Bulgarian fast-track Citizenship – NEW 2021 PROGRAM
The conditions of the new 2021 Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program – explained in detailby VD&A
This is the webpage of the new Bulgarian citizenship by investment program. Its conditions are applicable from 15.03.2021. If you want to find more about the old (discontinued) program, please visit the old Bulgarian investment citizenship program.
Why you need Bulgarian Passport
at the end – it’s all about Freedom
Unrestricted travel – something we all deserve
Everybody deserves the right to travel the world freely. Borders should not exist, not in an ideal world. But we live in our age of restrictions and people are not born equal.
When the covid-19 stroke in 2020, many realized how hard it is to be locked in one country only. But did you know that even before the covid, only 11% of the world’s population could travel visa-free to most countries. Unless you are citizen of the EU, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and few other blessed countries, you are destined to fight for your entry visa prior to your next international trip.
Did you know that from 2021, Bulgaria is the only EU country to offer feasible citizenship by investment program?
The real freedom
The advantages of holding Bulgarian (EU) passport however, go far beyond visa-free travel. Bulgarian citizenship provides completely unrestricted residence and working rights within the European Union. It provides Bulgarian citizens with consular assistance from any EU embassy worldwide, EU healthcare access, university education in any EU country at preferential conditions, lowest taxes in EU, protection of your assets and much more.
Clear, favorable & safe conditions
The new 2021 Bulgarian investment citizenship program provides even wider choice of investment opportunities, compared to the old program. The options are clear and safe, ranging from stock-exchange traded financial products to true investments in the Bulgarian economy. The Bulgarian parliament has taken a wise decision not to introduce any irrevocable donation, which is great news for the citizenship applicants. Another advantage is that the new 2021 program is deviating from the so-called “passport for sale” perception, which perception marked the end of the Cypriot citizenship by investment program.
Sustainable on both national and EU level
Most importantly, the new investment program is now sustainable on both national and EU level. The last two years were marked by doubts and rumors that the Bulgarian program will be cancelled or seriously crippled. Luckily, this didn’t happen. On the contrary, the Bulgarian authorities passed a very favorable Citizenship Law (alongside with amendments in the Foreigners Law) that is extremely beneficial to the investment citizenship candidates. At the same time it is also reassuring the European Commission about the compliance of the Bulgarian program with the EU values and policies.
Citizenship by investment (AKA Golden Passport), not temporary residence arrangement (AKA Golden Visa)
The new Bulgarian citizenship by investment program becomes effectively the only EU truly fast-track citizenship by investment program. After the demise of the Cyprus investment citizenship program, the international citizenship agents moved from offering “citizenship by investment” to “residence by investment”, or even “immigration by investment”. At the same time Bulgaria now has sustainable and truly CIP (Citizenship by Investment Program) that should not be even compared to any residence programs, golden visa, etc. Golden Passport (the Bulgarian CIP) is zillion times better than any Golden Visa or other temporary residence arrangement, no matter how hard some agents will try to underplay the difference.
Wide range of investment options
The new Bulgarian program provides even wider range of investment options than the previous program. And these options range from purely financial instruments (ie traded on the stock exchange) to investments in the real economy (ie business setup in Bulgaria).
Our latest articles about Bulgarian citizenship
Visa-free travel with Bulgarian Passport
For many, the Bulgarian passport means first of all visa-free international travel. For travel to the EU Member States Bulgarian citizens don’t even need carrying their passports. The same applies for the few other European countries, not Members of the EU – Switzerland, Norway, etc. Merely showing national identity card (ID card) guarantees unrestricted entry in the country. And not only entry, but also full right of residence. For the rest of the world, Bulgaria as part of the EU family has signed large number of visa-free agreements. These are empowering the EU citizens to effortlessly travel the world around.
Beating Canada and the USA
In 2021, Bulgaria improved even further its ranking in terms of visa-free travel. It now ranks 9th in the world, ahead of Monaco (10th), San Marino (11th), Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (12th), etc. It even beats the highly reputable passports of Canada and the USA, who place 15th and 16th respectively. This spectacular score is what makes the Bulgarian passport so desired for many individuals from around the world.
Travel privileges for EU citizens
In addition to the impressive number of countries who keep their doors open for Bulgarian citizens, it is worth mentioning the ease of travel with EU (Bulgarian) passport. Most countries worldwide (even outside of Europe) will provide dedicated immigration passages for citizens of the European Union. Instead of waiting the long cues marked with “All countries”, you will enjoy fast border crossing under the reserved for EU citizens corridors marked with “EU citizens only”. You will be also spared time consuming (and also intimidating) forms fillings or showing supporting documents, such as hotel bookings, return tickets, etc. at the border checkpoints.
