The Bulgarian government revisited amendments to the Citizenship Act. The Deputies were going to change the conditions of the investment programme in 2019, but then the Parliament did not approve the changes.
Work on the amendments is resumed because of a warning from the European Commission. It considers that the current programme violates EU law. The Bulgarian government has no plans to close the programme but is preparing to change the conditions as recommended by the European Commission.
If the amendments are adopted before the end of December, the new rules will come into force in early 2021.
What will change in the programme
The government will first revise the investment options. It will also set a deadline for how long an investor has to keep the investment.
New investment options will appear. An investor will be able to obtain a Bulgarian passport if:
invests at least BGN 1 million, or about €500,000, in exchange-traded funds in the country;
Purchases of Bulgarian company shares amounting to BGN 2 million or approx. EUR 1 million
increase the capital of a Bulgarian company by BGN 2 million, or approximately EUR 1 million. The money is to be used for a priority business project for the country, which has been certified by the government;
Create 10 jobs and invest 500,000 BGN or approximately 255,000 € in a Bulgarian company. In order to obtain citizenship, the investor needs to increase the investment to BGN 1 million and hire at least 20 employees in a year.
Three current options will be abolished. Citizenship will no longer be awarded for the purchase of government bonds, investments in intellectual property or bank deposits.
Citizenship will be granted after a permanent residence permit. Now the citizenship can be applied for after one year under the accelerated procedure or after 5 years under the naturalisation procedure. Under the new rules, the investor also has to first obtain a permanent residence permit in the country. However, it is not yet clear when they will be allowed to apply for citizenship.
To own shares or a business for at least 5 years. Now, this rule applies if the investor receives a passport through naturalisation. However, if an investor applies for citizenship under the accelerated procedure, the period of investment ownership is reduced by one year. Whether it will still be possible to sell the shares or the business after 4 years is unknown.
The changes are aimed at keeping investments in the economy longer. The new options will also help develop and support Bulgarian businesses.
How to obtain Bulgarian citizenship in 2020
The investor first obtains a permanent residence status in exchange for an investment of BGN 1 million or about €512,000. The money can be invested in one or more options at the same time.
In order to participate in the programme, according to the current rules, you have to buy government bonds, to invest money in shares of Bulgarian companies, to buy patents or to open a deposit in a bank.
Bulgarian passport can be issued within 2 years. In order to apply for citizenship in one year after the permanent residence permit, you have to double your investment during this time. If this condition is not met, the application for citizenship will only be accepted after 5 years.
A participant of the programme doesn’t have to take the Bulgarian language test when applying for citizenship. Permanent residence in the country is not obligatory either.
Bulgarian citizens may travel visa-free to 169 countries worldwide, including Schengen countries, Canada and Australia. Bulgaria is a part of the European Union, therefore with its passport, it is allowed to live, work and study in any state of the region without restrictions.
The Bulgarian programme is not popular with investors, despite the prospect of becoming an EU citizen. Since 2013, only 98 investors have received a passport for an investment.
In which EU Member States can you obtain citizenship for an investment
A foreigner can obtain an EU passport through naturalisation. In the case of some countries, the process can be accelerated by first obtaining a residence permit for investment.
Maltese citizenship is granted for a direct investment of from €800,000. The foreigner receives a residence permit in the country, and after a year or three years, applies for citizenship. If the application is approved, the foreigner fulfils the investment conditions and becomes a citizen of the country.
A residence permit in Portugal for investment allows you to apply for citizenship after 5 years. In order to obtain a passport, it is necessary to prove a basic knowledge of the Portuguese language.
By law, any foreigner can apply for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years, as long as they have lived in the country for the whole period of time. It is sufficient for a participant in the residence permit programme to spend 7 days a year in Portugal. The minimum investment amount for the programme is €250,000.
A residence permit in Greece allows the investor to apply for citizenship after 7 years and not after 12 years as with naturalisation. The minimum investment amount is €250,000. But the investor is allowed to spend no more than 10 months outside Greece during the last 5 years. In order to obtain citizenship, a foreigner also has to pass a Greek language test.
Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent of European citizenship and residence permit programmes for investments. If you wish to obtain citizenship in an EU country, seek expert consultation from the investment programmes.