Second PassportsUnlocking Borders: Bulgaria and Romania Join the Schengen Area - Lincoln Global Partners

March 4, 2024by Georgea Rios0

Unlocking Borders: Bulgaria and Romania Join the Schengen Area

In a significant development for European integration, Bulgaria and Romania have joined in the Schengen Area, marking a pivotal moment in the expansion of this border-free zone. As of December 30, 2023, the Council has unanimously endorsed their accession, signifying a new chapter in the cooperation and mobility of European nations. With this decision, both countries are poised to adopt and apply Schengen rules, leading to the removal of internal border controls with the existing Schengen member states from March 31, 2024. This historic milestone reflects not only the commitment of Bulgaria and Romania to European unity but also underscores the ongoing evolution of the Schengen Area as a symbol of seamless collaboration and shared values.

schengen area

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a zone comprising 27 European countries that have abolished passport control at their mutual borders, allowing for the unrestricted movement of people within the region. Named after the 1985 Schengen Agreement signed in the Luxembourg village of Schengen, this area promotes seamless travel and integration among its member states. The primary goal of the Schengen Area is to foster closer cooperation and unity by eliminating internal borders, streamlining travel procedures, and enhancing security through shared responsibility. Visitors entering any Schengen country only need to go through border controls upon their initial entry into the area, after which they can travel freely within the participating nations. This arrangement facilitates tourism, trade, and cultural exchange, contributing to developing a more interconnected and harmonized Europe.


Many Global Citizens looking for a Second Citizenship focus on passport’s different ranking, including its visa-free access to the members of the Schengen Area. That said, the Caribbean passports such as St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis offer this possibility, which can be acquired through their respective Citizenship by Investment programs.

The Schengen Agreement reinforces the principle of freedom of movement by allowing citizens, residents and tourists to traverse the Schengen Area without undergoing border checks.

The Schengen Area is built upon shared regulations, such as:

  • Crossing the external borders of the European Union, encompassing the requirements for various visa types.
  • Standardization of entry conditions and regulations for short stays (up to 90 days).
  • Cooperation among border police across borders, covering rights related to cross-border surveillance and hot pursuit.
  • Enhanced judicial collaboration through an expedited extradition system and the transfer of the enforcement of criminal judgments.
  • Implementation and utilization of the Schengen Information System (SIS).
  • Specification of required documents for travel within Europe.

schengen area

Schengen Area vs European Union

While the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area share commonalities, they are distinct entities with different scopes and purposes. The European Union is a political and economic union comprising 27 member states that collaborate on various policy areas, including trade, legislation, and foreign affairs. In contrast, the Schengen Area is a subset within the EU framework, consisting of 27 countries as well, that have chosen to abolish internal borders, allowing for unrestricted movement of people across their territories. 

Not all EU countries are part of the Schengen Area; conversely, some non-EU countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, participate in Schengen. In essence, while the EU focuses on broader political and economic integration, the Schengen Area specifically addresses the elimination of border controls to facilitate seamless travel within its member states.


The News: Bulgaria and Romania Joining the Schengen Area

On December 30, 2023, the European Council reached a unanimous decision to welcome Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Area. Both countries had been requiring entrance since 2011, when the European Commission had confirmed that both countries were ready to become a member. Throughout the past years, Bulgaria and Romania have kept fulfilling the requirements and, starting on March 31, 2024, both Member States will commence the implementation of Schengen rules.

The removal of controls at internal air and sea borders between Bulgaria and Romania and the Schengen Area countries are set to take effect on the referred date. Additionally, the Council has agreed that a subsequent decision will be made at an appropriate time regarding the elimination of checks at internal land borders.

According to the President of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen:

Today marks a historic moment for Bulgaria and Romania. And a day of great pride for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. As of March, they will be able to freely cross internal sea and air borders, without border controls. This is a major step forward for both countries and for the Schengen area as a whole. Congratulations to Bulgaria and Romania: this great achievement is possible thanks to your hard work, commitment, and perseverance. Thanks to you the Schengen area will become even stronger to the benefit of all EU citizens.”

Contrary to common sense, the act of one member state joining the Schengen Area is not merely political nor a unilateral decision. Nations aspiring to become part of the Schengen Area must undergo a sequence of assessments to ascertain if they meet the prerequisites for applying Schengen regulations. Upon the validation of the Schengen evaluation, affirming the eligibility of the Member State to join the area without internal border controls, unanimous consent from all other Member States adhering to the complete Schengen acquis is essential.


Opening New Doors: Bulgaria & Romania Residency & Citizenship By Investment Programs

As the newest members of the Schengen Area, both Bulgaria and Romania expand the portfolio of opportunities available for those seeking Residency and/or Citizenship in a Schengen-member State. Versatility, high-quality of life, prestigious education and health care are some of the reasons that attract global citizens to the Europe. That said, once acquiring a Residency or Citizenship in either Bulgaria or Romania, investors shall be able to explore the wonderful landscapes and history that the other 27 European countries provide.

The Bulgarian Citizenship By Investment Program

The Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program stands as an enticing opportunity for individuals seeking a European Union passport through a strategic financial commitment. The Bulgarian Passport offers access to 157 countries visa-free and can be obtained by investing EUR 512,000 in ETFs and AIFs- Exchange Traded Funds and Alternative Investment Funds.

The Romanian Residency By Investment Program

Romania’s Residency by Investment program offers a unique gateway to European living for those seeking a strategic and rewarding investment path. Investors can apply for a Residence Permit under Business Activities upon a EUR 50,000 investment in a limited liability company or EUR 70,000 in a joint stock company.


Our team of specialists can assist you on acquring a second Residency or Citizenship according to your investment and relocation goals. Click here to book a free consultation!


Georgea Rios

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