Bulgaria’s Immigrant Investor Program (BGIIP) grants residence to those willing to make a significant investment in government bonds, job-creating businesses or real estate, among other options. Depending on the category, investments can lead to renewable residency, permanent residency, or even a fast track to citizenship. Bulgarian residence offers mobility within Europe, and investor residents benefit from an exemption from any physical presence requirements. The program does not require business experience or language skills, making it an option for investors who prefer a passive investment. Those granted permanent residence through the BGIIP are eligible to apply for Bulgarian citizenship after five years, and the fast-track option offers citizenship in about two years.
History and Statistics
The BGIIP was first introduced in 2009 to allow high-net-worth individuals and their families to invest in and move to the country. Significant changes were made to the program in 2013, adding business and real estate investments and a fast track option, and eliminating previous language requirements and restrictions on dual nationality. Now the program has options that lead to temporary residence, which must be renewed each year, and permanent residence, which leads to citizenship after five years.
Eligibility and Requirements
In order to qualify for the program, interested investors must have a clean criminal record, a legal source of funds and may need proof of their personal net worth. Qualified investors can pursue one of several investment options, some of which lead to permanent residence and some of which lead to residence that must be renewed each year (prolonged residence). Investment options are as follows:
- Full investment (permanent residence): Make a refundable, government-guaranteed investment of at least BL1 million (approximately $570,000) into Bulgaria’s Government Bond Portfolio
- Financed investment (permanent residence): Make a financed investment of BL 1 million (approximately $570,000) in government bonds through a Bulgarian chartered bank, paying approximately $200,000 in non-refundable fees
- Risk capital (prolonged residence): Invest at least €125,000 (approximately $140,000) in risk capital, of which at least 50 percent is invested in a Bulgarian company operating in an underdeveloped region, and create at least five Bulgarian jobs
- Risk capital (permanent residence): Invest at least €250,000 (approximately $280,000) in risk capital, of which 50 percent is invested in a Bulgarian company, and create at least 10 Bulgarian jobs
- Real estate (prolonged residence): Invest at least €300,000 (approximately $335,000) in real estate, or obtain at least 50 percent ownership of a Bulgarian company that would invest that amount in real estate
The permanent residence investment options exempt approved applicants from residency requirements and allow them to apply for citizenship after five years. The only presence requirement consists of two visits to the country during the application process, as outlined below. If investors would like to progress to citizenship more quickly—in as little as two years—they can choose the fast-track option and double their investment amount.
- Fast track option: Invest at least BL2 million (approximately $1.1 million) in government bonds or in a Bulgarian company carrying out a Priority Investment Project
Capital invested in government bonds will be returned to investors after five years (with the exception of any financing fees). In order to apply, investors will be required to document their source of funds, and in the case of financed investments, document personal net worth over 1 million €.
The application process for residence under the BGIIP is multi-stepped and should take about six to nine months to complete. Prospective investors begin by obtaining a Certificate for Investment in Bulgaria and a long stay visa. Before obtaining a Certificate for Investment, investors must transfer their capital and then must follow up at a Bulgarian consulate to apply for their long stay visa (Visa D). After receiving the visa, investors must make their first trip to Bulgaria to submit their application for a permanent residence certificate.
In order to apply for the permanent residence certificate, investors must be prepared to submit, among other identifying and biographical documents:
- Complete application
- Passport with Visa D
- Proof of application fee payment
- Certificate for Investment
- Proof of net worth (if required by investment type)
- Source of funds documentation
- Evidence of clean criminal record
Once approved, investors must return to Bulgaria to apply for their Bulgarian permanent resident card. After the main applicant receives their PR card, they can begin the same process for the permanent residency certificate and card for their qualifying family members. Each individual must make at least two trips to Bulgaria during the residency application process.
The program is administered by Invest Bulgaria Agency on behalf of the Bulgarian government and prospective investors can consult their website for information on the investment climate in the country. Applicants are strongly recommended to seek out a qualified professional familiar with the program prior to any investment. Furthermore, various full-service companies exist that can educate investors about the program, direct them to advisors and attorneys and guide them through the application process.
 Investment options gathered using: "Bulgarian Immigrant Investor Program." Invest Bulgaria. Accessed February 22, 2016. http://www.investbulgaria.eu/a/en/home.html. AND "Investor Visas: Bulgaria." Library of Congress. Accessed February 22, 2016. https://www.loc.gov/law/help/investor-visas/bulgaria.php.
 "Bulgarian Investment Immigration Program." Dobrev & Lyutskanov Law Firm. February 22, 2016. http://www.lawfirm-bg.org/img/BANERI/Bulgarian investment immigration program_02.09.2014_1410784875.pdf.
 "Application Process." Invest Bulgaria. Accessed February 22, 2016. http://www.investbulgaria.eu/a/en/bulgarian-immigrant-investor-program/application-process.html.