Europe is soon going to be not such an easy place to visit if you are not a European Union citizen. The E.U. has introduced a pre-travel authorisation system, or European visa waiver called ETIAS, which will affect travel to Bulgaria and just about every other European country too. The E.U. member states have been bombarded with terrorist threats as well as a huge influx of foreign refugees over the last few years, and this has made Europe feel a more frightening place for everyone.
It is hoped that the new ETIAS system will reduce the number of potentially nasty people or criminals having legal access to Europe and make the E.U. a little safer. Not everyone will need to apply for a Bulgaria ETIAS visa waiver in advance as it won’t affect those people who are already citizens of the E.U., but it could affect many foreign visitors who up to now haven’t needed to apply for a visa in advance of their arrival in Europe.
Is Bulgaria in Schengen or the E.U.?
Like most E.U. member states, with a very few exceptions (Britain, Ireland, Romania and Cyprus are examples), Bulgaria is a member of the E.U. yet is not a full member of the Schengen but is in the process of joining. This distinction continues to puzzle and confuse people from outside Europe. In fact, it even confuses people in Europe! While the E.U. was originally set up to provide a free trade zone within its borders, Schengen was set up to make immigration and border formalities the same throughout.
If you are traveling to Bulgaria for a short tourism or business visit, you may either be able to travel visa-free or require a Bulgarian visa. Although by 2023, this could change if Bulgaria joins the Schengen zone. If by 2023 Bulgaria joins the Schengen, then you will either need an ETIAS if you currently travel visa-free, or you will likely need a Schengen visa if you currently require a Bulgarian visa for short tourism or business visits.
Why Visit Bulgaria?
Bulgaria has become a more popular place to visit in Europe, but its attractions are still under-rated. Bulgaria is in the Balkans, on the border of the Black Sea, close to Turkey, Romania, Serbia and Macedonia. Historically, like the Turkish Bosphorus, it was of strategic importance to the trade routes between Europe and Asia.
Bulgaria has something of everything to please the visitor. It has mountains in the interior for hiking and skiing, the beaches on the Black Sea coast, the historic river Danube and modernising and energetic cities like the capital, Sofia as well as historic cities like Plovdiv.
Because of the growing awareness of Bulgaria as a holiday destination, increasing numbers of Europeans from outside Bulgaria have bought holiday cottages in the country, especially on the coast where winters are milder.
Will I need a Bulgaria ETIAS visa waiver?
ETIAS applications are expected to be needed by anyone who comes from a third party country that currently doesn’t need a visa in advance for travel to Europe. That’s a lot of people as around 50 countries are on the visa-exempt list at present. European Union or Schengen member citizens will still have the freedom to live, travel and work anywhere in the E.U., so the ETIAS roll out won’t directly affect them.
As ETIAS hasn’t actually become active yet, the best advice if you are planning on visiting Europe sometime over the next year and think you may be affected is to keep yourself informed. The change in the Bulgaria ETIAS visa waiver system will be well advertised when it starts up and travel agents, airlines and E.U. consulates and embassy staff will know how you are affected, otherwise, contact us for more information.