Visa reciprocity protection on EU level
Another advantage of having Bulgarian citizenship is that the European Parliament and the Council have adopted in 2013 a Regulation (EU) 1289/2013 in order to apply visa reciprocity mechanism for all of its Member States. The visa reciprocity mechanism is a legal provision under EU law aiming to achieve completely visa-free travel for citizens of all (EU) Member States to every non EU country whose citizens can travel to the EU / Schengen area without a visa. In other words, the EU is applying a policy that guarantees that all EU countries will at one point enjoy the same visa-free regime in regard to third countries. This ensures the sustainability of the quality of the Bulgarian passport in terms of visa-free travel.
- 9th place worldwide for visa-free travel (shared with Australia and three other EU member states);
- Ahead of countries such as Canada (15th) and the USA (16th) in terms of visa-free travel;
- Rising number of visa-free travel agreements with third countries in future, guaranteed by Regulation (EU) 1289/2013.
Unlimited residence and working rights in the EU
Unrestricted EU residence rights
Holding Bulgarian passport doesn’t only mean visa-free travel. What is by many considered as being much more important are the rights that come with the Bulgarian citizenship in terms of living, working and studying in the EU. Bulgarian citizens are allowed to live in any EU country without any restrictions or even formalities. Living comes with additional rights, such as unrestricted right to work, attend schools and universities, thereby having the same rights as the local citizens. In other words, Bulgarian citizen in Germany for example, has the same rights in these respects as the German citizens themselves.
Preferential conditions for EU citizens only
Access to universities in the EU is essential. Bulgarians (as well as all EU citizens) can study EU-wide at preferential conditions as EU citizens. Even permanent residents of the EU do not have such rights. This means that the Bulgarian passport opens yet another door of opportunities – the best academic and professional institutions (schools, colleges, universities, etc.) in the world.
EU healthcare and social protection are also significant advantages. Access to the best medical institutions in Europe can be of extreme importance for many. Doing business in the EU is also regulated by advanced legislation and best European practices. The peaceful environment in the European Union is for many the most important factor as to their decision where to retire.
Lowest taxes in EU, right to own land and much more
With your Bulgarian passport in your hands, you will get more benefits under the EU legislation. The extremely low income tax in Bulgaria, will basically give you the best of both worlds. And with corporate and personal income tax rates in Bulgaria being only 10% (the absolutely lowest in the EU), you can opt to give another boost to your new life once you get hold of your Bulgarian passport. The choice is obviously yours. You can continue paying taxes as before, but you can also opt to switch your tax burden to Bulgaria. This choice can be essential. You can save a fortune through careful tax planning, combined with your Bulgarian citizenship.
Right to own EU land
Owning land in EU is not available to everybody. If you are non-EU citizen, in general, you will be not able to buy land in the most lucrative areas of the European Union. However, as Bulgarian national, you have full access to the best investment opportunities the EU has to offer. Whether a nice vineyard in Spain or France, a field of wheat crop in Bulgaria or century old forest in Germany – you will have the choice to buy the best of the best.
- Pay the lowest taxes in the EU (both personal and corporate);
- Own the most lucrative real estate and land plots in EU;
- Full protection and EU rights for your whole family.
Political stability in the country of your citizenship, as well as peace of mind when travelling, are also very important things to consider when going for second citizenship. Although a full fledged NATO member, Bulgaria usually stays at the sideline and doesn’t make enemies in any international conflicts. Bulgarian citizens, unlike the nationals of big countries like USA, Germany, UK, France, etc. are far less exposed to hostility or acts of aggression when they travel abroad.
EU rights for family members
As Bulgarian citizen, you will be able to apply for EU “status” for your family members. Under the new citizenship by investment program of 2021, your spouse will be eligible for Bulgarian citizenship much sooner than it was under the old program. Your children will get Bulgarian citizenship immediately after you get yours. You can read more about the conditions of the Bulgarian Citizenship Investment Program in the following section below.
About the NEW Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program of 2021
the only true citizenship by investment program in the EU
Why is the new Bulgarian program better than the old one?
So what are the particularities of the new Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program – 2021? And why is it better than the previous program?
In general, the status of the foreigners in Bulgaria is governed by the “Law for the Foreigners in Bulgaria”. The naturalization of the foreigners is done according to the norms of the “Law for the Bulgarian Citizenship”. Both these laws were amended by the Bulgarian parliament in February-March 2021. And we are glad to say that these changes came for the benefit of the future investment citizenship applicants.
