The amendments to the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act (FRBA), promulgated on March 12th, 2021, have introduced significant changes to the regulation of visas.
The idea of the new adoptions is to provide easier access to the Bulgarian market for startup companies targetting development of high-tech products and providing services.
New Startup Visa
The amendments to the FRBA regulate the possibility of acquisition of prolonged residence permit through a Startup visa. Up to now, the issuance of such visa has been provided for in all other EU Member States’ legislation, except for Bulgaria.
Thus, to obtain a prolonged residence permit, the requirements are subsequently:
- A Startup visa;
- A long-term residence visa;
- Acquisition of at least 50 % from the share capital of a Bulgarian company, where the company’s scope of activity should be the same as the one indicated in the Startup visa application.
Basically, a Startup visa is a certificate for a high-tech and/or an innovative project issued by the Ministry of Economy.
As there are no legal definitions of the terms “high-tech project” and “innovative project”, it can be deduced from the Investment Promotion Act that these are projects related to performance of the high-tech activities indicated in the EUROSTAT Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE).
Amendments to short-stay visas
With the amendments to the FRBA, holders of a short-stay visa have the right to reside on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria for a period of up to 90 days within each 180-day period.
Additionally, from now on multiple-entry short-stay visas can be issued with term of validity of up to 5 years, if a foreigner:
- has a valid travel document, which entitles him/her to enter Bulgaria, if this document has been issued within the last 10 years and if valid for at least three months after the planned date of departure from the country (unless there are exceptional circumstances or humanitarian reasons);
- has substantiated the purpose and conditions of the planned stay and the fact that he/she has sufficient maintenance means – both for the duration of the planned stay in Bulgaria, and for his/her return to the country of origin, or transit to a third country where his/her acceptance is guaranteed, or that he/she is able to legally obtain such funds.
An multiple-entry visa with a validity period of up to 5 years can be issued on behalf of a foreigner who proves:
- his/her intention to travel regularly;
- his/her good faith and reliability;
- that he/she has lawfully used his/her previously issued visas;
- his/her economic status in the country of origin;
- his/her actual intention to leave the territory of Bulgaria before the expiration of the visa which he/she is applying for.
The terms of validity of short-term multiple-entry visas are also regulated to be:
- up to 1 year, provided that the foreigner has received and legally used three visas within the last 2 years;
- up to 2 years, provided that in the last 2 years the foreigner has received and lawfully used a previous multiple-entry visa with a validity term of up to one year;
- up to 5 years, provided that in the last 3 years the foreigner has received and lawfully used a previous multiple-entry visa with a term of validity of up to two years
However, the competent officials are authorized to issue any of these visas for a period shorter than the requested one, based on the results of the checks carried out and the risk assessment.