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New Balkans Law Office: Bulgarian Lawyers

FAQs about Bulgaria’s Citizenship by Investment Program

We wish to provide all interested investors with the relevant information so that they can rest assured that choosing Bulgaria’s Citizenship by Investment Program will be the best option.

The following is a recopilation of our clients’ frequently asked questions.

For more information, please contact us at sofia@newbalkanslawoffice.com or by our Contact Form.

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

General Questions

  • Who can apply for the Immigrant Investor Programme in Bulgaria?
    Any foreign citizen of legal age and with a clean criminal record who is not considered a threat to national security and can invest a minimum of 1,000,000 BGN, thus making him or her eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship.
     
  • Am I required to be able to speak Bulgarian?
    No. Speaking Bulgarian is not required.
     
  • What’s the difference between the Standard Track Application and the Fast Track Application?
    On the Standard Track, the applicant can acquire permanent residence after making the investment, and would hold the investment for a period of 5 years. At the end of the 5 years the applicant can apply for citizenship. On the Fast Track, the applicant can make an additional investment of 1,000,000 BGN (approximately 511,000 EUR) one year after the initial investment and he/she is immediately eligible to apply for citizenship.
     
  • Can my spouse and children obtain citizenship as well?
    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.
     
  • Do I ever have to travel to Bulgaria?
    Yes, but only for 2 times.
    The applicant will have to travel only to apply for his Permanent Residence Permit, and later to apply and obtain his ID card, which can be done in a short trip of 4 business days to apply and obtain it 3 days later.
    The applicant can apply for citizenship at a consulate abroad.
     
  • Am I required to have previous business management experience?
    No. No previous business management experience is required.
     
  • Are there any minimum educational requirements?
    No. There is no minimum educational requirement.
     
  • Are any job creation requirements like for the US EB-5 Investment Programme?
    No. There is no requirement for job creation, like the US EB-5 Investment Programme.
     

About the Investment

  • What’s the minimum investment amount?
    The minimum investment size is relatively low - 1,000,000 BGN (approximately 511,000 EUR).
     
  • What kind of investment profiles are there?
    There are a number of different qualifying investments, including but not limited to: government bonds, shares of a corporation admitted to trading on the Sofia stock exchange, investments in the capital of unquoted companies (a higher threshold applies).
     
  • What is the safest investment profile?
    Government bonds are usually seen as a low-risk safe investment.
     
  • Can the investment be financed by borrowing?
    Yes. The investment can be financed by borrowing. However, evidence of source of funds might be required.
     
  • How long do I have to wait for the investment verification?
    The investment verification usually takes 10 working days.
     

About the Process

  • How long will it take me to obtain Bulgarian citizenship?
    Depending on the track chosen the time varies. The Standard Track qualifies an applicant for naturalization after 5 years. The Fast Track qualifies an applicant for naturalization within 6 months after the first year of investing.
     
  • What's the difference between the Standard Track Application and the Fast Track Application?
    On the Standard Track, the applicant can acquire permanent residence after making the investment, and would hold the investment for a period of 5 years. At the end of the 5 years the applicant can apply for citizenship. On the Fast Track, the applicant can make an additional investment of 1,000,000 BGN (approximately 511,000 EUR) one year after the initial investment and he/she is immediately eligible to apply for citizenship.
     
  • When do I have to enter the country after obtaining the visa?
    The validity of the visa is 6 months after the date of issue. The applicant can enter the country when he or she wishes within this 6 months.
     
  • How long is the permanent residence permit valid for?
    The permanent residence permit is valid for the same duration as the applicant's passport.
     
  • How long is the permanent residence permit valid for?
    The permanent residence permit is valid for the same duration as the applicant's passport.
     
  • Should I apply for a permanent residence permit, ID card and citizenship in Bulgaria or at a Bulgarian diplomatic mission abroad?
    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.
     
  • After obtaining a permanent residence permit, do I have to reside in Bulgaria for the whole process?
    No. 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.
     
  • What kind of documents do I have to prepare?
    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.
     
  • Are there any additional legal fees or application fees?
    Standard application fees include visa fees (approximately 130 EUR), residence permit and ID card application fees (approximately 650 EUR), legalisation fees, etc.
     
  • How long do I have to wait for my citizenship application to be approved?
    The citizenship application is usually approved within a period of 6 months, but additional background checks and due diligence can lengthen the process a bit.
     


For more information, please contact us at sofia@newbalkanslawoffice.com or by our Contact Form.



Improvements to the procedure involved in applying under the Bulgarian citizenship

Further improvements to the transparency of the procedure involved in applying under the Bulgarian citizenship by investment programme.

The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice has published on its website lists of supporting documents, which in its view are expected from applicants for citizenship by investment under both the standard and fast tracks to citizenship by investing.

