According to the effective Bulgarian legislation, Foreigners who are citizens of certain counties must obtain a visa before entering the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. The visa is a clearance, issued to the Foreigners, for entry and stay on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria for a certain period of time.
On the grounds of a resolution of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers until the date of Bulgaria's full accession to the Schengen zone, Bulgaria shall unilaterally apply a visa-free system for holders of valid Schengen visas and residence permits, and thus Bulgaria shall apply the Schengen acquis. Effective from 31 January 2012 holders of Schengen visas and/or residence permits shall be allowed to enter and reside short term in the Republic of Bulgaria without needing to have a Bulgarian short-stay visa.
Foreigners who are exempt from the requirement for obtaining a visa can enter and stay in the Republic of Bulgaria without visa for up to 90 days within a period of six months, starting from the date of the first entrance. The entry and the short-term residence in Bulgaria of holders of Schengen visas and/or residence permits is limited to the period and the entries allowed in the respective visa/permit, but in any case holders of such documents may not reside in Bulgaria for more than 90 days in any six-month period from the date of first entry.
The Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria Act provides for the following main visa categories: air transit visa, short-stay visa and long-stay visa.
Air transit visa is issued to a Foreigner who travels by aircraft from a certain country and stays in the international transit zone of an airport on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria with the aim of continuing his/her travel with the first next flight to a different country. Air transit visa allows the Foreigner one, two or, as an exception, multiple entries in the territory of Bulgaria. Air transit visa can be with a term of validity of up to three months from date of issuance. A Foreigner travelling with an air transit visa is treated as not admitted to the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria.
A short-stay visa is issued to a Foreigner for the purposes of transit or planned stay on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. The short-stay visa can be issued as one-entry, two-entry or multiple-entry visa. The term of validity of the short-stay visa and the allowed period of stay are determined on the basis of examination of the conditions of entry and risk assessment during the examination of the visa application. The term of validity of the short-stay visa cannot exceed five years.
A short-stay visa for planned stay allows a Foreigner single or multiple entries into Bulgaria for up to 90 days within a period of six months, counting from the date of the first entry on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. This type of visa is issued to Foreigners who wish to enter and stay in Bulgaria for the purpose of short-term personal, business or other related visits. The purpose of the visits is usually proved with written invitations.
A long-stay visa allows a Foreigner to enter Bulgaria and thereafter to apply for a residence permit in order to stay long term in the country. The validity of the long-stay visa is 6 (six) months and it allows its holder of stay up to 180 days. For certain categories of foreigners the validity of the long-stay visa is up to 1 (one) year and it allows its holder of stay up to 360 days (e.g. foreigners conducting scientific research, foreigners on business trips on behalf of a foreign employer for performing specific tasks related to control and coordination of the implementation of a tourist services contract, foreigners on business trips on behalf of a foreign employer for effecting investments certified under the procedure of the Investment Promotion Act, etc.).
The long-stay visa allows its holder multiple entries to the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria within its validity term.
All visa applications should be submitted to the respective Bulgarian diplomatic missions and consular departments around the world. In case there is no diplomatic mission or consular department in a certain country, visa applications can be submitted to such authorities of a Member State of the European Union, with which Bulgaria has an agreement for representation in acceptance of visa applications and issuance of visas. In exceptional cases (e.g. the state’s interest or extraordinary circumstances) border control officers can issue single short-stay visas for transit with an allowed period of stay not exceeding two days, unless an international agreement provides otherwise, and single short-stay visas for planned stay with an allowed period of stay of up to 15 days. The State Agency “National Security” shall be immediately notified of the issuance of such visas.
An important condition upon applying for a visa is the passport of the applicant to be in compliance with certain requirements of the law, namely: (i) the validity term of the passport shall expire at least three months after the planned date of leaving the territory of Bulgaria, (ii) the passport shall have at least to two empty pages, and (iii) the passport is issued within the past 10 years.
European citizens who wish to enter and stay in Bulgaria do not need a visa. They enter and leave the country with a valid identity card or passport. They can stay and reside in Bulgaria for a period up to three months starting from the date of their first entry without need to obtain any permits or certificates.