If you are planning to travel to Bulgaria, you must check out Bulgaria’s new visa policy and additional requirements to enter the country. The last thing you want to do is to make the long trip there and then be denied entry to the Eastern European country.
Bulgaria’s new visa policy and requirements are much stricter than the existing ones and relate mostly to travelers with a Schengen visa. The policy applies to all foreigners flying to the country in the Balkans with a valid Schengen visa.
According to a statement by the Bulgarian embassy,
“Holders of a double or multiple entry Schengen visa are only entitled to enter the Republic of Bulgaria if the double or multiple entry Schengen visa has been used at least once to enter a Schengen country.”
What you need to know about Bulgaria’s new visa policy
The Bulgarian authorities recently announced a new visa policy for travelers with the Schengen visa. The previous regulations will be irrelevant to international travelers with the introduction of the new set of rules.
According to recent developments, any foreign traveler intending to enter Bulgaria must have a used Schengen visa. Before jetting to Bulgaria, the visa must have been used to travel to at least one of the 27 Schengen countries. Bulgaria will no longer be the port of entry if you are traveling to the Schengen area. You must first enter a Schengen member state before traveling to Bulgaria.
This means that you will not be allowed to enter Bulgaria with an unused Schengen visa, even if the visa is valid. The rule applies to all foreign tourists regardless of their country of origin. Even if you have been allowed to Bulgaria with an unused Schengen visa before, the new policy will dictate that you first use your visa to travel to any Schengen state before traveling to Bulgaria. Only then will you be allowed entry to Bulgaria.
The policy, however, will not affect travelers eligible for visa-free travel to Bulgaria, such as the European Union and United States citizens.
When was the new visa policy implemented?
Bulgaria’s new visa policy adjustments have been in effect for a while now. According to a report by Travelobiz, tourists started adhering to the new visa requirements on April 25, 2023.
So if you are a tourist planning to tour Bulgaria with a Schengen visa, first visit any Schengen country of your choice before traveling to Bulgaria. Adjusting to the new rules was not very smooth, but with time, travelers have now understood and are getting used to the new laws.
If you only just obtained your Schengen visa, make sure that your travel plans include your entry point to any Schengen state or the issuing country to be allowed entry into Bulgaria.
Policies are occasionally reviewed everywhere; if any changes are recommended, they are implemented for improved functioning of any system. The Bulgarian government, just like any other working system, reviewed the visa policy and identified a gap it wanted to fill.
They found that the previous visa policy for foreign tourists was not secure enough, especially at the borders. There was also rampant illegal immigration into the country, whereby travelers overstayed their visas. Authorities, therefore, introduced new visa regulations to enhance security at international borders. The new visa policy also aims to reduce and eventually put an end to illegal immigration to Bulgaria.
Reviews of Bulgaria’s New Visa Policy
Some travel industry groups have criticized the newly implemented policy denying entry to travelers with unused Schengen visas. They argue that the new visa regulations will make it more challenging for tourists to travel to Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian authorities have, however, insisted that the policy is required for the protection of the country’s borders and the prevention of illegal migration.
Bulgaria’s aspirations toward Schengen
Bulgaria is a constituent of the European Union but is yet to become a Schengen member state. However, the Bulgarian government has introduced a visa-free regime for all Schengen visa holders.
The country aims to become a member of the Schengen Zone and is expected to become a member before the end of 2024.
According to a statement from the minister of foreign affairs,
“Joining the Schengen area is a key priority of our country. The Bulgarian government is highly committed to fulfilling one of the key national priorities – Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area.”
The Embassy of Bulgaria in the United Kingdom confirmed that Bulgaria will no longer allow entry to people who have not used their visa to enter a Schengen country. However, people who are eligible can still stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days within a six-month period without needing a Bulgarian short-stay visa.