Each category of document in the list is broadly related to a requirement in the Bulgarian Citizenship Act(BCA) and the Decree-Law on the application of Chapter Five of the BCA: e.g., the requirement to provide a criminal record check is fleshed out by the need to demonstrate that the applicant has clear criminal past and is not a threat to public order and national security.

The MoJ advises that each supporting document should be listed in the application form, duly legalised and translated.

These official lists contribute to the transparency of the programme and the smooth completion of the process.

Read on this link more information about the Citizenship by investment programme.



EU Citizenship and Residence by Investment in Bulgaria

Overview

Bulgaria's citizenship programme is an accessible, transparent and respectable gateway into the European economy, society and way of life.

The minimum investment needed to qualify for citizenship is low, at €512,000 (~US $ 554,000).

Applicants may finance this by borrowing.  (Lower sums yet are required if the objective is long-term residence only. We cover this in a separate note dealing with Bulgarian residence by investment).

Unlike other programmes, applicants are required to invest rather than pay into a government fund or make a donation, allowing the future citizen the possibility of profit, as well as of a contribution to the Bulgarian economy.

A further advantage of the Bulgarian citizenship by investment programme is the wide range of qualifying investment classes. This approach is progressive as it avoids potential economic distortion. Unlike the Golden Visa programmes of Spain and Portugal for example, investment is not limited to real estate. Nor is the programme prescriptive as to the number of jobs to be created, as the U.S.’s EB 5 is.

A fast-track process allows acquiring citizenship within approximately 18 months from investing.

Under the Fast Track, the investment made must be maintained for two years following the date on which the applicant takes citizenship, as well as throughout the qualifying period.

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The qualifying investments

An investor on the Bulgarian programme may make a wide range of investments, including:

  • shares of a corporation admitted to trading on the Sofia stock exchange
  • bonds, related instruments or their derivatives, issued by the Government of Bulgaria or by Bulgarian local government, with at least 6 months to maturity
  • investments in the capital of unquoted companies (a higher threshold applies)

In practice, the multiple eligible investment classes accommodate many investment styles and objectives. We will be pleased to discuss with you (and/or your financial advisors) your plans, and their eligibility under the programme. 

Most of our existing clients have chosen government bonds, which are seen as low-risk but we are able to support our clients with their own preferred investment strategy or strategies.

Two speeds

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 naturalization.

On the Fast Track, if an investor (broadly) doubled their investment at any time after the first year from investing, they become eligible for citizenship within a further 6 months, rather than having to wait for the 5-year period to run out.

Requirements other than the investment itself

The most significant of these are:

  • declaring (and possibly being asked to provide evidence on) source of investment funds
  • police and/or criminal record check search results
  • prior to travelling to Bulgaria to apply for a Residence Permit, applicants must obtain a visa at a Bulgarian Consulate abroad, lodging their visa application at a location depending on their existing citizenship and/or residence
  • at several points during permanent residence, informing the Bulgarian authorities of the status of the investment. If the investment is terminated or converted into an ineligible investment class, the Residence Permit may be withdrawn
  • the investment must be retained for two years following acquisition of citizenship (though it is possible to switch between investments or into different eligible investment classes throughout the qualifying period).

What is not required?

  • applicants are not required to be present in Bulgaria during the qualifying residence, but are required to secure accommodation
  • language competence is not required
  • upon grant, citizenship does not come with additional burdens (e.g., compulsory military service, obligation to vote in elections, jury service)
  • tax residence is not identical with citizenship and acquiring citizenship does not automatically mean an investor needs to change their tax arrangements. (However, it should be noted that Bulgaria has a very favourable tax regime, with the European Union's lowest personal and corporate tax rates which may be beneficial for certain of our clients).

New Balkans Law Office regularly advises on the requirements of the Bulgarian citizenship by investment programme and acts for applicants in all aspects of the process. See below for our experience and how to contact us.

Family members

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. Adult children of an investor are eligible in their own right immediately after the investor themselves obtains citizenship. 

Our experience and advantage

NBLO is in a position to advise on the eligibility of an investor’s investment plans (although we cannot provide investment advice as such), to assist in the sourcing, clarification and preparation of supporting documents, to liaise with the relevant government bodies, to assist at each step, including by completing many of the steps on behalf of the applicant, to put together the applications and submit and represent, among others.

As a law firm with a strong and rich practice in immigration and nationality law, NBLO deals extensively with applications for citizenship both involving investment, and not.

Since our members are regulated lawyers, we adhere to the highest standards of professionalism and probity.  This includes our duties under the European Union's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing legislation. This serves to assure our clients that our other clients have passed suitable checks and are worthy associates.

Our work with both private clients and businesses in other areas of law helps us provide a high-quality and seamless service: we are able to draw on our extensive knowledge and experience from other areas ranging from personal taxation to company law (relevant to the realization of investment plans and the assessment of their eligibility under the programme), from family law (relevant to the citizenship applications by family members of the main applicant) to real estate and fund management law (relevant where an applicant has chosen to invest in either of these classes).

