Bulgaria joins Schengen: Visa-free travel by air and sea routes for Bulgarian Residence Permit holders from 2024

18 January 2024

Private Clients, Citizenship and Immigration

The EU and Bulgaria have agreed and the EU Council has adopted Council Decision dated 30.12.2023 (Council Decision), allowing Bulgaria to finalise the process of joining Schengen.

From March 31, 2024, Bulgaria, Romania and the EU plus Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland will eliminate ID checks at each other’s internal air and sea borders. This will bring seamless travel, boost tourism and business opportunities. For travellers, the convenience of crossing borders without routine border checks is a substantial improvement in the travel experience and in efficiency.

Bulgarian visas will now be recognized as Schengen visas. This substantially enhances the value of a Bulgarian visa, allowing travellers to access the entire Schengen, a region of 28 European countries. 

The Council Decision also affects aliens in Bulgaria with residence permits. Various provisions of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 (Convention) will now apply to Bulgaria.

Under Article 21 of the Convention, residence permit holders in Bulgaria can now travel visa-free within the Schengen Area for up to three months. This provision applies to aliens with valid Bulgarian residence permits and valid travel documents (ie, passport).

Bulgaria offers an attractive pathway for non-EU nationals to gain permanent residence. With an investment of BGN 1,000,000.00 (~€512,000.00) in approved Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) and Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs), applicants can obtain residence in Bulgaria. 

These investment vehicles must have a net asset value (NAV) of at least BGN 5,000,000.00 and must primarily focus on investment in Bulgaria. They may be existing products or ones custom-designed for an investor or a small group.

For more information, please refer to our article on the topic of Residence by Investment.

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© New Balkans Law Office 2024