No irrevocable donations – true investment citizenship program
Unlike other investment programs for naturalization (in other countries), the Bulgarian program has never been “after the money”. The Cypriot CIP for instance brought huge revenues for the state, as the authorities issued huge number of passports and charged hefty fees. As result, the Cypriot program (along with that of Mata) was harshly criticized by the EU Commission, which basically marked their end. In contrast, the Bulgarian CIP has never been as aggressive as the programs of Malta and Cyprus. And luckily for you, the future Bulgarian citizenship applicant, this balanced approached has resulted in the possibility for the Bulgarian program to be revamped in its current shape.
The new legal texts are written with the idea that in order to qualify for fast track Bulgarian citizenship, the foreigner doesn’t need to “pay” for it. There are no donations required whatsoever. The new law foresees even lower minimum investment, namely one million Leva (512 000 EUR). The maximum investment requirement is now four million Leva (2 048 000 EUR). This provides to the citizenship applicant a wide range of options to choose from. The Bulgarian Parliament, by passing the 2021 fast-track amendments, has shown clearly that Bulgaria is determined to keep its “Golden Passport” program, which is now fully sustainable on both national and EU level. The program is definitely not a “passport for sale” scheme and the Bulgarian state will not benefit from your investment, as it is and remains “your investment”, under your full control at all times.
The Law for the Bulgarian Citizenship
The “Law for the Bulgarian Citizenship” provides different options to those who are willing to become Bulgarian nationals. The general rule is that one is eligible for Bulgarian citizenship if either he/she has resided permanently in the country for certain amount of time or he/she is of Bulgarian origin (having Bulgarian ancestors, subjects to conditions). The new 2021 Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program provides, as previously, opportunity for fast-track naturalization (in 12 months only), namely through investment. We really want to stress on the most important advantages of the revamped new program:
The investment is done by you (with our support of course, if required), in a variety of investment choices. The required investment ranges from 512 000 EUR to 2 048 000 EUR, which gives more opportunities to select from, than was the case previously. The investment remains yours at all times, unless of course you opt to appoint a trustee. The control that you have on your investment is even better than with the previous program, which is fantastic news for all future applicants. There is no requirement to buy real estate properties or anything alike (although you may if you want, under one of the investment options), thereby paying 20% and more to real estate agents (and even VAT) and then if you want to cash it back, to pay huge commissions again.
The Bulgarian nationality will be obtained in a little bit more than one year period, as previously. You will be not required to surrender your current citizenship if you prefer not to. You will be not required to pass language or history exam. And of course, Bulgarian citizenship by investment, is for life.
Your children will have the right of citizenship too. Yes, all your children will be immediately eligible for Bulgarian citizenship once you get your Bulgarian passport. Your unborn children will get automatically Bulgarian citizenship and so will their children and so on.
Under the conditions of the old program, your spouse (wife, husband) could only get Bulgarian citizenship in five years time after the start of the application. With the 2021 amendments, the spouse of the main applicant qualifies for Bulgarian citizenship in only three years after the naturalization procedure of the main applicant is started. In the meantime, the spouse is eligible for permanent residence, as previously.
- Citizenship eligibility after 12 months only;
- No donation required;
- Required investment starts at only 512 000 EUR;
- Much wider choice of investment options than with the previous program;
- Children qualify for citizenship immediately after the main applicant, no matter of their age;
- Spouse qualifies for citizenship much faster than under the old conditions, without the need of additional investment;
- No Bulgarian language exam;
- No Bulgarian history exam;
- No need to relinquish existing citizenship(s);
- Faster administrative processing times after the 2021 amendments;
- The new 2021 fast-track citizenship program is sustainable on both national and EU level;
- Political consensus in Bulgaria about the new program and better support by the relevant authorities.
A word of caution
We urge everyone to please stay away from any offers for fast-track Bulgarian citizenship asking you to pay money instead of investing on your own name. This may be for example asking you to “invest” funds for some period (usually 5 years) interest-free. We have seen many similar schemes advertised online and we urge you to not even consider these. Any schemes that offer you credit so you can use it for the investment (in return for irrevocable substantial fee) are trying to circumvent the Bulgarian laws and are extremely dangerous, least to say. The whole purpose of the Bulgarian Citizenship Investment Program is the applicant to have the resources himself – this is not a “passport for sale” scheme. Please be aware that trying to get around the naturalization laws, the way that is done by many unscrupulous “agents”, may not only deprive you forever from the possibility to obtain EU citizenship, but to also trigger penal actions by the authorities.
The Naturalization process
Obtaining permanent residence in Bulgaria (step 1 of 2)
The new program of 2021, pretty much like the old one, is two-staged process. The first step is obtaining immediate permanent Bulgarian residence for the applicant (the prerequisite for the full Bulgarian citizenship). Please note that “permanent residence” is the highest “grade” of residence status in Bulgaria. It provides already much more rights to its holder than the other residence types, such as long term residence, usually granted to spouses of Bulgarian citizens, foreign entrepreneurs, etc.