Download our brochure about Citizenship by Investment in Bulgaria (PDF)

For more information about the program and to start the process of obtaining citizenship, please Contact Us



No more a requirement to renounce existing nationality for naturalising spouses

A recent amendment to Bulgarian nationality law allows the spouse of a Bulgarian national to naturalise as a Bulgarian citizen without abandoning his or her existing nationality. This amendment came into effect in December 2013.

A spouse will still need to meet the requirements of continuing residence in Bulgaria, continuation of the marital relationship and passing a test of knowledge of the Bulgarian language.

It should be noted that on the face of the law, the entitlement to naturalise as a Bulgarian national does not at this stage extend to informal partners (irrespective of the length and nature of the relationship), nor to same-sex partners.

In relation to the language requirement, although a waiver of it has been discussed as a prospective further amendment of the law, it has not been adopted in this round of legislation. For now, the requirement of knowledge of the Bulgarian language can be met by either passing a simple test or by completing a special class in Bulgarian (in which case no test is required).

We regularly assist individuals and couples in the various circumstances of applications for naturalisation and will be happy to offer advice, support and representation. Should you wish to receive this, please contact us via our office telephone or e-mails.



Improvement to right to citizenship by investment

Recent legislative changes in Bulgarian investment laws now do indeed provide a direct route to citizenship.

Foreign nationals who have obtained permanent residence on the basis of participating in an investment programme, may acquire Bulgarian citizenship via an accelerated route. They become eligible for citizenship after one year from the date of issuance of their permanent residence permit.

This is contradistinction to the more usual case, in which the qualifying period is five years.

To qualify through the new routes, candidates must make additional qualifying investments after obtaining a residence permit.

The options are as follows:

Option 1

Investing BGN 1,000,000 (approx. EUR 513,0001) or more in the shares of 1 or more companies traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. Upon obtaining a permanent residence permit on this basis, investing an additional BGN 1,000,000 in the equity of a Bulgarian company, undertaking a priority investment project certified as such by the relevant agency of the Bulgarian Government (“a certified investment project”);

Option 2

Investing BGN 6,000,000 (approx. EUR 3,070,000) or more in the share capital of an unlisted Bulgarian company and upon obtaining a permanent residence permit on this basis, investing a further BGN 1,000,000 in the equity of a Bulgarian company, undertaking in a certified investment project;

Option 3

Being either:

(1) a holder of 50% or more of the shares in the capital of; or

(2) the registered Managing Director

of a Bulgarian company (“the SPV”), engaged in a certified investment project. On obtaining a permanent residence permit, the foreign national must continue to be a holder of shares in the SPV;

and

(3) the SPV completes investments during its first year, amounting to more than BGN 20,000,000 (approx. EUR 10,260,000).

A new Bill was proposed to Parliament in July, intended to amend the currently applicable Foreign Nationals in Bulgaria Act and particularly is very likely to add the following option (Option 4) to the above list:

Option 4 (proposed)

Depositing BGN 1,000,000 (approx. EUR 513,000) or more in an account held with a regulated banking institution in Bulgaria under an discretionary funds management agreement for a term of at least 5 years. After obtaining a permanent residence permit on this basis, investing an additional BGN 2,000,000 in a similar account, OR BGN 1,000,000 in the equity of a Bulgarian company, engaged in a certified investment project.

Under all accelerated options above (existing and proposed), investors may apply for naturalization without having to meet the requirements of knowledge of the Bulgarian language or of renouncement of their existing citizenship.

The application process for permanent residency could take between 3 and 5 months. Citizenship applications on the above grounds are required to be treated with priority and to be reviewed within 6 months.

Family members of permanent resident foreign nationals or of newly-naturalized Bulgarian citizens may apply for residence on the ground of their Bulgarian resident/national’s status. Certain new changes introduced in the new Bill intend to facilitate the processing of family member applications by the members of the families of investors in Bulgaria.

At present family members can apply for residence permits on separate grounds and apply for citizenship after 5 years of residency in Bulgaria.

Lastly but perhaps no less importantly to planning, investors and their family members are also excluded from the categories of permanent residents who are obliged to reside physically in Bulgaria.

We will be happy to advise in further details about residence permit application process and Bulgarian citizenship acquisition procedure as well as to assist with any of the stages.



Recent work:

AFI Europe group - ongoing legal support

In 2012 NBLO has continued to provide a full range of legal advice to its long-term client AFI Europe NV and its seven subsidiaries in Bulgaria. Our advice has ranged over a variety of issues – from day-to-day corporate governance and company secretarial work, to complex corporate transactions and banking and financing matters. We have also carried out two due diligence projects on behalf of AFI Israel Properties Ltd. in view of the contemplated public offering of the company on the Israeli Stock Exchange.

© New Balkans Law Office 2017