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Bulgaria Implements Updated Visa Regulations as Newest Schengen Member: Essential Guide for Travelers


Bulgaria has become a Schengen Area Member State last Sunday, on March 31, alongside with Romania, removing their internal air and sea border controls with the other Schengen Area countries.

Starting from the same date, the country has begun to apply new visa rules affecting all those in need of a visa to enter its territory, even though the same has been implementing the Common Visa Policy of the European Union, ever since it became a member state on January 1, 2007, SchengenVisaInfo reports.

According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of March 31, the country has started issuing Schengen visas in several location, in accordance with the Schengen rules, despite the fact that internal checks at its land borders remain.

The same also points out that short-stay visas issued by Romania and Bulgaria before this date, shall remain valid, until their expiration date.

However, holders of these national short-stay visas will only be able to travel to the Republic of Bulgaria, Romania and also to Cyprus, but not to other Schengen Member States.

Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This means that travellers holding such visas who wish to travel to other Schengen Area countries, will need to obtain a regular Schengen visa.

Residence permits and long-stay visas issued by Bulgaria remain valid too, however their holders, are also eligible to travel freely within the Schengen zone. However, they cannot exceed the permitted stay of 90 days in any 180-day period.

Bulgaria Already Issues Schengen Visas in 60 Locations in 9 Countries

Bulgaria has gradually started issuing Schengen visas in several countries already. The country’s consulates will not be dealing with the processing of applications, instead, the authorities have outsourced the process to VFS Global, a company specialised in providing visa services.

The 60 visa processing centres processing Bulgarian Schengen Visas have opened in 60 locations in nine countries so far, as follows:

  1. China (Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Kunming, Nanjing, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xi’an)
  2. India (New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Calcutta, Mumbai, Pune)
  3. Indonesia (Jakarta, Bali)
  4. Kazakhstan (Nur-Sultan, Almaty)
  5. Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
  6. Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Novorossiysk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saratov, Ufa, Vladivostok, Voronezh)
  7. Singapore (Singapore)
  8. Türkiye (Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, Bursa, Diyarbakir, Edirne, Gaziantep, Izmir)
  9. United Kingdom (London, Edinburgh, Manchester)

Time Spent in Bulgaria Is Now Counted Towards the 90/180 Days Period of Permitted Stay

For almost a week now, travellers can no longer use Bulgaria and Romania as a base to ‘recharge’ their permitted 90 days of stay within 180 days in the Schengen Area.

Every stay in Romania and Bulgaria, is now counted towards the total number of days spent within the Schengen zone.

Previously, time spent in Bulgaria or Romania was not counted towards this period. Third-country travellers, mainly from visa-free countries, often used Bulgaria as base to recharge their permitted period of stay in the Schengen Zone, and then went back to the Member States.

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