Acquisition of land by foreign citizens and foreign legal entities in Bulgaria after 01/01/2007
According to the commitments of Bulgaria made in the process of European integration in Art.22 of the Constitution, changes have been made to harmonize Bulgarian legislation with the law of the European Union. According to these changes, foreigners and foreign legal entities can acquire ownership of land in the following cases:
I. as provided in the terms and conditions of the Accession Treaty of the Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union;
II. by virtue of an international treaty, ratified, promulgated and entered into force for the Republic of Bulgaria;
III. through inheritance by law.
I. The legal framework related to the acquisition of land is outlined in Attachment VI, Section 3, Clause 1 Free movement of capital of the Accession Treaty. According to this Attachment, foreign citizens of the member-states of the EU or the European Economic Community (EEC), as well as foreign legal entities established in accordance with the legislation of a member-state or a state consituting a party to the EEC Agreement, who are legally staying in Bulgaria from 01.01.2007, can acquire ownership of land for a second home according to the rules of land acquisition applying to Bulgarian citizens. A legal definition of the term "second home" is given in the Amendment and Supplement Bill to the Ownership Act, where it is written that a "second home" is the one different from the main home one possesses in any of the EU member-states.
According to the norm, all limitations to citizens of the EU and EEC member-states who are permanently staying in Bulgaria are no longer valid. A definition of the term "permanently staying" is given in the newly adopted Act on entering, staying and leaving the Republic of Bulgaria by EU citizens and members of their families /State Gazette, Issue 80 of 03.10.2006/.
For citizens or legal entities who are not permanently staying in Bulgaria, limitations to the acquisition of land for a second home are introduced, i.e. they shall be limited as to this right. The time period of this limitation is 5 years, i.e. up to 2012.
As regards the acquisition of ownership of agricultural land and forests, Attachment VI, Section 3, Clause 2 introduces a 7-year limitation period, in which citizens of the EU and legal entities, established in EU member-states cannot acquire such land. This, however, does not apply to "independently employed agricultural producers who are citizens of another member-state, and who wish to settle and stay legally in Bulgaria".
Bulgaria has the right, irrespective of the time periods specified above, to make a general review of these transitional measures in the third year from the EU accession, i.e. in 2010. In view of this aim, the Commission shall present a report before the Council. The Council can vote unanimously by proposal of the Commission to shorten or to lift altogether the transitional periods of 5 and 7 years respectively.
In connection with these changes, there are amendments to the Forestry Act, Protected Areas Act, Agricultural Land Ownership and Use Act, and the Act on Restoration of Ownership over Forests and Land in the Forestry Reserve Act being prepared as well.
II. The issue of acquisition of land by foreign citizens and foreign legal entities established according to the legislation of a state which is not a member of either EU or the EEC is referred to in the second hypothesis of Art. 22 of the Constitution. Such citizens and legal entities can acquire ownership of land by virtue of an international treaty, ratified, promulgated and entered into force for the Republic of Bulgaria. This regulation is valid as of 01.01.2007 and there is no hypothesis for amendment within a certain time period.
III. In the old Art.22 there was an obligation for foreigners, who have acquired land by inheritance, to alienate it within 3 years of the acquisition. This text has already been cancelled. The regulation, however, still exists in Art.29, para.2 of the Ownership Act. This limitation is planned to be cancelled with the changes in the Ownership Act, and thus a restriction will remain only in relation to the acquisition of agricultural land and forests.