is a child born in Bulgaria to unknown or stateless parents.
Citizenship by descent: Child, at least one of whose parents is a citizen of Bulgaria, regardless of the country of birth.
Citizenship by naturalization: Bulgarian citizenship may be acquired upon fulfillment of the following condition: Person has resided legally in Bulgaria for at least five years as a Permanent Resident. Citizenship for special merits before Bulgaria is available not only for investors but also for people of art, science, for philanthropists, etc., who contribute significantly to the interests of Bulgaria. The result (Bulgarian citizenship) can be obtained in scope of 9-18 months. Successful applicants receive full citizenship of the Republic of Bulgaria by decision of the Presidential Decree, and can apply for a Bulgarian passport immediately afterwards. Passports are issued within a few days. Persons who have greatly contributed to Bulgarian society are not required to renounce their previous citizenship.
Citizenship by investment or by special contribution: It should be kept in mind that acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by special contribution to Bulgarian society, if is substantiated by philanthropic actions and donations to various cultural and social institutions in Bulgaria, is possible without having permanent residency status. In case of special contribution you may apply for citizenship directly. These applications are handled on case-by-case basis. In case of investment route you apply for permanent residency first. And after one year with PR or after five years (depending on the amount of investment) you will be able to apply for Bulgarian citizenship.
Citizenship of Bulgaria on some other grounds: The following are eligible for Bulgarian citizenship through other than the normal naturalization process: A stateless person, one of whose parents is of Bulgarian descent. A child aged less than 14 years old who was adopted by Bulgarian parents. Refugees fleeing persecution can get Bulgarian citizenship. Dual citizenship is recognized.
Loss of citizenship: Voluntary renunciation of Bulgarian citizenship is permitted by law. Contact the nearest Bulgarian Embassy for details and proper paperwork. The following are grounds for involuntary loss of naturalized citizenship: 1) Naturalized citizenship was obtained through fraud or false statement. This revocation only affects the person who made the false statements. The person’s spouse and children may retain Bulgarian citizenship. 2) Person commits criminal acts against the security of the state outside of Bulgaria.
Frequently Asked Questions regarding Bulgarian (EU) residence and citizenship by investment program
Question: We are considering residency-by-investment program in Bulgaria and then fast track citizenship application (based on doubling the investment by permanent resident). Some web-sites suggest that the fast track citizenship application is possible only for the main applicant. Here is the information we have: “Regarding your questions, his wife cannot take advantage of the fast track. Even if the main applicant doubles his investment, she still has to wait for 5 years of permanent residence before applying for Bulgarian citizenship. All the family members are submitting their citizenship applications based on different articles in the Bulgarian citizenship act. Once the main applicant becomes a Bulgarian citizen all his children are eligible to submit their personal citizenship applications based on art. 15 (1) 3. As for the wife she will apply under art. 12 a of the same act being a member of the family of the investor. You can be sure that all other kind of information regarding the participation of the spouses in the fast track is misleading. As for the children, we confirm that once the main applicant becomes a Bulgarian citizen, immediately all his children regardless of their age and marital status become eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship based on the same article in the law – art. 15 (1) 3. The only requirement for them is to have clear criminal record.”
Answer: We confirm the fast track applies for the main applicant. With regards to your question on the dependents, it becomes more interesting when the father becomes a Bulgarian citizen; ultimately dependent kids will also be eligible for citizenship (regardless of their age or marital status). Children won’t be required to become a PR for 5 years before applying for Citizenship, on the contrary, they can automatically apply under another article if the Bulgarian Citizenship Act since their parent is now a Bulgarian. However, spouse will still have to wait 5 years.
Question: I am interested in Bulgarian citizenship-by-investment. Can you inform about the full cost including the legal fee you charge?
