Bulgaria’s citizenship by investment programme was introduced in its current form in late 2013. In domestic terms, the key innovation was to permit permanent residence leading to citizenship based on an investment of BGN 1,000,000 (approx €512,000) and expedited processing of 2 years where an investment of BGN 2,000,000 (approx €1.02m) was made.
While highly competitive compared to other EU citizenship routes, Bulgarian citizenship by investment has not been promoted by the Government of Bulgaria.
This slowed take-up but there is now evidence of organic and likely sustained demand growth and of an adequate administrative capacity to process applications.
Since the Standard Track requires applicants to hold a residence permit for at least 5 years, most standard applications are only beginning to be eligible.
An average of 18 applications were submitted via Fast Track annually between 2013-2017. In 2018 the annual application rate doubled to 35 on an annualised basis.
Applicants from the Middle East and the ex-USSR make 77% of the Fast Track applications, with most applicants being from Russia. This may be connected to the close cultural connection between the two countries and Bulgaria’s familiarity to Russians.
Around 64% of all Fast Track applications made have been approved by the Ministry of Justice so far. The majority of the remaining Fast Track applications were filed in 2018 and cannot be expected to have reached approval.
The final checkpoint in the process, the Vice Presidential decree, has been passed by 50% of the applications approved by the Ministry of Justice. In another positive sign about improved administrative capacity and procedural familiarity, the data shows that so far in 2018, the Vice President’s office has granted as many citizenships as in the previous 4 years combined.
This information tends to demonstrate that the Bulgarian citizenship by investment is highly competitive compared to other EU countries.
Comparing to Malta, EU citizenship can be obtained within roughly the same timeframe, but with a significantly lower cost. This also applies to Cyprus, where the typical outlay is on an investment in real estate. While the Bulgarian route is not as rapid as the Cypriot one, avoiding the volatility of real estate and the bias accompanying the selection of qualifying real estate by investing in government bonds is highly attractive.