Guidance

Living in Bulgaria

Official information for UK nationals living in or moving to Bulgaria, including guidance on residency, healthcare and passports.

What you should do

Coronavirus

You should follow the advice of the Bulgarian Government and your local authority. You can also read our Bulgaria travel advice for our latest guidance.

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine as a UK national in Bulgaria see our coronavirus travel advice.

Stay up to date

You should:

Attend a citizen outreach meeting

The British Embassy regularly holds virtual outreach events for UK nationals. Attend one of our citizen outreach meetings to keep up to date on working and living in Bulgaria.

The Withdrawal Agreement

If you were legally resident in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, your rights will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

You should check that you are correctly registered and should get a new residence document by 31 December 2021 to evidence your rights.

You should also read our guidance on living in Europe.

Visas and residency

If you were resident in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, you need to apply for a new permit, which was introduced in July 2020.

You must obtain the new permit by 31 December 2021, or earlier if your current permit expires before then. If you don’t you may have to pay a fine, though your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement will not be affected.

If you have not previously applied for residency you must apply at your nearest Migration Directorate office within 90 days of arriving in Bulgaria. You will receive the new permit when you apply for residency.

You will need to show your passport and provide documentation proving that you either:

  • have a work contract or are self-employed in Bulgaria
  • can support yourself through independent means and you hold personal health insurance or a UK social security form, such as an S1 form
  • are enrolled in an educational programme and you hold personal health insurance or a UK social security form

or

  • you are an immediate family member joining an EU citizen who fulfils one of the above criteria. You will have to provide documents that show you are a family member or live together with the EU citizen (for example a marriage certificate or a birth certificate)

If your current residency permit expires after 31 December 2021, you must still apply for the new residency permit before 31 December 2021. You will need to show your passport and fill in a form, but you will not need to provide supporting documentation.

Once you have been resident in Bulgaria for 5 consecutive years, you can apply to the Migration Directorate for a permanent residency permit.

Read the Ministry of Interior’s guidance on residency and the new application process. You can also contact your local migration office , call +359 (2) 982 4808, or email: migration@mvr.bg.

Read our guidance on moving or retiring abroad.

Additional support

UK nationals who are resident in Bulgaria, and need help to complete their residence application or registration, can get support from organisations funded by the UK Nationals Support Fund.

This support is only available to people who need additional help to secure their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. They may include pensioners, disabled people, people living in remote areas or people who have mobility difficulties. Support available includes:

  • answering questions about residence applications, such as the documents you need and how the application process works
  • guiding you through the process, if necessary
  • support if you experience language barriers or difficulty accessing online information and services

If you, or someone you know, are having difficulty completing residence paperwork or have any questions, contact the Aire Centre:

  • AIRE Centre website

  • hotline: +359 2906 0713, available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3.30pm to 6.30pm (local time)

  • email: eurobrits@airecentre.org (please contact the AIRE Centre by email if the hotline is busy)

Moving to Bulgaria

Check the entry requirements for Bulgaria.

If you move to Bulgaria you may need a visa. Read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ guidance on visas and the Ministry of Interior’s travel and entry requirements to Bulgaria.

Applying for Bulgarian citizenship

Once you have held a permanent residence permit in Bulgaria for 5 years, you can apply for Bulgarian citizenship (in Bulgarian).

You may have to renounce your UK citizenship, based on your personal circumstances (e.g. if you are not married to a Bulgarian citizen).

For your Bulgarian citizenship application, you may need to order a birth, marriage or death certificate from the UK. You may also need a UK criminal records certificate in the UK.

You may also be required to have these and other UK documents officially translated and legalised (apostilled).

Healthcare

If you are living in Bulgaria or move there permanently before 31 December 2020, you will have life-long healthcare rights in Bulgaria as you do now, provided you remain legally resident.

Read our guidance on who can access healthcare in Bulgaria and make sure you are correctly registered.

If your UK employer has sent you to Bulgaria temporarily, your access to healthcare is different. Find out how to access healthcare as a posted worker.

State healthcare: S1

If you have a registered S1 form and were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, your rights to access healthcare will stay the same if you are either:

  • receiving a UK State Pension
  • receiving some other ‘exportable benefits’
  • a frontier worker who lives in Bulgaria and commutes to work in the UK

Read our guidance on using an S1 form in Bulgaria to ensure you are registered correctly for healthcare.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you are resident in Bulgaria, you must not use your UK-issued EHIC for healthcare in Bulgaria.

If you were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, you may be eligible for a new UK-issued EHIC if you’re:

  • a UK student in Bulgaria
  • a UK State Pensioner with a registered S1
  • a frontier worker with a registered S1

Apply now for a new UK EHIC.

An EHIC is not a replacement for comprehensive travel insurance.

For more information read our guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe and advice on foreign travel insurance.

You should also read guidance on:

Passports and travel

You should carry your residence permit, as well as your valid passport when you travel. If you have applied but not yet received your permit, carry your certificate of application.

If you have not yet applied for a residence permit, you should carry evidence that you are resident in Bulgaria. This could include a tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020.

If you cannot show that you are resident in Bulgaria, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the Schengen area, and your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. This will not affect your rights in Bulgaria.

Passports

Check your passport is valid for travel before you book your trip. You can apply for or renew your British passport from Bulgaria.

You must have at least 6 months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland). This requirement does not apply if you are entering or transiting to Bulgaria, and you are in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.

Renew your passport before you book your travel if you do not have enough time left on your passport.

As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. You may also need to show a return or onward ticket.