In order to obtain it, the applicant, according to art. 25, par. 1, p. 6, p. 7, p. 13 and p. 16 of the “Law for the Foreigners in Bulgaria” has to invest in one of the following investment choices:
Shares or bonds of Bulgarian companies traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange for 1 024 000 EUR
Shares are in general considered a more risky investment than are the fixed income instruments (bonds, CD’s, etc.). The upward potential of the shares however should be considered as well. In the era of “close to zero interest rates”, the returns from fixed-income instruments can hardly compensate the inflation. The Bulgarian Stock Exchange has proven track record and the traded securities often outperform the similar investments on other European floors. At the moment of writing of this article, the Bulgarian SOFIX index has gained 10% YTD (for the first 2,5 months of 2021, which calculated on yearly basis comes to 48% p.a.). As an added benefit, the financial regulations in Bulgaria provide for maximum security for the investors and 100% transparency. The value of the investment can be tracked in real time trough different electronic channels from any place in the world.
Bulgarian concession rights for 512 000 EUR
Concession contracts are comprehensive investments, but the returns are very rewarding. Currently, with the accelerated quantitative easing measures in the USA and the EU, concession contracts are set to outperform most other investments. We will provide full assistance and advice to investors who opt for Bulgarian concessions. We perfectly understand that these are hard to comprehend from a foreigner’s point of view so we will be organizing regular online seminars (while covid is still an obstacle) to explain this option to our clients.
Shares of investment funds for 512 000 EUR
These are EU regulated investment funds, UCITs and ETFs with investment focus on Bulgaria. These instruments are extremely popular with regular investors who don’t even need to obtain investment citizenship, so this option will attract huge interest from the citizenship candidates as well. These funds are very easy to buy, sell and track their value online. The EU regulations will ensure additional peace of mind for the investors. Last, but not least, these funds can provide ultimate diversification of the investment portfolio of the citizenship applicant.
Shares of alternative investment funds for 512 000 EUR
These funds (AIFs) are somewhat similar to the ones above, but also include private equity, venture and hedge funds. The investment focus of the AIFs need be again on Bulgaria.
- Required investment as low as 256 000 EUR for permanent residence and 512 000 EUR for full EU citizenship;
- Very short timeframe of only 12 months for citizenship;
- Shorter administrative times for processing of your application – a guarantee for faster approval of citizenship;
- Much wider array of investment options than with the previous program;
- Invest in shares or bonds on the regulated market. No monkey business with shady online brokers, Forex agents and similar;
- Enjoy the huge potential of the Bulgarian equity market;
- Go for investment funds if you need more diversification;
- Your investment is always under your control, never leaves your account (in case of financial investments);
- Follow your investments online in real time and track its value;
- Perfectly suited also for applicants with running businesses in Bulgaria, who may not need make any additional investments.
Participation in a Bulgarian company carrying on a Certified Priority Investment Project for 1 024 000 EUR
This type of investment (CPIP) is almost 100% identical to the EB-5 regional centers in the USA. We anticipate this option to become much more popular in Bulgaria as well. As with the concession rights, we will be organizing regular online events for our clients in order to explain all particularities of this option.
Participation in certified investment project – the investment amount is project dependent
This is definitely the most comprehensive options of all (it is different than the CPIP above, although it looks similar). Please contact us if you need more information.
Participation in Bulgarian trading company for 256 000 EUR
This is basically an option when the applicant wants to develop business activities in Bulgaria. The requirement is to invest in the capital of a company (may be the applicant’s own company) an amount of 256 000 EUR. The company must also employ ten Bulgarian nationals. The said investment can be done in basically everything that is needed for the company’s operations, ranging from computers to real estate (office, etc.).
It is essential to understand that the investment remains yours at all times! You will be never required to buy any non-liquid assets such as real estate, which will attract huge notary fees (and even VAT) as well as 20 to 40% spread on the buy-sell contracts. The fees for the Bulgarian stock exchange for example are about 0,075% for shares and 0,01% for bonds.
Diversification is another advantage of the program. You can buy as many different bonds, shares, etc. as you like, thereby spreading the risk and optimizing the returns. In fact, many Bulgarians are doing this sort of investments with their local bank already.
Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship and EU passport (step 2 of 2)
Once the applicant receives his permanent residence permit as above, there are two options ahead to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. Namely the semi-fast-track and the fast-track options.
