Bulgaria has implemented a stricter visa policy that will no longer allow entry to the country for those who hold a valid Schengen visa but have not used it to enter a Schengen member state prior to reaching Bulgaria.
The new policy, which took effect on April 25, 2023, applies to all foreigners who hold a valid Schengen visa, regardless of their nationality.
This means that even those who have previously been granted entry to Bulgaria on a Schengen visa will now be required to use their visa to enter a Schengen member state before they can travel to Bulgaria.
Schengen Visa Usage Requirement
“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.”a statement from the Bulgarian embassy reads.Advertisement
The Bulgarian authorities have said that the new policy is being implemented in order to strengthen border security and prevent illegal immigration. They have also said that the policy will not affect those who are eligible for visa-free travel to Bulgaria, such as citizens of the European Union and the United States.
Bulgaria’s New Visa Policy
The new policy has been criticized by some travel industry groups, who argue that it will make it more difficult for people to travel to Bulgaria. However, the Bulgarian authorities have said that the policy is necessary to protect the country’s borders and to prevent illegal immigration.
Here are some additional details about the new policy:
- The policy applies to all foreigners who hold a valid Schengen visa, regardless of their nationality.
- The policy does not affect those who are eligible for visa-free travel to Bulgaria, such as citizens of the European Union and the United States.
- The policy was implemented on April 25, 2023.
- The policy is being implemented in order to strengthen border security and prevent illegal immigration.
Exemptions for Eligible Individuals
The Bulgarian Embassy in the United Kingdom reaffirmed the country’s decision, adding that eligible individuals can stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days within a six-month period without requiring a Bulgarian short-stay visa.
Bulgaria’s Schengen Ambitions
Bulgaria is an EU member state, however, it is not yet a member of the Schengen Area. Nonetheless, the government has introduced a visa-free regime for all Schengen visa holders.
Bulgaria has followed the EU’s Common Visa Policy since 2007 and is actively aiming to become a member of the world’s largest borderless zone. The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated the government’s commitment to this goal, emphasising that joining the Schengen region is a top priority for the country.
Expected Timeline for Schengen Membership
Although October is seen as a target date for meeting the requirements, Bulgaria expects to become a Schengen member state no later than the end of 2024.
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