Although Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, all foreign citizens (both EU and non-EU) who are planning on staying for longer than 90 days must apply for a residency permit at the National Migration Directorate in Sofia or at the immigration department at their local Police Station. The National Migration Directorate is the authority in charge of issuing, cancelling or extending resident permits in Bulgaria and can be found in local police offices.
To enter Bulgaria in the first place, foreign citizens must have a valid travel document issued in their country of citizenship. It’s worth noting that if you have obtained a Bulgarian Long-term or Permanent Residence Permit – you are obligated to carry the certificate or card with you at all times. If you are asked to present this residency permit and aren’t able to do so, you will be fined by the controlling authorities.
Nationals who are visiting from all EU member states, Canada and the USA do not require a visa for a short stay in Bulgaria as long as their visit doesn’t exceed 90 days.
If you are planning on staying for over 90 days, you will need to apply for a Long-Stay Visa, Type D. This is also known as the Residence Permit or the National Visa. These are issued to those who wish to stay in Bulgaria for long periods or on a permanent basis.
There are two types of residence permit issued to foreigners moving to Bulgaria.
1 – The Long-Term Residence Permit
This is issued for one year to non-EU citizens and for five years to EU citizens
2 – Permanent Residence Permit
This is issued for an indefinite period of time by the National Migration Directorate and its local branches. It’s worth noting that applications for Permanent Residence can only be lodged in Bulgaria.
In order to apply for residency, it is necessary to open a bank account and obtain a letter from the bank stating that the applicant is in possession of an active bank account. There is a small fee involved in getting this letter from the bank.
If you aren’t planning on relocating to Bulgaria on a permanent basis but do intend to spend extended periods of time there, it might make more sense to apply for a Long-Term Resident permit. EU citizens are eligible and must make their application within 90 days of arrival in Bulgaria at the National Migration Directorate in Sofia or in the immigration department of the local police station in your place of residence.
In order to apply for this permit, you will need the following documentation:
• Passport (if the passport expires before the end of the five year period, the residence permit will only be valid until that date)
• Property title deeds or rental contract as proof of address
• Company registration document or work contract (if applicable)
• Proof of health insurance from the former EU country of residence translated into Bulgarian
• Proof of financial means if without employment
• Application form
The application form is in Bulgarian and some English but must be completed in Bulgarian. The following information is required on the form:
• Parents' full names and dates of birth if they are still alive
• Children's full names and dates of birth
• Full names
• Nationality (and any other nationality also held)
• Date and place of birth
• Number of the person's national identification document (passport)
• Date of issue
• Date of expiry
• Conditions for residence in Bulgaria (for example, home owner, employment)
The long term residence certificate is issued on the same day and if there are any documents missing, an applicant has seven days in which to find and present the documents. A residency tax must be paid at the bank in the immigration office.
Non-EU family members of EU citizens must apply for a residence permit within 90 days of arrival in Bulgaria. They will need to provide proof that they are a family member of a European Union citizen. A temporary residence certificate is issued initially and then the long term residence card is issued within three months.
Non-EU citizens will find that it is still possible to be granted a long stay visa but they will have to meet certain conditions. For example: foreigners married to Bulgarian citizens, those who are in Bulgaria to work or for commercial activity and those who receive a pension with sufficient funds to cover their living costs in Bulgaria.
Permanent residence permit
These are issued by the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior and an application can only be made after living in Bulgaria uninterrupted for five years. Once someone is granted permanent residency, they have the same rights as a Bulgarian citizen except the right to vote. Foreign nationals who have been married to a Bulgarian citizen or to a foreigner with permanent residence in Bulgaria for five years may also apply for permanent residence.
Applications for a Permanent Residence Permit must be done no later than 60 days prior to the expiry of the duration of the Long-Term Residence Permit. The permit is issued within two months after submission of the documents.