Answer: Permanent residence is possible upon investment of 512,000 EUR (BGN 1,000,000). This is a conservative investment which is made into bonds. After 5 years money will be returned without interest. In this scheme (if you do not want invest additional amounts) citizenship is granted after 5 years. Alternatively, if you do not want to wait 5 years than you can try to obtain citizenship by investment of additional 512,000 EUR into smart economy or rural areas (which a more risky option of investment in comparison with the purchase of bonds). This second investment should be made 1 year after you get permanent residency and maintained minimum 2 years. The reimbursement of the second investment is not guaranteed by the state and should be made at the risk of the applicant (In this aspect the Bulgarian citizenship-by-investment program is similar to EB5 program in the US). In conclusion, the applicant is expected to invest 1,024,000 EUR in order to get citizenship. Our legal fee is 25,000 EUR per residency application and another 25,000 EUR per citizenship application (additional fees apply for family members). In December 2013 the Citizenship Act was further amended and the second investment (to fast track the citizenship application) can now also be made into bonds instead of Priority Investment Project. These amendments make Bulgarian residency and citizenship program one of the best programs in EU (more competitive than the similar passport programs in other EU countries like Cyprus and Malta).
Question: What is the time-frame for Bulgarian citizenship-by-investment?
Answer: The time-frame is 6 month to get permanent residency, after another 12 months applicants are eligible to apply for citizenship. Applications are processed during another 6 months. So, if you start working with our company the citizenship and passports will be possible after 2 years.
Question: I can see I can get permanent residency based on EUR 512,000 investment. Do I have to live in Bulgaria to maintain my permanent resident status?
Answer: The applicant and his qualifying family members are exempted from having to live in Bulgaria during their 5 year residence period, unless they want to. Moreover, in case investment is doubled after 1 year from the issue of PR card then the applicant will be able to apply for citizenship after 1 year (instead of 5 years) after getting permanent resident status.
Question: I am interested in obtaining some European citizenship, preferably citizenship of EU-country. Roaming through the Internet I have found an offer of Bulgarian citizenship by investment EUR 180,000. The offer states that the investor is expected to pay a reduced amount of EUR 180,000. No further payment is required by the investor and nothing is returned to the investor at the end of the five year period. The reduced amount is used to finance a EUR 512,000 closed five-year term loan from a chartered Bulgarian bank. Once the Permanent Residence Permit is obtained by the foreign investment of BGN 1,000,000 (approximately EUR 512,000) as per the Bulgarian law and legislation, the foreign investor can benefit from a special exemption for physical residency requirement from the statutory 180 days per year over 5 years as per the Art 40 paragraph 5 of the Act for Foreigners in Republic of Bulgaria. This program is advertized as Bulgarian second passport program. Is it a residence or citizenship by investment program?
Answer: This is both Permanent Residency Program and citizenship program. Permanent Residency (obtained based on investment of 512,000 or donation of 180,000 EUR) will provide you with all the rights of a Bulgarian citizen except the right to vote and to have Bulgarian passport for travel. You will become eligible to apply for citizenship and passport after 5 years with permanent residence status. In case you want to fast track citizenship application you will be expected to double the above mentioned investment or donation.
Question: Once I obtain the permanent residence permit, do I have to pay taxes in Bulgaria?
Answer: No, unless you decide to conduct business in Bulgaria or to physically reside in Bulgaria for more than 183 days within 12 consecutive months.
Question: What is the normal track of business immigration to Bulgaria?
Answer: The normal track of getting permanent residence (without big investment) involves incorporation of Bulgarian company, creation of ten jobs for Bulgarians and getting temporary residence permit, renewed annually. In this case permanent residency is possible after 5 years of residence and business in Bulgaria.
Question: In case I chose the investment route of full investment EUR 512,000 or loan-option EUR 180,000 investment, how much time will it take to acquire Bulgarian citizenship?
Answer: Normally you will have to reside 5 years before you can apply. You may apply for Bulgarian citizenship according to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act. To that effect the Foreign Investor has, as of the date of filing the application for naturalization and as per Article 12 of the Act: to be major; to maintain valid status of permanent residence, not to be sentenced by a Bulgarian court for criminal offence neither to be accused for such a crime in criminal proceedings, unless he has been rehabilitated.
