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I am a Turkish citizen with a Blue Card living in Berlin and travel from Athens back to Berlin. Flight has a stop in Sofia and I would like to know if I need a transit visa for Bulgaria and I am able to go out of the airport in Sofia during the waiting time.

  • @pnuts in many countries, leaving the airport during a transit is allowed with a transit visa. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 14:43
  • As discussed in my answer, it would make much easier for us to answer OP correctly if he lets us know what kind of visas he has for his stay in Germany. Although I know that it won't answer the question if the Blue Card itself is enough... – Edmund Dantes Sep 30 '16 at 15:10
  • @EdmundDantes the blue card is enough. He needs no other visas and probably has no other visas. The blue card also, as your answer indicates, allows visa-free entry to Bulgaria, because it is a German residence permit. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 15:24
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    @pnuts I'll add an answer with the source. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 16:21
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I assume that you have a multiple-entry Schengen visa, additionally to the Blue Card. According to this EU Blue Card FAQ, you are allowed to visit other EU countries up to three months in any 6-month period. As I assume your stay will be likely measured in hours, you are OK with this Blue Card condition.

Next, the freedom of movement for non-EU nationals applies, as described here.

The borderless Schengen area includes 22 EU countries, excluding Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK. If you wish to travel to one of these five countries for a short stay (less than three months), you must get a separate national visa.

Which redirects you to Bulgarian national visas, as you will be leaving Schengen on arrival in Sofia. As you can check on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site here: Visa-free regime for holders of Schengen visas for a stay of up to 90 days

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.

Which clearly states that your Schengen visa will be honored while entering Bulgaria.

TLDR:

Assuming you have a Schengen multiple-entry visa (edit: or a residence permit like Blue Card), you should be allowed to leave the airport in Sofia using your visa.

If you have only a national (German, I presume) visa, then you would have to apply for a Bulgarian visa in order to enter their country. edit: According to this, for the purpose of transit:

No transit visa is required for passage of citizens of third states when they produce any of the following documents:

  • Schengen (single) visa, long-stay visa, permit for stay issued by any of the Schengen area states;

  • national short-stay visas, long-stay visas and permits for stay issued by Romania and Cyprus;

  • permits for stay issued by Lichtenstein. The right of passage without a visa under the transit decisions is applied only and exclusively for the purposes of transit passage.

Assuming you stay in Germany legally and have a long-stay visa, condition 1 may apply here, allowing you to transit without a separate visa.

edit: As discussed in the comments, Blue Card is a permit for stay, so it also fulfills condition 1 for travelling without a separate visa.

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    @pnuts - yes, I have quoted the same event in my answer. – Edmund Dantes Sep 30 '16 at 11:57
  • Why would a blue card holder have a multiple-entry Schengen visa? – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 14:25
  • I have assumed that although Blue Card is a residence and work permit, it is not a travel document and I have never found (although haven't been searching heavily) that the Blue Card or BC & passport are all the documents required to travel in/out of Schengen. As described here, Chapter II, Article 5, point 1 d): present a valid travel document, as determined by national law, an application for a visa or a visa, if required, and evidence of a valid residence permit or of a national long-term visa, if appropriate. [...] – Edmund Dantes Sep 30 '16 at 14:48
  • An image search for "eu blue card" indicates that a blue card is an Aufenthaltstitel with the notation BLAUE KARTE EU. So you're right, it is a residence and work permit. As such, it exempts the holder from the need for a visa, as indicated by the quotation (valid residence permit or national long-term visa). In EU law, a "travel document" is a passport or a national ID card. Visas and residence permits are not travel documents, even though they can be required for certain people to travel. It's confusing! – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 14:53
  • According to link: How can I obtain an EU Blue Card? If you are currently outside Germany, you should apply to the competent German mission abroad for a visa for the purpose of employment before you enter Germany. Can I move freely within the European Union with an EU Blue Card? The EU Blue Card also entitles the holder to spend visa-free periods of up to 90 days within a 180-day period in the other Schengen States for the purpose of tourism. – Edmund Dantes Sep 30 '16 at 15:05
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Your blue card entitles you to enter Bulgaria.

User pnuts has asked for a souce. Offical Bulgarian sources I've found only mention Schengen visas, not residence permits, but the likely conclusion is that by visa they actually mean visa or residence permit. Timatic supports this conclusion:

National India (IN)             /Residence Germany (DE)
Destination Bulgaria (BG)       

...

Visa required, except for Passengers with a residence permit
issued by Germany for a maximum stay of 90 days. (SEE NOTE
56110) 
NOTE 56110: The max. stay is granted within 180 days.
Visa required, except for Passengers with a D visa issued by
Germany for a maximum stay of 90 days. (SEE NOTE 56110) 
NOTE 56110: The max. stay is granted within 180 days.

The next question is whether a blue card is in fact a residence permit. As I mentioned in the comments, an image search for eu blue card returned several images showing a German Aufenthaltstitel bearing the annotation BLAUE KARTE EU.

The only question that remains is whether an Aufenthaltstitel is a residence permit, and online translation services indicate that it is. In addition, the appearance of the card conforms to the EU standards for residence permits. Finally, the PRADO database entry for the card indicates that it serves as both a residence permit and a blue card:

AUFENTHALTSTITEL _ NIEDERLASSUNGSERLAUBNIS // NIEDERLASSUNGSERLAUBNIS (Familienangehöriger) // AUFENTHALTSERLAUBNIS // AUFENTHALTSERLAUBNIS (Familienangehöriger) // DAUERAUFENTHALT EG // BLAUE KARTE EU

  • @pnuts It doesn't look like it does. Why would it? – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 17:18
  • @pnuts There are some significant differences: A blue card is not permanent (at least not at first), and, perhaps more importantly, Bulgaria is not the same country as Germany (or rather, more generally, EU immigration is much more complex than US because of the multinational structure of the EU). – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 17:24
  • @pnuts after residing an EU country for a certain number of years, most people accure a right of permanent residency. On the other hand, when one arrives in the US with an immigrant visa, permanent residency is immediate. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 18:31

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