Bulgaria Expects Tourist Flow with Azerbaijan to Rise
Trend’s interview with Head of Consular Section of Bulgarian Embassy in Azerbaijan Kiril Apostolov
Question: How do you assess the current level of relations between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria in the sphere of tourism? What is the level of tourist flow from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria and vice versa?
Answer: The Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria constantly works for promotion of best practices in our bilateral relations in the sphere of tourism. Considering the upcoming direct flight, we expect the rise in the tourist flow between our two countries and we are working hard to meet its possible requirements. We already have the consent by the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism, which will provide in 2018 several possibilities for visits in the Republic of Bulgaria of journalist and members of Azerbaijani tourist agencies, who could get acquainted with the tourist potential of our country. Also, we encourage the participation of representatives of both countries in tourist exhibitions, held in Bulgaria and in Azerbaijan, who could promote the rich culture and history of our two countries.
Q.: Which requirements does the embassy put forward for visa applications through tourism agencies? How does the Bulgarian embassy in Azerbaijan ensure confidentiality of personal data of tourists applying for visa?
A.: In November 2017, members of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria held a meeting with representatives of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association (AZTA). At the meeting we stated that each Azerbaijani tourist agency, which would like to apply for accreditation with the Bulgarian Embassy, should present to us its application and necessary documents. Those documents will be forwarded to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for approval and if they are approved, the tourist agency will receive an accreditation by the Bulgarian Embassy in Baku. Regarding the confidentiality of personal data of tourists applying for visa, the Embassy of Bulgaria follows strict procedures, envisaged by both our national and EU legislation.
Q.: As is known, Azerbaijan’s Buta Airways will start direct flights on Baku-Sofia route from January 2018. Which visa procedures will be needed for Azerbaijani citizens wishing to travel to Bulgaria?
A.: Since January 1, 2007 the Republic of Bulgaria has been applying the European Union’s Common Visa Policy, subject to the terms of the Accession Treaty. Currently, the Republic of Bulgaria issues only national visas which do not give their holders the right to enter the Schengen area.
However, according to a decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, 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.
Our country also applies a visa free system for holders of valid visas and residence permits issued by Romania, Cyprus and Croatia for a stay of up to 90 days. They will have the right to enter and stay in the Republic of Bulgaria for a period of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period, without the need to have a Bulgarian short-stay visa.
A foreigner may enter the Republic of Bulgaria if he/she is a holder of a regular foreign travel document or another equivalent document as well as a visa if required.
The travel document shall meet the following requirements:
– Its validity expires at least 3 months after the intended date of departure from the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria or in case of multiple visits – after the last scheduled date of departure from the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria;
– It contains at least 2 blank pages for visa purposes;
– It has been issued within the last 10 years.
Azerbaijani citizens can obtain a Bulgarian visa at the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Baku (Address: Baku, Yasamal, Huseyn Cavid Avenue, 13).
Visa application forms are submitted personally not earlier than 3 months before the date of the intended travel. Visa applications for minors or judicially disabled persons shall be submitted by their legal representatives or by persons expressly authorized to do so. Visaapplications for underage persons or persons with limited judicial disability shall be submitted by their legal representatives, trustees or by persons expressly authorized to do so.
On the web page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, the applicants can find an application form and a list of documents required to obtain Bulgarian visa.
Currently, the fee for visa application processing for Azerbaijani citizens is 35 euros. According to the Article 6 of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan on the facilitation of the issuance of visas, fees for processing the visaapplication are waived for the following categories of persons: pupils, students, post-graduate students and accompanying teachers who undertake trips for the purposes of study or educational training; children under the age of 12; persons with disabilities; pensioners; participants in international sports events and persons accompanying them in a professional capacity and other categories of applicant, including journalists and technical crew accompanying them in a professional capacity.
Q.: Given the opening of direct flights, how do you assess the prospects for facilitation of visa issuance for Azerbaijani citizens? For example, is it possible to reduce the time for reviewing visa documents or reduce the number of documents required to obtain a visa?
A: As a member of the European Union, Republic of Bulgaria applies the European Union’s Common Visa Policy. In its visa and consular matters with Azerbaijani citizens, the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Baku works according to the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan on the facilitation of the issuance of visas. The Consular Section of the Embassy always works in its full capacity to provide fast response to the requirements of the visa applicants and tries to proceed with the documents in shortest possible period.
Q.: How many visa applications does the Bulgarian embassy in Azerbaijan receive in a month? In which cases mostly do tourists get visa refusal? Which measures would you advice to applicants in order to avoid visa refusal?
A.: The number of visa applications per month depends on the period of the year. Traditionally, our Consular Section receives the highest number of applications during the summer period, when the most of Azerbaijani citizens want to go on a summer holiday in the Republic of Bulgaria and enjoy the variety of tourist attractions which our country has to offer. In the past two and a half years, the Consular Section of the Embassy of Bulgariahas not given a visa refusal to any Azerbaijani citizens. Visa refusals have been given to citizens of third countries, who have applied for Bulgarian visa in Baku but did not meet the necessary criteria. In order to avoid visa refusal, applicants need to follow the list of necessary documents for obtaining a Bulgarian visa, which our Consular Section provides for them.