Many Bulgarian citizenship by investment (the old program) candidates will lose their permanent residence status in 2024

Alexander Dobrinov speaking about Bulgarian citizenship by investment
Alexander Dobrinov about Bulgarian citizenship
Due to some controversial texts in the Bulgarian Foreigners Law, prolongation of investment PR (under the old program with government bonds) from 2024 onwards will be a hard nut to crack.Alexander Dobrinov

Do you still remember the times when one could get Bulgarian citizenship in only 12 months? This is the theoretical term, not counting the administrative procedures of course. But it’s still lightning fast. Many investors got lucky and obtained Bulgarian citizenship at the uniquely favorable conditions at these times. Others were too hesitant and missed one of the greatest opportunities at all times.

Today we will discuss the status of those who have obtained Bulgarian permanent residence permits (PR), but were not able to get full Bulgarian citizenship. So what are their options now? What is going to happen with their PR status? Can they still obtain Bulgarian citizenship? These are the questions we will be answering in this article.

What are the options for the investment citizenship candidates under the old program, those who have invested in government bonds?

Many of our clients have obtained PR by investment roughly 5 years ago. Now that the 5-year horizon is approaching, the following can be said:

  • Bulgaria is joining Schengen on 29.03.2024 and the Bulgarian PR becomes good for visa-free travel to all Schengen member states;
  • After 5 years with PR status, the investment citizenship candidates can eventually apply for full Bulgarian citizenship;
    • At the same time, they have to also renew their PR, which will be very tricky thing to do.

What must be done before the PR card (obtained through investment in bonds) expiry date?

The PR cards of those, who have participated in the old Bulgarian citizenship by investment program, are now, gradually, approaching their expiry dates. The PR cards that were issued in 2019 will expire in 2024. The cards from 2020 will expire in 2025 and so on. And all these PR holders are now confronted with some serious decisions that they have to make.

Bulgarian citizenship after 5 years

Those who have obtained PR under the old investment citizenship program, now have an unique opportunity. Namely, to get Bulgarian citizenship without having to pass language test or to surrender their existing citizenship. Unfortunately this opportunity goes with its own legal controversies. On top of that, the authorities in Bulgaria are extremely reluctant to correctly interpret the legal norms. Still, the PR holders who have invested in Bulgarian bonds, can now apply for Bulgarian citizenship (if they know how to). And of course, if they have been holding their PR status and investment for at least 5 years.

Real life example with a client from Iran

Recently, one of our most esteemed clients, Iranian citizen, opted for the special provisions citizenship. After a lot of effort on our side and hard work with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry in order for his citizenship application to be accepted, he could finally submit his documents at the Bulgarian embassy in Iran. With this, we could already see the light at the end of the tunnel for the gentleman.

What happened after a few days is that our client was contacted by the embassy and almost forced to “take his documents back”. If our client has listened to us and has rejected the embassy’s “invitation” to withdraw his application/document, we would be now having much better options to get him what we believe he is entitled to – Bulgarian citizenship.

More about Bulgarian citizenship under the special provisions

For more information about this legal option, please read our article Bulgarian citizenship through the special provisions of 2021. The real problem is that even if the investor opts for the special provisions and applies for citizenship, he has to still prolong his 5-year permanent residence card. This is, because citizenship is not approved in an instant, so the residence status needs to be maintained. And this prolongation of the PR proves to be extremely problematic. So bear with us to find our what the problems are and what can be done.

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Russian and Belorussian citizens – worst affected

Russian citizens are worst affected when it comes to applying the special citizenship procedures or when prolonging their PR cards. Bulgarian authorities, strongly influenced by the political sentiments in the West, are aiming to reject every Russian from granting him Bulgarian PR or citizenship. This doesn’t mean of course that it is a lost cause. Not at all. With the right support, Russian citizens can achieve the same results as all other nationals. It may just be more time consuming, as it all requires more work and effort.

difficulties prolongation Bulgarian PR

Prolongation of the Permanent Residence card after it expires in 5 years

Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.Ali Ibn Abi Talib

The PR card holders, with permanent residence status under the old investment program, now have a difficult task. They now have to prolong their PR cards. Most of these cards, that were granted towards investment in Bulgarian bonds, are now approaching their expiry dates. So now, in 2024, many of the 5-years PR card will need to be prolonged. But how can this be done and why did we say it is so difficult?

Alongside with the tons of documents required (ie proof of address), the main problem is to prove that the investment in bonds is still available. The Bulgarian Investment Agency “deems” this investment option to be non-existent anymore. We have to disagree with their interpretation of the law though. Still, the ultimate decision will be of course on the Bulgarian courts, for each particular case.

As we were anticipating this problem, we have been advising our client since the beginning of 2022 to make a new investment in ETF (Exchange Traded Funds). Many of our clients have listened to our advice and have secured their status in Bulgaria and the EU. Some of them though, still have a problem to solve – the missing preliminary approval.

Investment in ETF without preliminary approval by the Investment Agency – what to do?

Many foreigners have invested in ETF without the preliminary approval by the Investment Agency. This was done not because of legal negligence, but because of the failure of the Bulgarian authorities to issue the relevant Regulations to the Foreigners Law. These Regulations are required in order for the Investment Agency to be able to issue the legally required preliminary approval. Now that the Regulations are available, albeit with huge delay, these foreigners should find a way to secure the preliminary approval post-factum. This will be definitely not an easy thing to do, especially for Russian and Belorussian citizens. On top of that, the recent amendments of the Investment Promotion Law of 08.03.2024 will make the investment approval much more difficult. We will be publishing separate article about these amendments soon, so please stay tuned on our website for updates.

For any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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