The semi-fast track
Without any additional investments, the applicant will be eligible for Bulgarian citizenship five years after he has obtained permanent residence status. This is ideal opportunity for those who are not in a hurry and don’t mind waiting five years, without the need to make any additional investment. As with the fast-track, the investor will not need to pass any language or history tests, nor to surrender his existing citizenship(s).
The fast track (the real deal)
Only one year after the initial investment has been completed and the permanent residence permit obtained, art. 14a, par. 1 of the new “Law for the Bulgarian Citizenship” foresees that the applicant can obtain Bulgarian citizenship (full EU citizenship) if he fulfills one of the following four conditions:
- Doubles his investment, based on the option chosen, with the following minimums:
- Shares or bonds of Bulgarian companies traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange from 1 024 000 EUR to 2 048 000 EUR;
- Bulgarian concession rights from 512 000 EUR to 1 024 000 EUR;
- Shares of investment funds (UCITs, ETFs) from 512 000 EUR to 1 024 000 EUR;
- Shares of alternative investment funds (AIFs) from 512 000 EUR to 1 024 000 EUR;
- Participation in a Bulgarian company carrying on a Certified Priority Investment Project from 1 024 000 EUR to 2 048 000 EUR.
- Invests additionally 512 000 EUR in Bulgarian company carrying on a Certified Priority Investment Project.
- Increases his participation in Bulgarian trading company as follows:
- increases the investment in the capital from 256 000 EUR to 512 000 EUR;
- increases the number of Bulgarian employees from 10 to 20;
- Has maintained his participation in certified investment project and the investments in the project have been maintained above the required minimum for investment class “A” as per the Investment Promotion Act.
Low minimum amount as per the new 2021 program, even lower than with the previous CIP
The new citizenship by investment program of 2021 thus requires a total investment ranging from 512 000 EUR to 2 048 000 EUR.
Very short naturalization period of only one year
Under the new 2021 citizenship law (as with the previous law), the applicant is eligible for citizenship in only one year after his initial investment. Of course, there is some processing time, making the total period for the naturalization a little bit longer.
Final citizenship approval by the President of Republic of Bulgaria
The final approval for the citizenship is prepared by the Bulgarian Minister of Justice and is sent for approval to the President of Republic of Bulgaria. When signed and stamped by the President, the citizenship enters into force immediately as is foreseen in art. 36 from the “Law for the Bulgarian Citizenship”. With this act, the naturalization procedure is completed.
The highlights of the NEW 2021 Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program
Sustainable investment program – the only EU citizenship by investment program
There were many rumors in the last couple of years that Bulgaria will cancel its citizenship by investment program (CIP). Luckily these rumors didn’t materialize. With the new legal amendments from February-March 2021, the Bulgarian CIP was revamped and is now de-facto the only EU CIP. Bulgaria was not as greedy as were Cyprus and Malta and has issued far less “Golden Passports”, compared to the size of its economy. As result, the Bulgarian authorities were spared the harsh criticism from the European Commission. This has led to the revamping of the Bulgarian CIP into its current shape with the amendments from 2021. Unfortunately for Cyprus and Malta, their programs couldn’t survive the political turmoil and were respectively cancelled and crippled down to nothing.
We believe that the conditions of the new Bulgarian program that enables fast track citizenship to be obtained in a little more than one year time are even better than the conditions of the old program. As with the previous program, the applicant doesn’t have to ever lose control of his money or pass the financial control to someone else. Neither has the applicant to pay extraordinary conveyance or other state and notary fees in order to purchase non-liquid “qualifying” investments.
We will outline below the main advantages of the new 2021 Bulgarian Citizenship Investment Program.
Low minimum investment amount required
The new program requires an investment from only 512 000 EUR to 2 048 000 EUR to obtain full EU citizenship as fast as in 12 months. Other EU countries (ie Cyprus, Malta) were requiring a commitment in the amount of 2 500 000 EUR, 4 000 000 EUR, 5 000 000 EUR and even more.
The investment remains property of the applicant at all times
Other programs will require the would be citizen to invest in a way that he or she will has difficulties understanding whether this is an investment or a donation.
The investment is liquid and with very low charges
The investment can be done in financial instruments (shares, bonds, investment funds) and direct investments in Bulgaria. Other countries will require purchase of “qualifying” real estate. For example a 2 500 000 EUR real estate investment in another country may trigger fees, commissions and price spread of more than one million Euro. Eventual VAT would be on top of that. This million will be obviously for the account of the applicant. Not the case in Bulgaria luckily.