Question: Is it possible to acquire Bulgarian citizenship without residence requirement or investment?
Answer: Foreign citizen may acquire Bulgarian citizenship regardless of the provisions of Article 12 if the Republic of Bulgaria has demonstrated distinct interest in his/her naturalization or if the person concerned has made a special contribution to the Republic of Bulgaria in social or economic spheres, or in the field of science, technology, culture or sports. Bulgarian citizenship is granted personally by the President of the Republic by virtue of a President Decree issued on the grounds of a special well-founded proposal by the Minister of Justice after the completion of a statutory procedure provided for in the Bulgarian Citizenship Act. As it was mentioned in the article above obtaining citizenship on the basis of charitable activities or considerable investment is rather expensive. Dual citizenship is recognized in Bulgaria and renunciation of your previous citizenship is not required.
Question: Can you provide me with more information on Bulgarian citizenship? My daughter is 16 and her father is Bulgarian, however she did not had any contact with him since she was 4 month old. Is it possible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship on the grounds that one of the parents is Bulgarian?
Answer: Before 18 years old she cannot apply without parents. Parents must give their notarial consent. In case she reaches age of 18 years the consent of parents is no longer required and she will be able to apply for citizenship of Bulgaria by herself.
Question: Can you assist us with application for Bulgarian citizenship based on ancestry?
Answer: We do not provide services regarding acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship through ethnic origin. We only deal with citizenship by investment or by special contribution. This route involves investment of EUR 512,000 or donations and charitable activities on the territory of Bulgaria. These options do not require obligatory physical presence in the country (residence) or knowledge of the Bulgarian language.
Question: I have some questions about obtaining Bulgarian citizenship by investment. How many times should the Investor visit Bulgaria for this program before getting the permanent residency and citizenship? Are there any restrictions for Middle Eastern countries people such as Iran?
Answer: The investor is expected to visit Bulgaria twice to get permanent residency and twice to get citizenship. All the family members will be expected to visit Bulgaria. There are no restrictions for Iran in Bulgaria (sanctions are imposed by the USA and some other countries).
Question: What is the advantage of this program to similar citizenship programs like the one In Portugal? And do all members of family need to visit the country or just the investor? And what residency program do you suggest for a family without residence requirement?
Answer: Portugal has no citizenship program, only residence by investment program. In order to get citizenship in Portugal you will be expected to pass a language test and to prove residence of 6 years. Residency programs without residence requirement are available in Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria, and Latvia. But only in Bulgaria it leads to citizenship and passport without actual residence.
Question: I have been married to citizen of Bulgaria for 22 years, now we have a son of 19 years. We are still married till today. My son and I would like to get dual citizenship this summer if is possible. How can we do and is it possible? My husband has dual citizenship; he has a Bulgarian passport and a Maltese passport. This summer my son and I are coming to Bulgaria for a month and we wish to issue dual citizenship and Bulgarian ID’s, like how my husband has.
Answer: You are not eligible for BG citizenship because you do not reside there. If you relocate to Bulgaria you will be entitled to get permanent residency and apply for citizenship after 5 years of actual residence in the country. Your son can apply for citizenship without residency in BG because of ethnic origin from Bulgarian father. But in any case he will not be able to get passport this summer. Citizenship applications are processed during 6 – 18 months on average.
Question: My wife is Bulgarian citizen. We married in Bulgaria but now we live in Holland. Can I get Bulgarian citizenship or if I live in Bulgaria how long I wait to get Bulgarian citizenship through marriage?
Answer: If you do not reside physically in Bulgaria you have no right to apply for citizenship, permanent residence and even for temporary residency permit in Bulgaria based on marriage.
In order to get permanent residency by marriage you must reside in Bulgaria for 5 years. But if you have a common child you can apply for permanent residency immediately. There are no incentives for Bulgarian citizenship. You will be expected to reside in Bulgaria with permanent residency permit for 5 years in order to become eligible to apply for citizenship.
If you have any questions or wish to use our legal assistance in obtaining permanent residence or citizenship of Bulgaria, contact us today