Bulgarian Government has moved to scrap its citizenship by investment program(CBI) granting golden passports to international investors amidst EU pressure to ban golden passports and to further pursue its schengen and US visa waiver ambitions.
On 24 March 2022, the Bulgarian Parliament approved an amendment to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, which aims to end the investor citizenship scheme. The Bulgaria’s National Assembly has unanimously abolished at first reading the so called “golden passports” (citizenship by investment). 218 MPs voted in favor. None voted against and none abstained (according to Radio Bulgaria). The amendments made to citizenship act removing the investment clause.
Effective 5 April 2022, Bulgaria abolished the golden passport scheme granting citizenship for investments, according to the EU commission report in contact with Bulgaria.
Investor citizenship schemes, or ‘golden passport’ schemes, allow a person to acquire a new nationality based on payment or investment and in the absence of a genuine link with the naturalising country. The Bulgaria CBI till now one of the last few EU citizenship by investment programs along with Malta granting citizenship to foreigners investing one million euro estment to secure citizenship after one year residency.
MEPs called for a ban on golden passport programs running in the EU due to high security risks, corruption, tax evasion and money laundering concerns undermining the essence of Union citizenship as Citizenship is a right, not a commodity to be bought and sold.
The Bulgarian CBI program never became popular although it was running since 2009, only few hundred investors (mainly russians) were granted citizenship for investments. Last year the government removed government bonds option for acquiring citizenship. At the same time several naturalizations for investments have been rescinded to foreign investors not maintaining investments.
Bulgaria now joins list of countries such as Cyprus, Moldova who have already scrapped their golden passport programs due to corruption and security concerns.
The Bulgarian Golden visa program will remain operational granting residency for 250,000 euro investments. Other EU member states such as Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Malta still operate golden residency schemes for investment.