- Low minimum investment required of only 512 000 EUR;
- Investment on applicant’s name at all times;
- Liquid investment in financial instruments possible (shares, bonds, investment funds, etc.);
- Very short time of the naturalization process – only a little more than 12 months;
- No donation required. Investment remains property of the applicant;
- No language, history or any other similar test for the fast track citizenship program;
- Children eligible for immediate full Bulgarian citizenship after the main applicant.
Very short time for the naturalization process
The Bulgarian program will trigger the naturalization decree in a bit more than a year. Even better, a permanent residence status will be granted immediately after the first installment of the investment amount is arranged.
No donation required
Bulgaria is not looking to fill its state budget from the naturalization program. All profits from the investment are entirely for the applicant. Bulgaria, unlike other EU countries (previously, before their programs were terminated), doesn’t require a donation to be done under its fast track naturalization program. Other EU countries were requiring irrevocable payments for hundreds of thousands of Euros, before their CIPs were cancelled or crippled down.
The applicant will be not required to pass any Bulgarian language or history test
This will not only speed the whole naturalization process, but will also help in achieving the applicant’s final goal – the Bulgarian citizenship approval.
The applicant can retain his or her previous citizenship(s)
This may be very important in some cases. Other countries may require the applicants to surrender their existing citizenships in order to obtain the new nationality. The Bulgarian CIP doesn’t require you to do that.
The applicant’s children will be eligible for immediate Bulgarian citizenship
Other countries will not provide this convenience to the “investment citizens”. Bulgaria doesn’t differentiate them from the “Bulgarian born Bulgarians”.
Under the new 2021 program, the spouse of the main applicant gets Bulgarian citizenship much faster
The new 2021 regulations allow the spouse of the main applicant to obtain Bulgarian citizenship much sooner than was previously the case.
Investment in Bulgaria is safe!
Unlike other countries offering citizenship to investors, Bulgaria has never imposed any restrictions nor has any currency regulations that prevent capital repatriation. Bulgaria is EU country and thus has the EU financial backing and the reputation of the jurisdiction. Investment in Bulgaria is probably one of the safest in the whole EU, let alone the world.
Should the new Bulgarian citizen decide to change his or her tax domicile to Bulgaria, he or she will enjoy the lowest corporate and personal tax rates in EU.
The uniqueness of the Bulgarian fast-track Citizenship Program
The feasible fast-track option
One can obtain citizenship of virtually any country, but only provided that some very strict criteria are met. Usually, as a rule of thumb, citizenship is granted by birth, by ancestry and by naturalization. In very rare and isolated occasions, citizenship is also granted for “special achievements (in favor of the host country)”, but these are extremely limited number of cases and we wouldn’t encourage anyone to have realistic expectations from this option. Not taking into consideration the “special achievement” naturalization alternative, the so called “fast-track” options for naturalization remains the only feasible opportunity for someone to get hold of citizenship and passport from desired destination. The “fast-track” option is almost always associated with either making direct contribution (non-refundable) in favor of the host country, making an investment in the economy, or a combination of both.
The tropical island passports – not really a good choice
Worldwide, there are few countries to offer “fast-track” citizenship. Most of these are countries from the Caribbean basin – St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, etc. or other exotic destinations – Vanuatu being a prime example. These destinations, while stunningly beautiful, provide limited travel rights (although in some cases their passports can serve as the perfect travel document to those seeking short term visa-free travel to the EU), and non-existent residency, living, working, studying, or other rights in any other country. Besides that, the exotic citizenships are often being used by non law abiding individuals to circumvent international restrictions imposed on them and this is the reason why the obviously naturalized persons (who don’t speak the language of their host country, who are from different race, have unusual names for the nationality they travel on, etc.) are being checked with extreme scrutiny by the authorities while travelling (at border checkpoints, airports, hotels, etc.).
Last, but not least, these exotic countries are often politically unstable, have generally poor reputation (can be disastrous in case one is doing business as citizen of such country), its travel documents can not be easily checked and verified (resulting in uncertainty of the “would be” citizen whether the naturalization process and the passport to be received will be legit).
The true EU investment citizenship program
In order to enjoy the best freedom of travel, unlimited residency rights, working and other privileges in multiple countries, the obvious choice is an EU passport and citizenship. From the European countries, getting hold of citizenship under the “fast-track” option is possible from two countries only (status 2021): Bulgaria and Malta. Cyprus, cancelled its program in 2020 and if you are not Elon Musk’s buddy you better stay clear off the Maltese program. There are some other EU countries who offer “golden-visa” or similar residency schemes, but they are not even worth mentioning as they do not provide citizenship (passport) at all, but a mere residency (that also comes with very hefty price tag attached). There are some limited options for full citizenship from other EU countries as well, but they are neither “fast-track” (their programs require significant amount of time and pose other administrative hurdles) nor “feasible” (they are extremely expensive and loaded with tons of conditions and restrictions).
