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Foreign citizens wanting to stay in Bulgaria for more than three months must apply for a Bulgaria residence permit. The main legislation governing the issuance of residence permits for foreign citizens is the Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. The legislation establishes foreigners may apply for one of the three types of Bulgarian residence permits:
extended residence permits: these have a maximum validity period of one year; may be used by investors and other interested parties;
long-term EU residence permits: these are issued for an initial period of five years and can then be renewed.
permanent residence permits: these are granted after a certain time spent lawfully in the country with a valid permit.
residence certificates: available for European citizens who stay for more than three months, on a long-term basis for maximum of five years or permanent ones.
Before applying for a Bulgaria residence permit, foreign citizens must first obtain a long-stay visa.
Temporary residence permit types
- extended residence permit,
- long-term (EU) residence permit
Time needed to obtain the temporary residence permit (approx.)
Approx. 3 months
Temporary residence permit validity
Validity varies from a few months to 5 years, depending on the reason of stay
Documents for obtaining temporary residence
- valid passport,
- proof of local address,
- evidence of reason of relocation,
- proof of financial means of self-support
Mandatory registrations with state authorities (i.e. with the population/municipality register)
YES, with local municipality
Dependents can join the temporary permit holder
Temporary or permanent residency for investment purposes
Minimum temporary residence before applying for permanent residence
Documents for obtaining permanent residence
- application form,
- valid ID and passport,
- valid residence permit
Living in the country for 5 years based on a permanent residence permit
Citizenship after permanent residence
5 years of permanent residency or at least 3 years by marriage
Our team of immigration lawyers in Bulgaria can help foreign nationals apply for a residence permit and handle all of the procedures associated with this application.
What are the types of Bulgaria residence permits?
Bulgarian residence visas are usually issued depending on the status of the applicant. The National Migration Directorate will issue residence visas for foreign employees, freelancers, and retirees. The long-term or extended residence visa has a variable validity period with a maximum period of one year. The long-term EU residence permit has a validity period of five years and can be renewed.
The last type of residence permit is permanent and is the main step to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. In order to apply for a permanent residence permit in 2023, a foreign citizen must first obtain a Bulgarian extended residence permit.
Bulgaria also has an Investment Promotion Act through which foreign investors may apply for a residence permit. Under the Investment Promotion Act, foreign citizens must register a company with the Bulgarian Commercial Register or invest in real estate in order to obtain a residence permit.
Extended residence permits, those issued for up to one year, may be of interest for some investors in Bulgaria, some employees who will work on a project based in the country or for foreigners who are members of the management board of a Bulgarian company. The permit will be issued based on the ability to prove the position or, in the case of employees, based on a previously issued work permit, issued by the Bulgarian Employment Agency.
Our lawyers in Bulgaria can provide foreign nationals with all of the information regarding Bulgaria residence permit and their rights and obligations when holding this permit. In essence, holders of extended residence permits have the same rights and obligations as Bulgarian citizens, meaning that Bulgarian companies can employ them, receive social security and health care insurance.
We have also created an infographic for more information, as you can read below:
Permanent Bulgaria residence permits are issued in the following cases:
to foreign nationals of Bulgarian descent;
to foreigners who have been married for more than five years to a foreigner who has been living on the country uninterruptedly for five years;
minors of foreign nationals with permanent residence in Bulgaria, who are unmarried;
family members of a Bulgarian citizen, when they have been living in the country uninterruptedly for five years.
A special type of Bulgaria residence permit in 2023 is offered to investors in Bulgaria. Examples of accepted investments include the following:
an investment of one million Bulgarian Leva or more for the purpose of acquiring shares in listed Bulgarian companies or for the acquisition of other securities or rights;
an investment of more than six million Bulgarian Leva in the capital of a Bulgarian company that is not listed on the stock exchange.
For information about the Investment Promotion Act, you can ask our Bulgarian lawyers.
Immigration to Bulgaria as an EU/EEA citizen
Bulgaria is a member of the European Union which has brought it many advantages. Among these, the possibility for Bulgarian citizens to travel to other member states without a visa or passport. The same benefits have been extended to citizens of EU countries who can enter and leave Bulgaria without applying for visas. The same advantages are available for those who come here from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA).
A citizen coming from any of these countries is not required to apply for a residence permit in Bulgaria, as on arrival he or she will be required to register with the local police department in the city he/she will live. However, when it comes to long-term residency, a permanent permit must be obtained.
The main requirements for obtaining permanent residency are to indicate proof of living in Bulgaria and having health insurance.
Our lawyers can guide you if you want to apply for Bulgaria permanent residence here.
Non-EU citizens relocating to Bulgaria
Citizens from non-EU countries have several options if they want to immigrate to Bulgaria for short and long-term purposes. For each of them, residence permits are required, however, the case depends on whether the applicant has been to another EU country before or not.
Non-EU citizens who are first time applicant for a residence permit in Bulgaria can apply for an entry visa, for a short-term residence visa, or for an investor visa. This will enable them to move and live here for the time they want to.
In the case of non-EU citizens entering Bulgaria from other EU countries where they have lived based on EU residency cards, the procedure is simpler, as they can use these cards to relocate to Bulgaria without too much hassle. They can even apply for Bulgarian residency based on them.
