Bulgaria has been a Member State of the European Union since 2007 and enforces European Union visa rules. Due to its location, Bulgaria is assigned to guard the European Union’s external borders (the Bulgaria–Serbia border, the Bulgaria–Turkey border and the Bulgaria–Republic of Macedonia border).
While EU citizens do not need a visa and may enter and leave the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria only with a valid ID card or passport, most third-country nationals can’t.
Find out if Bulgaria requires a visa for your country on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Unfortunately, seeking asylum does not entitle you to an entry visa.
If you need a visa to enter Bulgaria, there are 3 types of visas:
Airport transit visa (Category A)
Short-stay visa (Category C), if you intend to stay for up to 3 months
Long-stay visa (Category D), if you intend to stay for more than 3 months
To apply for a Bulgarian visa, you must hold a regular travel document that meets the following requirements:
- The document expires at least 3 months after the planned date of departure from Bulgaria. In case of multiple visits, it expires 3 months after the last scheduled date of departure.
- The document has been issued within the last 10 years.
You should submit your filled and signed visa application form at the consular representation of the Republic of Bulgaria responsible for your country of nationality.
Since Bulgaria is not part of the European Union Schengen area, the country can currently only issue national visas. The Schengen area is an area in the EU made up of 26 European states that don’t require passport or border control at their mutual borders.
A national visa does not give you a right to enter the Schengen area. If you want to travel from Bulgaria to an EU member country that is in the Schengen area, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa. This will allow you to travel to all Schengen countries.
As a third-country national, you may be subjected to thorough checks by the border authorities. They may ask you for other supporting documents such as an invitation letter, proof of lodging, return or round-trip tickets and documents to show that you have enough money for your stay and return.
Enter and exit the Bulgarian borders only at border checkpoints. You will receive a stamp on your passport.
If you entered “illegally”
Your entry is considered illegal when you:
- Cross the country border without a government permit (visa, passport), issued by the respective government bodies or when, although
- You have a permit, but you do not enter Bulgaria’s territory through the designated border checkpoints
If you have entered Bulgaria illegally and you wish to seek asylum, find a state official immediately, such as a police officer or border police, and state the reasons for your illegal entry.
By law you have a right to stay in the country as soon as you make an asylum application.
If criminal charges are brought against you
According to Article 279(5) of the Bulgarian Criminal Code, border crossing is not a criminal offense if you are crossing to seek asylum (protection). If criminal charges are brought against you for an illegal border crossing, you can refer to Article 279(5) when standing trial before a judge and refuse to plead guilty.
If you are sentenced for illegal border crossing, the sentence is usually suspended. This means that your punishment (several months of imprisonment) will not be enforced as long as you don’t commit the same crime again during a certain period of time determined by the judge.
If you attempt another illegal border crossing (for example you try to leave Bulgaria) during this period, you will be sent to prison where you will serve the sentences you received for both crimes.
If you don’t apply for asylum
If you enter the country illegally, do not apply for asylum and do not hold any other residence status in Bulgaria, you risk being detained for forced return in a detention center for irregular immigrants and later deported back to your country of origin. This “administrative” detention may last for up to 18 months.