Is it possible to enter Bulgaria with a valid single entry Schengen visa? I plan to travel from Kenya to Bulgaria then to Greece. I know it is not possible to go to Greece then Bulgaria because the visa will be invalid but would like to know if I can travel to Bulgaria then Greece on the single entry Schengen visa.
The rules are a bit messy and it's extremely difficult to find a definite confirmation from an official source.
First, the official site of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs seem to imply that it would be possible:
On 25 January 2012 the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted a decision according to which by the date of Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area, our country will unilaterally apply a visa-free system for holders of valid Schengen visas. They will have the right to enter and reside in the Republic of Bulgaria for a period of no more than three months in any six-month period from the date of the first entry, without needing to have a Bulgarian short-stay visa. The decision entered into force on 31.01.2012.
(Side note: "by the date of Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area" is slightly confusing, January 1st, 2012 was the planned date of accession but Bulgaria still isn't fully part of the Schengen area.)
The confusing thing is that, under the Act of accession to the European Union, Bulgaria is bound to implement the Schengen acquis and to apply the exact same rules, even though it still isn't fully part of the Schengen area. Consequently, it's not free to set its own rules or create exemptions and the unilateral recognition of Schengen visa first had to be authorised by an EU decision. That's a little complicated but still doesn't mean that single-entry visa are not recognized.
The trouble is that Decision 582/2008/EC (which would have been in force in 2012, when the Bulgarian Council of ministers took the decision mentioned on the website) has since been repealed and replaced by a new decision (to include Croatia). And the new decision includes the following language:
- Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania may consider as equivalent to their national visas, for transit through or intended stays on their territory not exceeding 90 days in any 180-day period, the following documents issued by the Member States fully implementing the Schengen acquis, irrespective of the nationality of the holders:
(a) a ‘uniform visa’ as defined in point (3) of Article 2 of the Visa Code, valid for two or multiple entries;
The part I emphasized clearly implies that single-entry visas are not covered. What I don't know is whether Bulgarian law has been updated accordingly and how it is applied on the ground. I would be very careful and try to apply for a Bulgarian visa just in case.