At the moment, Bulgaria is not in the Schengen Area. However, it has a visa policy which is based on the Schengen’s. This means Canadian travellers can currently go to Bulgaria without a visa for a maximum period of 90 days.
Canadians can enter Bulgaria multiple times visa-free as long as the total number of days spent in Bulgaria is not more than 90 days in any 180-day period. For longer periods, Canadians need to go to a Bulgarian embassy or consulate to apply for a visa.
However, it is very likely that Bulgaria will join the Schengen Area soon. If Bulgaria becomes a Schengen country, Canadians will need to apply for ETIAS to travel there. This new system goes live in 2021.
How likely is it that Bulgaria will join the Schengen Area?
After a long process of trying to convince the other Schengen countries it meets the requirements, it seems as though Bulgaria will soon. It has been blocked previously by other Schengen members because of security concerns.
Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and in 2011 the EU Parliament originally approved Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Area. Since then there has been much disagreement over whether Bulgaria meets the technical requirements.
As it has a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea, it is hard to prevent people from entering illegally. As the Schengen Area has no internal hard borders, people would be able to move freely from Bulgaria to other member states once they have entered.
What will Canadian travellers need if Bulgaria joins the Schengen Area?
Until the ETIAS Visa Waiver is introduced, Bulgaria joining the Schengen Area would not change anything for Canadian travellers. However, from 2021 they would need to apply for ETIAS.
The ETIAS Visa Waiver will be very similar to other visa waiver programs around the world such as the Canadian eTA and the American ESTA. It will not be a conventional visa and Canadians will not need to visit an embassy or consulate.
The online application will only take a few minutes to complete. Applicants will just need to enter information such as their name, date of birth, address, passport details, and travel plans. They will also need to make a payment using a credit or debit card.
The vast majority of applications will be quickly approved. ETIAS visa waivers will be valid for 3 years and will allow Canadians to spend a maximum of 90 days in the zone (in any 180-day period). ETIAS will allow travellers to enter all of the countries in the region.