How to Become a Bulgarian Citizen

How to Become a Bulgarian Citizen

Bulgaria is a small country in the Balkans with a gentle and pleasantly warm climate. Winters here rarely see temperatures drop below freezing, while summers seldom surpass +30ºC. Additionally, Bulgaria's access to the sea presents a notable advantage.

The combination of these factors, along with a citizenship acquisition process that is relatively straightforward compared to other European countries, as well as affordable real estate and food prices, renders Bulgaria a very interesting place to reside.

Pros and Cons of Life in Bulgaria

Since becoming an EU member in 2007, Bulgaria has yet to become a part of the Schengen area. While this situation places some constraints on its passport holders, it doesn't strip away certain benefits. Notably, individuals who graduate from Bulgarian schools and universities are awarded a recognized European diploma, valid across all EU nations. This accomplishment also grants them access to financial support and student loans.

Life in Bulgaria is marked by safety, securing a prominent position among European countries with an impressively low crime rate. The welcoming attitude of the locals towards migrants further contributes to the country's allure as an immigration destination.

Bulgaria boasts a commendable standard of healthcare, while real estate prices, particularly in the country's interior, remain attractively low. Additionally, the nation offers the most budget-friendly hotels, restaurants, and consumer goods (with a focus on household appliances) within the European Union.

Undoubtedly, the country presents its share of drawbacks, including a notable unemployment rate and relatively modest wages. Nevertheless, these concerns can be mitigated by engaging in remote work for international employers.

Free school education is exclusively accessible to the nation's citizens. Prior to gaining citizenship, children will need to attend private schools. The list of cons includes the elevated expenses associated with utilities, where heating during winter can amount to €200 to €300 per month. However, there is a form of compensation to be found in the affordable prices for high-quality food.

Plovdiv. Photo: Anton Atanasov (Unsplash)

Advantages of Bulgarian Citizenship

Acquiring a Bulgarian passport offers a range of undeniable advantages. Becoming a citizen of the country grants automatic European Union citizenship, enabling visa-free access to over 170 global destinations, along with the rights to legal residency and employment across any EU member state. Furthermore, Bulgarian citizenship facilitates opportunities for studying at esteemed European universities and accessing top-tier medical services within the nation and across the entirety of Europe. Additionally, Bulgaria has a favourable environment for business development due to its taxation policies, with the country maintaining a mere 10% income tax rate.

Bulgarian Citizenship through Repatriation

While obtaining Bulgarian citizenship is comparably less complex than securing passports from many other European nations, it still needs to be well-grounded.

The most straightforward and expedient route to obtaining citizenship is through repatriation, as stipulated by Article 15 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law. Bulgarian citizenship by descent is accessible to individuals who possess immediate family members (parents or grandparents) currently residing in Bulgaria or can establish documented lineage to Bulgarian ancestors.

Citizenship can be acquired through birth in Bulgaria, even if the parents are foreigners; this status, however, must also be confirmed by documents.

Securing Bulgarian citizenship through ancestral origin involves a two-step procedure. Initially, the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad issues the applicant a certificate of Bulgarian origin. This certificate becomes essential for the subsequent phase of the process: applying to the Ministry of Justice for citizenship.

Plovdiv. Photo: Mihail Dimitrov (Unsplash)

Bulgarian Citizenship through Marriage

As per the Bulgarian Citizenship Law, individuals who have been lawfully married to a Bulgarian citizen for a minimum of three years have the right to obtain citizenship through marriage.

Bulgarian Citizenship through Investment

Foreigners also have the option to secure a permanent residence permit in Bulgaria and subsequently seek citizenship through specific investments in the Bulgarian economy. Nevertheless, the amendments to the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship, enacted in 2021, eliminated investments in Bulgarian bonds as a qualifying criterion. While individuals who have permanent resident status can still pursue Bulgarian citizenship, they are now required to demonstrate proficiency in the Bulgarian language.

Investors have the opportunity to invest in Bulgarian AIFs, ETFs, and shares of Bulgarian companies listed on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. To secure a residence permit, investors in AIFs or ETFs are required to invest €512,000. This investment must be maintained for a minimum of five years before the investor becomes eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship. In the past, there was an option to expedite citizenship acquisition by doubling the investment amount. However, the amendments to the Citizenship Law passed in 2022 have eliminated this accelerated pathway.

Varna. Photo: Nikolay Hristov (Unsplash)

The Conventional Path to Bulgarian Citizenship

Bulgarian citizenship can also be acquired through the conventional pathway. This requires a residence in the country for a minimum of 10 years: five years with a residence permit and an additional five years with permanent residency.

The applicant must have reached the legal age, successfully complete the Bulgarian language examination, possess sufficient financial means to sustain themselves, provide a certificate of good conduct, and relinquish prior citizenship, except in specific circumstances (which will be explored further below).

Foreign individuals seeking citizenship must undergo a Bulgarian language proficiency test and an interview. The language test comprises 20 questions and is conducted within an hour. If the candidate provides correct answers to at least 12 of the questions, the examination is considered passed.

The next stage involves an interview, during which the interviewer assesses the candidate's command of the Bulgarian language, familiarity with Bulgarian history and culture, and asks questions about the candidate.

Sophia. Photo: Kate Krasautsava (Unsplash)

Dual Citizenship

Individuals born to Bulgarian parents abroad, as well as citizens of EU member states, countries within the European Economic Area, and Switzerland, are eligible to apply for dual Bulgarian citizenship. However, citizens of other nations who acquire a Bulgarian passport will typically be required to renounce their previous citizenship.

In a Nutshell 

Opting for Bulgarian citizenship is an excellent decision for individuals desiring a tranquil life in a warm seaside nation, while also gaining access to the extensive opportunities offered by the EU. Citizenship can be obtained through various avenues, including establishing Bulgarian heritage, marriage, investment, or following the conventional route of residing in the country for a specific period of time. It's important to note that in most instances, acquiring Bulgarian citizenship will entail renouncing your previous citizenship.

Cover photo: Denitsa Kireva (Pexels) 

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