Bulgaria’s airports and sea ports are now in Schengen: The rules

As of March 31, Bulgaria’s airports and sea ports – along with those in Romania – are part of the Schengen zone.

When travelling to a Schengen country, you check in your luggage if you have any.

After that, there is only a security check, as well as customs control for countries outside the European Union – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

This is also done for passengers traveling to third countries – meaning, non-EU countries – via a Schengen member state. Passengers then proceed to the departure gate without going through passport control.

If the destination is to a country outside the Schengen area, the procedure remains the same as it has been up to this point – baggage registration, security check, customs control and passport control.

A passenger landing at an airport from a Schengen member country may go directly to baggage claim without going through passport control.

Passengers arriving from countries outside the European Union – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as for passengers arriving from third countries via a Schengen member state, must go through customs control.

If you are arriving from a non-Schengen destination, the border check and customs check procedure before receiving your checked baggage remains the same as before.

Border Police will not require the provision of written consent from the parents of minor children travelling by air or sea to Schengen countries. If there is a parent who does not wish their child to travel with the other parent, an application should be made to the district court to issue an order that the child may not travel abroad.

The requirement to carry an identity document remains mandatory. Airlines will continue to require these.

Border Police chief Anton Zlatanov said: “The fact that mandatory border control for part of the countries is removed does not mean that security measures at airports are reduced.

“We are changing the way we work, we are starting to focus much more on risk analysis, on operational activity and simply purely organizationally all airports are divided into Schengen and non-Schengen areas, with the Schengen area playing the role of internal lines, since we are already part of the Schengen family,” Zlatanov said.

Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen area by air and sea leads to a number of border control reliefs for both vessel crews and passengers.

When a ship travels between Schengen ports, passengers’ documents will not be checked. Passengers arriving on cruise ships are only subject to border checks if they are arriving or departing from a non-Schengen country.

According to preliminary data, three cruise ships are expected in Varna this year. Two will arrive from Romania, which also entered the Schengen area by air and sea.

“If a ship arrives from a Schengen country and the risk analysis shows that there is no risk to the national security of the ship, an inspection may not be carried out, said Pavel Yordanov, head of the Port of Varna checkpoint.

“Vessels arriving in the port of Varna will anyway be subject to a comprehensive risk analysis for the risks to illegal migration, smuggling and other problems that the ships can create,” Yordanov said.

If a violation is suspected, law enforcement authorities have the right to search merchant vessels.

According to the risk analysis, a decision will be made about what check to do. “We evaluate last ports, crew composition, previous violations and other cases that could lead to violation of state security,” Yordanov said.

If a border check of passengers becomes necessary, it will be carried out at specialized terminals that are already ready to process the passengers’ documents.

Apart from Varna, there are also points in Bourgas and Nessebar.

For yachts, they may dock at any Bulgarian point where there is no border checkpoint if their last stop was a Schengen port.

“They can also stop at marinas that are approved by the Maritime Administration,” Yordanov said.

For yachts coming from a non-Schengen country, the old rules apply.

“They must stop at a port with an established border crossing so that the vessel can be inspected,” Yordanov said.

Outgoing Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, who on March 31 attended a ceremony at Sofia Airport to welcome passengers on the occasion of Bulgaria’s airports entering Schengen, said: “Schengen is the biggest success after our admission to the EU, because we were able to unite and restore the trust of the EU.

“There are concrete plans so that Bulgaria will be admitted to the land-based Schengen from January 1 2025. We can enter if we are united, otherwise we can miss the historic window, which may not open soon,” Denkov said.

Bulgaria’s land borders’ accession to Schengen will happen by the end of 2024, outgoing Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov told reporters at Sofia Airport’s Terminal 2, Bulgarian news agency BTA reported.

“We showed and continue to show the illegal migrants that they should not take the road to Europe through Bulgaria, as they will find it difficult to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border,” he said.

For more information, please visit the European Parliament’s web page on Schengen.

For information on the rights of foreigners who have residence permits issued by Bulgaria to travel within Schengen, please click here.

(Photo: Sofia Airport)

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