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Property Visa

The Bulgarian Government's fast access visa system for non-EU nationals who own property in Bulgaria is reaping results with Russians emerging as the largest group, Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev told The Sofia Echo on May 11. Keremedchiev said that it was Russians, followed by Serbians, who had best exploited the procedure to provide them with a three-year long multiple entry visa.The logic behind the visa system, which has been in effect for more than a year, provides for granting an entry visa to non-EU nationals who own property in Bulgaria.If non-EU nationals own property in Bulgaria they can apply for a multiple entry visa for up to three years, also valid for their spouses and children under 21. Applicants must also have had a Bulgarian visa - minimum one year-long, issued before that. Besides the three-year long multiple entry visa, foreigners would be entitled to stay in Bulgaria for 90 days."This has had an effect, especially when it comes to interest shown by Russians," Keremedchiev said. "All they need do is present their title deeds to one of the Bulgarian embassies' consulate services and apply for the visa." Since non-EU nationals cannot own land in Bulgaria they could apply for this procedure by presenting a document stating that they owned the company that had bought the property. "Many people do so when it comes to owning a single house but as regards owning an apartment in a residential building, there is no problem for non-EU nationals to have the deed in their name," Keremedchiev said.The procedure came about when many Russian tour operators and real estate companies said that Bulgaria's protracted visa system policy was deterring Russians from visiting.The decision was also based on dwindling interest from British and Irish buyers, perturbed by continuing rising prices and the beginnings of the global economic crisis. Russians, on the other hand, still found prices viable. This, allied to close cultural ties and a shared past, made Bulgaria an attractive destination, hence the request for a streamlined visa system.According to some complaints, property-owning Russians in Bulgaria were also treated the same as Russian tourists. As a result, Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry introduced a separate procedure for non-EU nationals that entitled them to access to their property. How this will change when Bulgaria joins the EU Schengen Agreement area is yet to be seen.