Investment In Bonds, Equity Or Intellectual Property
Visa Free Travel
Bulgaria’s citizenship-by-investment program offers a low-cost, flexible gateway to the European Union as well as worldwide visa-free travel. The program, founded in 2009 and modified in 2013, offers permanent residency in exchange for a 1 million Bulgarian lev (about $600,000) investment in a range of options, including bonds, stocks and even intellectual property. Investors can then obtain full citizenship after five years — or, in exchange for investing an additional 1 million lev, they can fast-track their application and obtain full citizenship within about 18 months of making their initial investment.
Investors can divest their investment (both the initial and the secondary) two years after receiving citizenship. Investors keep their investments on their bank accounts (in case of financial investments, such as shares or stocks) or in their name (in case of intellectual property) at all times and receive all proceeds on top, including the bond coupons or dividends from the stocks, so the total cost of the program can be remarkably low. With no language requirement and no residency requirement besides four short trips during the application process, makes Bulgaria’s CBI program an attractive option for investors seeking unlimited residency rights in the European Union.
Bulgarian residency and citizenship laws offer a number of pathways where investors can obtain permanent residency, and subsequently citizenship, by investing 1 million Bulgarian lev in a range of different ways. Most investors opt to invest in government bonds, but it is also possible to invest in shares in Bulgarian companies traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. Making an investment managed through a trust agreement with a Bulgarian bank is also possible, but is more complicated in terms of legal compliance. Purchasing intellectual property and patents is also a possibility, however it is not as widespread as bonds and shares due to the difficulty to evaluate the legal value of the intangible investments.
Investors who maintain their core residency investment for five years qualify for citizenship, while investors who double down and invest an extra 1 million lev can qualify after just 18 months. Fast-tracked investors must maintain their investments for two years after obtaining citizenship, however.
Some investors opt to finance their initial investments, increasing the overall cost but significantly reducing the amount of capital needed to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. Such approaches may be legal under certain circumstances but can be complex and risky. They should be viewed with caution and the professionals in the field of Bulgarian investment citizenship are advising against such option.
The first step in the application process is to assign a professional to perform preliminary due diligence and ensure legal compliance. This is an essential step, which is being neglected by some candidates, who later encounter serious compliance problems. The next step is to make the required investment. While it can be useful to obtain professional advice in making arrangements, the investment itself should always remain in the applicant’s name and under their direct and sole control. Applicants should be wary of agents who ask them to transfer money out of their own accounts, which can be a scam allowing agents to pocket the interest that accumulates on an investor’s capital. Also be cautious about plans that involve financing the capital used for the CBI investment. Though permissible under certain scenarios, such approaches can be risky, and are generally frowned upon by immigration officials.
Once the investment is made, applicants can file their paperwork to begin the process. This is a multi-stage process that requires four trips to Bulgaria. Neither trip need to last more than a few days, however.
The due-diligence process for Bulgarian immigration investors was previously seen as less intensive scrutiny than some other programs. Since the end of 2017 however, the situation has shifted somewhat and it is now absolutely essential for every applicant to undergo a preliminary due diligence procedure and feasibility assessment with a reputable immigration law firm. The Bulgarian government is determined to keep the fast-track citizenship program as a legal pathway for new citizens with “great business visions” rather than a “passport for sale scheme.” It is expected among the professionals in the field that the Parliament will soon tighten the current articles, making the application more cumbersome. As before, investors must be able to produce a criminal record report showing that they have not been convicted of serious crimes.
Bulgaria, though a member of the European Union, is not currently a member of the Schengen Area, so residency card holders do not receive automatic travel rights in Europe. Bulgarian passport holders, however, enjoy visa-free access to 171 countries, including the E.U., making the Bulgarian passport the 20th-strongest in the world.
As an industrialized eastern block country, Bulgaria economy has in recent years diversified and grown steadily. Bulgaria is now a stable parliamentary democracy. Bulgaria’s coastal and mountain resorts are popular with international tourists and locals take pride in their country’s architecture, long history and rich culture.
Updated by Alexander Dobrinov
Investors using the pathway described for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship receive permanent citizenship after making their initial investments. It is also possible to obtain “continuous residence” — a long-term residency visa that only lasts for a year, but which can be renewed indefinitely — by investing at least 500,000 lev to take over, or create a business that employs at least 10 people; by investing 250,000 lev in a company that creates at least five jobs in an economically challenged region; or by investing 600,000 lev in real estate.
Updated by Alexander Dobrinov
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