The Schengen passport-free Area is made up of 22 European Union states, as well as the 4 non-EU states of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland. In order to improve border security within the Area, the new shared ETIAS visa waiver is expected to be implemented by 2021 and will be available for travel to Bulgaria if, as expected, the country achieves Schengen accession in 2019.
Are Bulgaria and Romania in Schengen?
Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007, although both countries are yet to enter Schengen or the Eurozone with the shared Euro currency. Concerns about corruption and organized crime in the counties prompted the European Commission to implement a Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (CVM) to monitor progress towards eliminating these undesired elements.
Although by law new EU member states are required to join Schengen, both countries had their Schengen entry delayed until they met all the technical criteria. The European Parliament gave the go-ahead for both countries to join in 2011, but the proposal has since met opposition from other counties in the EU.
The latest European Commission report found that concerns about corruption in Romania persist, preventing a unanimous decision about entry from being made. However, the same report praised Bulgaria’s progress in meeting technical requirements for Schengen entry.
Although both countries were expected to join at the same time, recent comments made by Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party presidential candidate for the European Commission, indicate that Bulgaria Schengen entry will at least partially happen in 2019, while Romania’s will continue to be delayed.
Bulgaria Schengen Entry in 2019
A unanimous vote from the EU member states is required for Schengen entry. While the Netherlands continues to oppose Romania’s entry because of corruption, it appears that a partial Bulgaria Schengen entry in 2019 is much more likely to be approved.
Bulgaria partially joining Schengen in 2019 means that passengers on flights between Bulgaria and Schengen countries will not be subject to passport checks, although land border security controls will still be enforced due to continuing issues with illegal migration.
In the end, it’s in the best interest of the EU to allow Bulgaria’s accession, as, just like with Croatia’s pending Schengen entry, improving border controls in the country will help to strengthen all European borders in general.
When Bulgaria Will Enter Schengen and ETIAS
Once a full member of Schengen, Bulgaria’s borders may be further strengthened by the expected implementation of the shared ETIAS travel authorization for the Area by 2021.
The ETIAS visa waiver for Europe will function similarly to the United States ESTA system, in that citizens from 60 eligible countries will be required to pre-register through the ETIAS application online for tourism or business travel to Bulgaria or any other Schengen Country.
The Bulgaria ETIAS will allow for multiple stays of 90 days within a 180-day period in any Schengen country and will have a total validity of 3 years or until the corresponding passport expires. Eligible citizens will first have to meet the ETIAS requirements for Bulgaria before they can apply.
The system is being implemented to further strengthen European borders against terrorist and other security risks, so all applicants will be required to answer some ETIAS Security Questions in order for the visa waiver to be approved. After completing the simple online form with a range of personal and passport information, which will only take minutes, the approved ETIAS Bulgaria will be sent to the applicant via email, usually within 24-48 hours.
However, the implementation of the ETIAS for Bulgaria will first depend on a unanimous EU vote for Bulgaria Schengen entry being granted before 2021.