Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with a Black Sea coastline along its eastern edge and attracts many tourists to its beautiful beaches and charming cities. A laid-back lifestyle, safe environment and welcoming population add to the attractions. With corridors to western Europe and the Middle East, Bulgaria is in a rapidly-developing region with bags of potential for go-getting entrepreneurs. It offers a favourable business climate with competitive costs, affordable real estate and a well-educated workforce. Bulgaria could be the perfect stepping stone for those looking to expand their business into Eastern Europe.

Bulgaria has been in the European Union (EU) since 2007. It is expected to become a member of the Schengen Agreement, operating the new visa waiver program, Electronic Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), by the end of 2022. Many countries’ nationals can travel visa-free for a 90-day stay within 180 days. Those Third Country Nationals (TCNs) who are not visa-exempt can apply for Bulgaria’s C Short-Term Visa for tourism or business purposes. As an EU member, Bulgaria also practices the free movement of persons, services, goods and capital, which is a boon for citizens of the EU and the European Free Trade Association countries; they do not require a visa to enter the country or a work permit.

All other citizens wanting employment (Third Country Nationals – TCNs) need documentation. Many companies expanding into new territory look towards a Professional Employment Organisation (PEO) and Employer of Record (EOR), such as Bradford Jacobs, to set up their business, recruit staff and operate payroll to save time and money, including acquiring immigration and work documentation.

The different types of Visas and Work Permits for Bulgaria

As with most countries, Bulgaria protects its borders and requires documentation to enter, stay and work there. Some nationalities, such as those from the European Union and European Free Trade Association (EFTA), due to the free movement of persons, do not require a visa or work permit and can travel on their passports. They have an advantage over Third Country Nationals (TCNs), who do require both visas and permits.

However, for those TCNs who are visa-exempt, certain business activities can be undertaken within the 90-day visa waiver period. Such as:

  • Attending trade fairs, conventions, or for board meetings
  • Negotiating contracts, fact-finding, meeting interested parties
  • Purchasing goods to be sold outside the country
  • For training, job interviews, meeting colleagues
  • For leisure, to visit family and for holidays.

Travellers may still need to provide proof of health insurance to cover the duration of stay, proof of accommodation in Bulgaria, enough funds to cover the trip, return tickets, any invitations, or itineraries.

Short-Term Employment for TCNs

This is classified as 90 days in 12 months. For Tour Operators, this is extended to 180 days. Those who are visa exempt do not require a short-term C visa. Otherwise, this must be applied from the Bulgarian consulate or embassy in the home country. Reasons for employment include the following:

  • Short-term transfer to a branch office
  • Providing services to Bulgarian clients on behalf of the home company

Instead of a work permit, short-term employment needs to be registered. Applicants must satisfy certain conditions and prepare the necessary documents.

The Bulgarian company registers employment with the Employment Agency at least ten days before employment starts, and a receipt is needed. Once registered, the company informs the General Labor Inspectorate within seven days after registration where the employee will be working. The employee must keep his parent company’s contract and stays on the company’s payroll rather than the Bulgarian company.

Long-term employment requiring permits and visas

  1. If employees are transferring from a home-based company to a branch in Bulgaria.
  2. Employees who bring services from a home-based company to a Bulgarian client.
  3. Employees who have been offered a long-term contract.
  4. Freelancers or the self-employed.
  5. Researchers.

For options 1 and 2 above, transfer or providing services, workers can apply for an EU Intra-company transfer permit (EU ICT). To qualify, employees must be specialists, managers, or trainees working in Bulgaria for at least one year. These employees also apply for a National D Visa at an embassy or consulate, which allows them to stay in the country for longer than three months for employment purposes. A Residence Permit must be applied for well before the D Visa expires.

Those who do not qualify for this option can apply for a Work Permit (for posted workers).

Note: Work and Residence permits are tied to a particular job and a designated company. If the employee wants to change careers, the process must start again. However, there are changes in the pipeline from the EU Single Permit Directive recast policy 2022 (Article 14). 

The spouse, or children under 18, can apply for a D Visa to join the permit holder. This permit can take up to 14 weeks to process and is valid for the work contract for up to one year.

