When it comes to Bulgaria visa policy, the most important fact is that Bulgaria is part of the European Union but not part of Schengen.
This unique characteristic is shared by just a few other countries (Romania, Cyprus, and Ireland) and is the primary reason for Bulgaria’s visa requirements.
Bulgaria is currently in the process of fulfilling all conditions necessary to join the Schengen area. As part of the EU, accession to Schengen is just a matter of time and is mandated by the accords. The information presented in this article will change drastically when Bulgaria joins the Schengen area.
For now, keep in mind that you can enter Bulgaria with a Schengen visa but you cannot enter the Schengen area with just a Bulgarian Visa.
This article will explore Bulgaria’s visa policy for tourists in detail along with all conditions and requirements.
Table of Contents
Bulgaria has freedom to travel agreements with 34 countries and territories. These are all the countries of the EU and Schengen as well as some of their overseas territories. People from these countries can travel to Bulgaria even only using their national ID card.
Additionally, 86 nationalities and territories are visa-exempted to travel to Bulgaria without the need for prior authorization.
Moreover, if you hold a valid Schengen visa or a residence permit from any Schengen or EU member state (including Romania and Cyprus), you can also travel to Bulgaria without a visa.
Bulgaria does not issue e-visas, or visas on arrival. Everyone who requires a tourist visa must obtain it in a Bulgarian embassy or a Visa Application Center abroad.
The tourist visa for Bulgaria is coded as “Visa C” and requires that certain conditions be met by applicants.
If you wish to obtain a tourist visa for Bulgaria, your passport must:
- Be valid for at least 3 months beyond the intended date of departure. If the visa allows multiple visits: 3 months beyond the last scheduled date of departure;
- Contains at least 2 blank pages;
- Was issued in the past 10 years.
Return or onward ticket out of Bulgaria
It is one of the official requirements when applying for a Bulgarian tourist visa that you provide “tickets or ticket booking confirmation or financial means”. This is to prove that you intend to leave the country before the visa expires.
Immigration officials rarely ask for such proof at the border.
Freedom to Travel
Passport holders of 34 countries and territories have the freedom to travel to Bulgaria under EU treaties.
Bulgaria is not part of the Schengen area, so anyone arriving in Bulgaria must pass immigration and customs. It is usually seamless for those traveling under their right to free movement.
Moreover, these nationals can use their ID card to travel, be employed, and can reside in Bulgaria indefinitely.
This is the full list of countries with freedom to travel:
- Aruba (part of the Kingdom of Netherlands)
- Czech Republic
- Faroe Islands (part of the Kingdom of Denmark)
- Greenland (part of the Kingdom of Denmark)
- Saint Martin (part of the Kingdom of Netherlands)
The following 86 countries and territories are visa-exempt. Unless otherwise specified, they are allowed to stay in Bulgaria for 90 days within any 180-day period. This is a rolling period, identical to how the Schengen visa exemption allowance works.
- American Samoa (part of the United States)
- Anguilla (British Territory)
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bermuda (British Territory)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Indian Ocean Territory (British Territory)
- British Virgin Islands (British Territory)
- Cayman Islands (British Territory)
- Christmas Island (Australian Territory)
- Cook Islands (New Zealand Associated State)
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Falkland Islands (British Territory)
- Gibraltar (British Territory)
- Guam (US Territory)
- Guernsey (British Crown Dependency)
- Heard and McDonald Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Mann (Brtish Crown Dependency)
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Niue (New Zealand Associated State)
- North Macedonia
- Northern Mariana Islands (US Territory)
- Pitcairn Islands (British Territory)
- Puerto Rico (US Territory)
- Réunion (French Department)
- Saint Barthélemy (French Collectivity)
- Saint Helena (British Territory)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- San Marino
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- US Virgin Islands (US Territory)
- United States of America
By having a visa or a residence permit
If you hold a valid multiple-entry Schengen visa for any of the Schengen countries, you can travel to Bulgaria visa-free.
This is subject to a very important condition: The visa must first be used to enter the country that issued it.