The Bulgarian citizenship program – the only EU option with no other alternatives
So from the three feasible and really “fast-track” citizenship opportunities in the EU that were available up-to and until late 2020, only the Bulgarian CIP survived and was even revamped in 2021. So what makes the Bulgarian program so unique and sustainable? Obviously, all three citizenships provide almost identical rights in terms of visa-free worldwide travel and absolutely identical unrestricted residency and other benefits within the EU. Still, what was the difference between the Cypriot, the Maltese and the Bulgarian “fast-track” citizenship programs?
Why is the Bulgarian Citizenship by investment program different, compared to the other cancelled EU program?
Or why the Bulgarian program survived, while the Cypriot one was cancelled? Does it have to do with greed?
THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND THE CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT PROGRAMS
Our clients often ask us “how does the Bulgarian state profit from its investment citizenship program when it doesn’t require any donation?”. We consider this to be a very good question. While the Maltese government under its program was charging an immediate contribution of 650 000 EUR (irrevocable fee) just to start with and the Cypriot budget was profiting from immense VAT payments from the applicant, the Bulgarian program doesn’t profit much from the required investment.
Even with the 2021 program, the Bulgarian economy doesn’t profit directly from the investment of the applicant. All profits and proceeds are for the investor.
The reason behind this generosity of the Bulgarian program is very simple – the demographic decline in Bulgaria during the last 20-25 years. Malta is the most densely populated country in the whole EU with very strong population growth. Cyprus on its side has the highest population growth in the whole EU. So why would these two countries need new citizens? For the money of course (both countries, unlike Bulgaria, have very high external debt per capita). Bulgaria on the contrary has the lowest (of course negative) population growth (in fact decline) in the EU. Bulgarians, from 9 million 20-25 years ago, have now declined to just a bit more than 7 million – a cut of 22%.
So to summarize, while the Maltese and the Cypriot citizenship programs were trying to fill their state chests, the Bulgarian program is mainly aiming at increasing the population, even by a small number. This difference, as you will see later, is of extreme importance for the sustainability of the citizenship program.
THE EUROPEAN UNION STANCE AND THE SUSTAINABILITY OF THE PROGRAMS
Or why was the program of Cyprus cancelled, under immense pressure from the EU authorities and the Maltese program became simply not feasible.
The fact that the Maltese citizenship program, based on irrevocable fee payment by the applicant to the Maltese government, was actually a pure “passport for sale scheme”, has led to a great deal of controversy. All that combined with the extreme dense Maltese population has led to great criticism from the EU Commission regarding the program.
Cyprus didn’t stay far behind. With its constantly growing population and the citizenship program that was at one time providing a symbolic 3 months naturalization period (obviously the new citizens can not establish even nominal ties with the country), the country has attracted a lot of interest from the EU’s officials.
Both programs were seen as risky undertakings for fast profit by the relevant governments and many analysts were suggesting that the sustainability of the citizenships granted under the schemes will still need to be tested.
Bulgaria on the contrary, partially because it didn’t charge significant fee (and also the very low Bulgarian external debt per capita), combined with the demographic decline of the country, had only few relatively minor issues with the EU authorities about its citizenship by investment program. All this has led to the possibility of Bulgaria to maintain its program and to even revamp it to the state of the 2021 citizenship law. Now the 2021 Bulgarian CIP is as stable as ever and the interest from the international investors is already skyrocketing.
The choice of the EU authorities to back-up the Bulgarian CIP
The new 2021 Bulgarian citizenship by investment program would not have passed the Bulgarian parliament if it didn’t have the backing of the EU authorities. Now that the law is enforced, the investors can be pretty certain that the program has full support not only on national level in Bulgaria, but also with the EU politicians in Brussels.
the hidden treasure in the EU
Bulgaria has rich history, least to say. It is the oldest country in Europe and the only country that has never changed its name during the centuries. Founded in 681 AD, Bulgaria has been already many centuries into existence, before big countries like UK, France, Spain, Germany and Italy were born.
Even before the birth of the Bulgarian nation in 681 AD, there were the Thracians who lived in the territory. The Thracian civilization left amazing gold and silver treasures as well as many sacred places in Bulgaria, which are still being discovered and developed. Spartacus, Alexander the Great, Orpheus – they were all born in Thracia, there where Bulgaria was later founded.
But long before the Thracians, there were other ancient civilizations in the land that is now modern Bulgaria. The Varna Necropolis, discovered in the vibrant seaside city of Varna, is considered to be one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory. There was found the oldest gold treasure in the world, dating from 4600 BC to 4200 BC. The sacred place of Perperikon, in southern Bulgaria, is believed to have been built as far as in 5000 BC.