Typically, for option 3, most employees will be working for a Bulgarian-registered company on a contract that requires long-term work permits:

  1. EU Blue Card: it is for highly educated or skilled persons and is valid for a maximum of four years. The employee is put on a Bulgarian payroll and has an employment contract for at least 12 months with the offer of a minimum salary five times more than the national annual average gross salary of Bulgarian employees. Also, one must have a degree (three years of education) relevant to the job offer from an approved university outside Bulgaria. This can be used to obtain permanent residency, and immediate family can join the holder of this permit. The process takes around three months.
  1. A Single Permit that includes residency to a maximum of three years: This is a single process for the two permits. Applicants must have a job offer from a Bulgarian-registered company and be placed on their payroll. Salary requirements depend on those set by the authorities, which may vary each year though it cannot be less than Bulgarian employees doing the same job. Employees should have the qualifications or experience pertinent to the position they have been offered. This permit can take up to five months to process. Immediate family can join the permit holder after applying for the National D Visa.

Highly-qualified researchers of Option 5 can apply for the EU Blue Card for Researchers and a work and residence permit.

How to apply for Visas and Work Permits for Bulgaria?

The primary work documents for Third Country Nationals that could be a part of your company’s expansion into Bulgaria or companies already registered in the country are:

  • Single Permit (combined application process for work and residence permit)
  • Or EU Intra-Company Transfer Permit
  • Or EU Blue Card Permit

Plus, the National D Visa to enter the country.

Note: European Union and European Free Trade Association nationals do not require visas or permits.

Important: Check which documents (listed below) must be translated if they are not in Bulgarian. Also, if they need to be notarised or ‘legalised’ and if originals are required. Check to see if they can be signed by hand or electronically and if they need to be dated at a specific time before they are submitted.

The detailed documentation must be checked with the Bulgarian Embassy as more may be required depending on which country they are applying from or exceptional circumstances. Many of the documents online, for instance, are in Bulgarian.

General documentation typical to the Single Permit, EU Blue Card and EU ICT Permit process:

  • The completed and signed application form
  • A copy of the valid passport (data pages)
  • A coloured passport photograph – size 3.5cms x 4.5cms
  • A certificate or police report from the home country
  • A curriculum vitae
  • The signed employment contract
  • A letter from the company detailing the job description, position and salary relevant to the permit being applied for
  • If applicable, a letter confirming the employee has the relevant qualifications if the position is regulated, e.g., doctor, lawyer, engineer.
  • The list of all employees working for the company (nationals and foreigners) who, under Bulgarian Law, have the same rights and operate under the same working conditions
  • A letter of declaration that the company is complying with the Labour Code
  • A Certificate of Incorporation and other paperwork requested
  • If applying with family members – marriage certificates and birth certificates of children
  • Full health insurance coverage, including any dependents
  • A copy of the rental agreement – notarised, plus a declaration from the landlord
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support the trip to Bulgaria

Extra steps/documentation for Single Permit

  • Approval/proof of Labour Market Test by the Employment Agency
  • Qualifications relevant to the position and/or proof of experience
  • Letter from the company giving details as to why the company needs to hire this employee

Extra steps/documentation for EU Blue Card

  • Degree or diploma relevant to the position from an accredited university outside Bulgaria
  • Letter from the company giving details as to why an EU Blue Card is required for this position

Extra steps/documentation for the EU ICT Permit

  • The documents confirming relevant professional experience or knowledge in the field of expertise as a manager or specialist
  • Degree or diploma for trainee
  • The signed contract of employment with the home company
  • A signed letter from the home company with details of the assignment in Bulgaria
  • Proof of employment with the home company (or group) for at least one year (six months for trainees)
  • Documents confirming the relationship between the employee’s company and Bulgarian companies
  • Internship agreement for a future position within the company
  • Letter from the company giving details as to the need for the EU ICT permit
  • Details of foreign workers in the local company

D Visa documentation

The D Visa is applied through a Bulgarian embassy or consulate in the home country or country of residence at least three months before the planned visit. Complete the application online (typed), download and sign it and gather the paperwork for submission. An appointment should be made, and each country’s embassy will have its procedures.


For more information, download our free guide or get in touch with our consultants here