Additionally, holders of residence permits to any Schengen country enjoy the same visa exemption under the same conditions.
A residence permit or a multiple-entry visa for Romania and Cyprus is also enough to enter Bulgaria without a visa. Once again, it is imperative that the visa was first used to enter the country that issued it.
Visas and residence permits from eligible countries are NOT valid if placed on passports from countries which Bulgaria has no diplomatic relations with. These are Bhutan, Gambia, Haiti, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Sudan, and Tonga.
Check the exact conditions on Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Tourist Visa from the Embassy
All other countries and territories not on the lists above are required to obtain a tourist visa type C prior to traveling to Bulgaria.
The required documents to apply for it are:
- A copy of your passport ID page
- If you’ve had any prior Bulgarian, Schengen, UK, or USA visas, then a copy of the last one
- Color photo measuring 3.5 cm х 4.5 cm
- Medical insurance valid for Bulgaria for the whole period of the trip with coverage of at least €30,000 Euro
- Flight booking confirmation
- Proof of financial means
There are special exemptions for the family members of EU citizens, namely no need to present proof of insurance, finances, accommodation, or a return ticket.
You can apply for a visa at any of Bulgaria’s embassies abroad or at a Visa Application Center (VAC). These VACs are only in the following selected countries (see the full list of cities here):
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
The centers are managed by VFC Global and you can start your application online on their website.
The application for a Bulgarian Type C visa costs €60 euros (€35 for children aged 6-12). You can check out the latest fees and exception details on the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Using an agent incurs fees. For example, VFC Global charges €80 instead.
Entry and Exit Procedures at the Airport
Bulgaria has 4 international airports in use but chances are you will be landing at Sofia International.
It’s a relatively small airport and you will reach border security quickly. No matter where you’re coming from, even another EU country, you will pass customs and immigration.
If your documents are in order, getting an entry stamp should be quick and easy. Take note of it and make sure it shows the correct number of days.
If you require a visa to travel to Bulgaria, even though you have a visa, you may be pulled over for further questioning. Expect questions and delays if this is your first time traveling to Bulgaria on a visa.
It’s a good idea to have your proof of onward ticket and hotel reservation just in case.
Entry and Exit Procedures at the Land Border
The experience you will get entering Bulgaria through a land border depends on which neighboring country you’re coming from.
You will find that it’s a lot easier and faster when crossing the borders with Romania and Greece (also part of the EU) than with Turkey, Serbia, or North Macedonia.
No matter where you’re coming from though, you will pass customs, your documents will be checked and you may be asked a few simple questions.
Note that if you’re traveling by your own car, you must bring along the car’s documents, including the technical passport of the vehicle and its registration. You can buy the required insurance and vignette at the border.
If you have all the documents and haven’t overstayed your visa, crossing the border either way should be as easy as anywhere else.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I travel to Bulgaria with a Schengen visa?
Yes, a visa from any of the Schengen countries allows travel to Bulgaria. Two conditions must be met:
- The Schengen visa is multiple-entry
- It has already been used to enter the Schengen Area
Can I travel to the Schengen Area with a Bulgarian visa?
No, Bulgaria only issues national visas and is not part of Schengen yet. Thus, you cannot enter the Schengen area with a Bulgarian visa alone.
Is staying in Bulgaria with a Schengen visa counted towards the 90-day quota?
No, it is not because Bulgaria is not part of Schengen.
Does Bulgaria have a visa on arrival or online visas?
No, there is no VOA nor eVisa for Bulgaria. There are only standard embassy-issued tourist visas.
Can I travel to Bulgaria with a US visa or a Green Card?
No, you cannot. A US visa does not by itself allow access to Bulgaria.
There you have it – a comprehensive guide to Bulgaria’s visa policy. A country uniquely in the EU but still outside Schengen. You may travel to Bulgaria with a Schengen visa, but you may not travel to Schengen with a Bulgarian visa.
For those of you not exempt, Bulgaria offers a standard tourist visa obtainable at any of its embassies abroad or at several visa application centers.
Check out some of the related visa guides: