Foreigners with Bulgarian residence permits to travel visa-free to all Schengen countries from 2023

Breaking news!

Bulgaria to join Schengen by the end of 2022

In a resolution adopted on Tuesday (note: October 18th, 2022), MEPs say the Council should adopt a decision on Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen free movement area by the end of 2022. This should ensure the abolition of checks on persons at all internal borders for both countries in early 2023. The resolution was adopted with 547 votes in favor, 49 votes against, and 43 abstaining.


Its almost certain now that both Bulgaria and Romania will join Schengen in a matter of weeks. Many have expected this to happen much earlier, but as we say, better late than never. The question today is:

What will change after Bulgaria joins Schengen?

Many Bulgarians don’t realize that Schengen will not give them any additional rights. Bulgarians already enjoy the same rights as all other EU citizens. The only difference is that when travelling between Bulgaria and a Schengen country, the person (being Bulgarian or other EU national) has to show his ID card. Not a big deal.

There is another group of people however, who will benefit immensely from the Schengen membership of Bulgaria.

Non-EU foreigners holding Bulgarian residence permits – the true beneficiaries

There are many foreigners who hold Bulgarian residence permits (both long-term and permanent). These are the people who will feel the big difference after Bulgaria joins the Schengen area. These foreigners now don’t get automatic visa-free access to the other EU countries. But with Bulgaria in Schengen, this will change dramatically.

Foreigners with Bulgarian ID cards (residence permits) to travel freely in all Schengen countries

After Bulgaria joins Schengen, the foreigners with Bulgarian ID cards will be allowed visa-free travel within the whole Schengen area. This will basically mean that they will have almost the same freedom as if they were having Bulgarian citizenship. The Bulgarian residence card will provide access to roughly 30 countries in EU and beyond.

Bulgarian residence permit becomes harder to get

In return for the privilege of being in the Schengen zone, the authorities in Bulgaria will need to make sure that the immigration laws are being applied with extreme precision. The Bulgarian residence permit holders will now get automatic access to all Schengen member states. This will mean additional responsibilities for the immigration authorities in order not to grant residence permits to potentially dangerous applicants. The requirements are already being tightened up and we expect this to continue until end of 2023.

Bulgarian citizens will also get some pie of the cake, though a small one

The Schengen membership will provide certain advantages to some Bulgarians too. Mainly, there will be no more ques at the border with Greece in summer, when Bulgarian flood the northern Greek beaches.

Another advantage is that many Bulgarian private jet owners will now be able to land easily in small EU airports. They will be not forced to use only the major airports with border control facilities.

But for most of the Bulgarians, nothing will really change after Bulgaria joins Schengen. Probably only the feeling of having obtained yet another piece of freedom, though all the freedom came already with the EU membership, not the Schengen one.

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