Citizens from non-EU countries can opt for temporary residence visas for Bulgaria which come with various advantages, even if their validity is usually 6 or 12 months. Among these:
they can obtain ID cards for foreign citizens based on which they will have various facilities;
they can renew their stay here for up to 5 years when they will be allowed to apply for permanent residency, if they want;
they enjoy the benefits of traveling to Schengen Area states through a simplified procedure;
if they live in Bulgaria for 183 days every year in a period of 60 months, they become eligible Bulgarian citizenship;
they can also sponsor family members to join them in Bulgaria.
Apart from these, holders of Bulgarian temporary residence permits can also live in Cyprus, Croatia, and Romania without any visa for up to 90 days in a 180-days timespan. This is a great option for those who have small businesses in Bulgaria, but also conduct activities in these neighboring countries and they need to make regular visits.
Our immigration lawyers in Bulgaria is at the service of non-EU citizens interested in moving here based on temporary residence permits, but also those who have stayed here long enough and qualify for permanent residency or citizenship they intend to obtain.
The status of British citizens in Bulgaria after Brexit
A former member of the European Union, after completing the exit procedure, the UK had to enter specific agreements with the EU when it comes to immigration matters. These also apply in Bulgaria, however, the good news is that Brexit does not affect those who already have residence permits for Bulgaria. The same applies to Bulgarian citizens who are ordinary residents of the UK.
Those who plan on moving to Bulgaria after Brexit, however, are required to comply with the same immigration rules available to all other non-EU applicants. This means that they can apply for any of the type of residence permits enabling them to legally live here.
If you are a British citizen interested in immigration to Bulgaria, our lawyers can help you with all the formalities.
Immigration by investment in Bulgaria
Another way for non-EU citizens to immigrate to Bulgaria is residency by investment. For this purpose, they need invest at least 512,000 in an investment fund. Provided that they maintain the investment for 5 years, they can then apply for permanent residence permits.
Recently, the national authorities have also enabled a fast-track procedure through which residency by investment can be transformed into Bulgarian citizenship if the investment is maintained for 5 years and increase to 1,024.000 euros.
No matter the way you decide to apply for a residence permit in Bulgaria, our lawyers are at your service with tailored support based on your reasons to relocate here.
What are the documents required for obtaining a Bulgarian residence permit in 2023?
The National Migration Directorate will require the following documents of applicants for Bulgarian residence permits:
details about the applicant’s marital status and members of the family,
The application must be submitted in Bulgarian. For applicants under the Investment Promotion Act, there are additional requirements among which the amount to be invested in Bulgaria.
The application for the long-term residence certificate is submitted by the European citizen with the Migration Directorate, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, three months prior to the first entry in Bulgaria. For this type of application, a seven-day period is granted should be applicant omit certain required documents. When the applicant fails to make the necessary corrections within this time, the application is rejected. A European citizen can receive a Bulgaria permanent residence certificate if he has been living in the country for an uninterrupted period of five years.
European citizens can obtain a residence certificate in the following cases:
they are self-employed in Bulgaria or employed with a locally registered company;
they have sufficient financial means to cover medical insurance and other expenses for themselves and their family members, as applicable, without being a burden to the Bulgarian state.
they are admitted to a college or university in Bulgaria or follow professional training, have medical insurance and sufficient financial means so that they are not a burden to the social security system.
Our team of immigration lawyers in Bulgaria can provide European nationals with more information about the Bulgaria residence permits at the level of 2023.
Bulgaria is a country that has a stable economy and offers a strategic location in Europe. Moreover, it is attractive to foreign investors because of the low business costs (low corporate tax regime, low employment costs, and other benefits). These particularities make it attractive for some foreign nationals who wish to work, invest or study in the country.
Since its accession to the European Union, Bulgaria has applied the EU Common Visa Policy. Bulgaria is not a member of the Schengen Area yet, but it is trying to meet all the criteria to become a Schengen Area member. However, citizens of Schengen countries are allowed to enter Bulgaria without any visa. Foreign citizens coming from Schengen countries are allowed to stay in Bulgaria for maximum three months within a six months period visa-free. The decision was enforced at the beginning of 2012.
Types of visas in Bulgaria in 2023
If citizens from EU countries may travel to Bulgaria without a visa in 2023, other foreign citizens are required to apply for one of the available types of visas depending on the purpose and the time of their stay. Bulgaria applies the Council Regulation No. 539/2001 with respect to the countries whose citizens are required to apply for a Bulgarian visa and foreign citizens exempt from these requirements.
Visa applications for coming to Bulgaria in 2023 must be submitted three months prior to the intended travel. The applicants may submit the forms themselves or appoint an agent or Bulgarian lawyer to handle the procedure. We also invite you to watch our video below:
Requirements when applying for a Bulgarian visa in 2023
Foreign citizens coming to Bulgaria must keep in mind certain aspects of the visa application procedure for 2023. First of all, they must make sure they have a valid passport with at least two blank pages for visa purposes. The passports must have a minimum validity period of three months and must have been issued within the last 10 years.
Other documents to be submitted with the visa application form are:
a photocopy of the passport’s first page,
a copy of the last Bulgarian or Schengen visa, if applicable,
I appreciate the great communication and identification of client needs, which are very important for present-day business. The legal services offered by the attorneys from Lawyers-Bulgaria.com perfectly meet these requirements.
Francesco Dagnino, Lawyer and Founding Partner of LEXIA Avvocati