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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.

  • Why would the visa be invalid if you go to Greece first ? Bulgaria is not in Schengen – blackbird Jul 29 '16 at 18:54
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    My recollection is that you need a dual- or multiple-entry visa to be able to use it in Bulgaria. – phoog Jul 29 '16 at 18:57
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    Pnuts - it is a visa I currently hold. Blackbird57 - bulgaria is not in schengen but they accept schengen visa for entry. A schengen visa that actually allows you to go into a schengen country so once I leave Greece I wouldn't be able to go to bulgaria and then go to a schengen country because my single entry will have been used. Or at least that's how I understood it. – Jill Jul 29 '16 at 19:30
  • @Pnuts, thanks. I'm assuming I can enter with a valid single entry visa. Just wanted to check if anyone has had any experience with a similar situation. – Jill Jul 29 '16 at 20:05
  • @Jill it is a dangerous assumption. Unless you have a high risk tolerance, youshould apply for a Bulgarian visa, in line with Relaxed's answer. – phoog Jul 30 '16 at 15:17
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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:

  1. 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.

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    @pnuts Yes but that still does not clarify anything. The decision (to wit:"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.") applies from January 1st, 2012 but what is this date of accession it is referring to? And also is it still current when its basis (or at least the legal instrument allowing Bulgaria to take such a decision) has been repealed and replaced by something else? – Relaxed Jul 29 '16 at 21:43
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    @pnuts Makes sense. But another interpretation is that a traveller with a multiple-entry visa is a trusted traveller who has been granted some flexibility to travel to the Schengen area without being vetted each time. By contrast, a single-entry visa is in principle tied to a specific trip and there is no reason for the person to go somewhere else (or for a Schengen state to step in and grant the right to someone to enter Bulgaria specifically). – Relaxed Jul 29 '16 at 21:54
  • Incidentally, "three months in any six-month period" is also somewhat dated. In the Schengen regulations, it has been updated in 2013 and is now "90 days in any 180-day period". All this smacks of a website (and/or law!?) that hasn't been maintained very carefully. – Relaxed Jul 29 '16 at 22:00
  • thanks for your answer. The Bulgarian embassy website doesn't go into much detail with regards to the visa so thanks for the additional information on Decision 582/2008/EC. Sadly there is no Bulgarian embassy in Kenya so getting a visa is not an option right now. I think I'll just postpone my visit to Bulgaria indefinitely. – Jill Jul 30 '16 at 22:58
  • As per EU notification Bulgaria has communicated the implementation of 565/2014/EU so the rule should apply. – RedBaron May 9 at 7:49

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