EU and NATO memberships
Modern Bulgaria is mid sized country in south-eastern Europe with population of about 7 million. The area of the country is 111 000 km2. This is about 3 times smaller than Germany and 2 times smaller than the United Kingdom. It is fully fledged member of the European Union and the NATO. As from 1999 the Bulgarian currency is pegged to the Deutsche Mark at the ratio of 1:1. Since the demise of the German Mark, the Lev is pegged to the Euro at the ratio of 1:1,95583. Bulgaria is multicultural orthodox nation and is the only EU country to use the Cyrillic alphabet. The official language is Bulgarian, but English is widely spoken, especially in the big cities. The Capital is Sofia, with estimated population of 2 million.
Bulgaria has strong economy with sustainable growth, enjoys low deficits and one of the lowest external debts worldwide. It applies the lowest corporate and personal income tax in the whole European Union. The banking system is very well developed with many international mega banks present and fully implemented EU standards on deposit protection.
In the summer of 2020, Bulgaria joined the ERM II and is now expected to adopt the Euro in due course.
On February 19th, 2021, Bulgaria was assigned BBB rating by Fitch with positive outlook. S&P and Moody’s credit ratings of Bulgaria are BBB and Baa1 respectively.
Why choose us for your Bulgarian Citizenship application?
Present globally, working locally
We are better, because we are doing the job. For the core work, we don’t operate from fancy offices in London, Zurich or New York. We do not pass the work to be done by someone else – our licensed lawyers are doing everything from start to finish. We are located there, where the things are happening – in the heart of Sofia, Bulgaria. Our offices are in 10 minutes from the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice (where your citizenship application will be processed), the office of the President or Bulgaria (where your naturalization application will be finally approved and the citizenship decree issued), the Sofia Court House and from the Bulgarian National Bank . We interact with the Bulgarian Parliament, where the immigration and naturalization laws are being discussed and voted for. We don’t simply know the naturalization laws, we follow each and every legislative act from the moment it has been submitted to the Parliament for consideration. Each law, that has been either passed or rejected, has been studied thoroughly by our lawyers long before it eventually makes it to the “Bulgarian State Gazette”.
No middlemen involved
We are not “agents selling citizenship” who will cash in huge “conveyance fees” to only pass the applicant’s file to another agent who will charge his fee before passing it to another agent and so on, before it eventually reaches us – with the request to do the job. We are not real estate agents trying to sell their non-liquid “portfolio” of properties. We will not talk to the applicant from a distant offshore location not knowing anything about Bulgaria, trying to only lure him into the adventure of arranging for him a second passport, any passport, just for the sake of it.
Actually, almost all of the “agents selling Bulgarian citizenship” who advertise in the glossy magazines or on the internet will ultimately come to us in order to have the work done. The client will most probably be charged anywhere from 5 to 20 times higher fee compared to what we would have charged directly.
Ultimate legal knowledge
We will never try convincing the client to buy real estate properties (passing the VAT and notary charges to the customer and offloading the junk properties from our associates balance sheet) or invest in a “non-interest bearing social bank account” for 5 years (cashing in the interest paid). Yes, we have seen many similar offerings online and in expensive brochures distributed in posh hotels worldwide. We know the Bulgarian naturalization laws and we know best how to comply with them in order to get the naturalization done.
- We process the application of the client for naturalization ourselves. We don’t pass anything to agents or subcontractors;
- Our fees are probably 5 to 20 times lower than the fees charged by “international agents” from their offshore offices;
- We protect the client’s privacy and security;
- Our success rate is much higher than the success rate of the “international agents”, who are often “lost in the translation”, before they eventual reach us;
- All work done is on “turnkey basis” and official applications are carried out by licensed immigration lawyers.
Data protection and full privacy
Security is also great advantage to those working directly with us. We keep all customers’ data confidential and our clients are covered by strict data protection laws in Bulgaria. The situation is quite different when the customer’s file has made few circles around the globe between different “agents” in different jurisdictions.
While we would do the whole legal work on turnkey basis, we will never offer the customer credit facility for his investment in return for few hundred thousand Euros commission for us. We believe that if the client can not afford the required amount of investment, then he or she should consider other options or other countries. The new 2021 Bulgarian Citizenship Investment Program is meant for those who can afford the financial prerequisites.
Work done by licensed lawyers
All official work done by us is done by a licensed immigration lawyers who know best of all how to get the applicant’s naturalization finalized. They will be backed up by financial and tax advisers in order to secure the best investment option for the customer and optimize eventual tax consequences.