Bulgaria revamps its citizenship and residency programmes

The Bulgarian Citizenship Investor Program is an attractive opportunity for foreign investors and wealthy individuals to enjoy visa-free access or visa-on-arrival access to 157 countries and territories, Bulgarian citizenship for the family members, and many other benefits.

The Bulgarian Parliament has amended its citizenship and residency provisions to allow for new investment options and faster processing.

Government/sovereign bonds are no longer eligible, and while the investment requirement generally stays at €0.5m, it has doubled to €1m for fast tracking. Investment thresholds for directly held equities have also increased.

The eligible investment routes leading to permanent residence and citizenship are now:

Investment class and new amounts

  1. Stocks traded in Bulgaria – €1,024,000
  2. UCITs (EU regulated fund vehicles), including Bulgarian-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs) – €512,000
  3. Investing in Bulgarian-related alternative investment funds (including private equity, venture capital and hedge funds) – €512,000
  4. Participation in a Certified Priority Investment Project (CPIP) – €1,024,000
  5. Participation in a Bulgarian company employing 10 or more local staff – €257,000
  6. Participation in a Bulgarian private company – €3,075,000
  7. Investment in a Certified Investment Project (CIP) – The exact amount will vary depending on the project.

The Fast Track option

Applicants using 1-4 above can fast-track by:

▪ Doubling their investment; or
▪ Investing at least €512,000 in a CPIP

Applicants using option 5 can fast-track by:

▪ Doubling their capital investment, leading to the hiring of 20 people

The new arrangements are expected to result in quicker processing times. Permanent residency is expected to be granted in 6 months, while citizenship should be achieved in 60 months on the regular track and 18 months on the fast track.

The investment must be maintained for an extra 2 years past grant of citizenship as well as 5 years in total.

Citizenship applications already submitted on the bond investment will not be affected. Applicants who already hold a permanent residency status will be still allowed to follow the ordinary track, but the fast-track on bonds is no longer supported.

Improvements have also been made for spouses of the investor. A spouse can now apply for Bulgarian citizenship 3 years after the investor has been granted Bulgarian citizenship. This is 2 years shorter than under the stipulations of the old Citizenship Act.

There are no changes to the application process for children, who obtain citizenship within 6-9 months of the main applicant, grandchildren (12-18 months after), great-grandchildren (1.5-2.5 years after), etc.

What the new legislation amounts to

The changes are designed to give investors in Bulgaria a sophisticated choice of attractive investment options, helping business growth and expansion of financial markets locally, while retaining certain defined real estate options.

It is seen as a huge endorsement of the CBI model, and the value of foreign investment to nations like Bulgaria, and it is expected to usher in a period of stability for the programme.

It should be noted that pre-approval process is also to be tightened to align with EU rules. Details on that are still to be finalised, and additional assurances for applicants have been discussed and are expected to follow as well.