Entry requirements

You can travel to other Schengen area countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism.

To stay longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, to work or study, or for business travel, you must meet the entry requirements set out by the country you are travelling to. This could mean applying for a visa or work permit.

Periods of time authorised by a visa or permit will not count towards the 90-day limit. Travel to the UK and the Ireland will not change.

Different rules will apply to EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area. Check each country’s travel advice page for information on entry requirements.

Travel to the UK and Ireland has not changed.

Driving in Bulgaria

UK driving licences are recognised in Bulgaria. If you are resident in Bulgaria, you should exchange your UK licence for a Bulgarian one.

To exchange your UK driving licence for a local one, contact the traffic police department at your nearest Regional Police Department.

Read the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior’s guidance on how to exchange your licence (in Bulgarian) and general information on driving licences for UK nationals (in English).

Read more about driving licence renewal and exchange and taking a vehicle out of the UK.

Read our guidance on driving abroad and road travel in Bulgaria.

Driving in the UK with a Bulgarian licence

You can use your Bulgarian licence in the UK for short visits, without any additional documentation. You can also exchange it for a UK licence without taking a test.

Working in Bulgaria

If you were legally resident in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, you have the right to work, as long as you remain legally resident.

If you are planning to come to Bulgaria to work, you may need a visa.

Some jobs may require a UK criminal records check, known as a DBS check.

You can get a Bulgarian criminal records certificate from the Judicial Records Register from any Bulgarian Regional Court (Районен съд) or from the Ministry of Justice. You can see details and download application forms at the Ministry of Justice website (in Bulgarian language only).

Frontier workers

If you live in Bulgaria and were regularly commuting to work in another EU or EFTA country, before 1 January 2021 you may need a permit to prove that you are a frontier worker. You must also apply for the new residency permit.

Education and professional qualifications

You will be eligible for broadly the same support as Bulgarian nationals, as long as you were legally resident in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021. You must apply for the new residency permit.

Read our guidance on:

Moving to Bulgaria to study

If you are planning to study in Bulgaria, make sure you meet all visa requirements before you arrive. Contact the relevant Higher Education provider in Bulgaria to check what fees you may have to pay.

For information on education, read studying in the European Union.

Professional qualifications

You may need to get your professional qualification recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in Bulgaria. When doing this, you will be subject to the third country regulations.

If your qualification was officially recognised by the relevant regulator in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, make sure you understand the terms of your recognition decision by checking with that regulator.

Money and tax

The UK has a double taxation agreement with Bulgaria to ensure you do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. Ask the relevant tax authority your questions about double taxation relief.

Existing double taxation arrangements for UK nationals living in Bulgaria have not changed.

Read guidance about:

In Bulgaria, you should expect to pay personal income tax and home owners’ tax. Additional taxes exist, including a vehicle tax and a fee for rubbish collection. See National Revenue Agency.

We recommend you get professional advice on paying tax in Bulgaria.

National Insurance

Find out if you need to pay National Insurance in the UK or social security contributions in Bulgaria.

Banking

Whether UK banks can provide services to customers living in the EEA is a matter of local law and regulation. Your bank or finance provider should contact you if they need to make any changes to your product or the way they provide it. If you have any concerns about whether you might be affected, contact your provider or seek independent financial advice.

Read the Money and Pension Service guidance on banking, insurance and financial services changes for more information on cross-border banking.

Pensions

Read our guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions while you are living in Bulgaria.

You will need to tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax if you are moving or retiring abroad.

If you retire in Bulgaria, you can claim:

If you have not worked in Bulgaria, you should claim your UK State Pension by contacting the International Pension Centre.

Read the Money and Pension Service guidance on pension and retirement changes for more information on cross-border pensions.

Life certificates for UK State Pensions

If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service you need to respond as soon as possible. Your payments may be suspended if you do not.

Benefits

Read our guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions while you are living in Bulgaria.

You will need to tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax if you are moving or retiring abroad.

Check which UK benefits you can claim while abroad and how to claim them.

If you are abroad for more than 4 weeks, many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit cannot be paid.

You can request proof of the time you’ve worked in the UK from HMRC if you are asked for this.

Bulgarian benefits

You may be eligible to claim some Bulgarian social security benefits.

You can get information about local Bulgarian benefits and pensions from the National Social Security Institute.

Voting

You cannot vote in local municipal elections in Bulgaria or European Parliament elections.

You may be able to vote in some UK elections. You can:

Births, deaths and getting married

If your child is born in Bulgaria, you will need to register a birth abroad.

If one of your loved ones dies in Bulgaria you can:

Find out how you can get married abroad.

Find out about notarial and documentary services for UK nationals in Bulgaria.

Accommodation and buying property

All UK nationals living in Bulgaria are subject to property rules for third country nationals, according to the Property and Use of Agricultural Land Act. This includes people whose rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Property you already own is not affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and you do not need to transfer your ownership.

You should seek specialised legal advice when purchasing property in Bulgaria.

You can purchase buildings, apartments and real estate in Bulgaria. However, you can only purchase agricultural land if you have resided in Bulgaria for more than 5 years. UK nationals can still acquire agricultural land through inheritance.

Read our guidance on buying a property abroad.

Pets

If you have a pet passport issued by Bulgaria or another EU member state, you can use it to travel with your pet to Great Britain and elsewhere in the EU.

A GB-issued EU pet passport is not valid for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland. You should speak to your vet before you travel to get the necessary pet travel documents and ensure you’re compliant with the EU Pet Travel Regulations.

Read guidance on:

Check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel.

Emergencies

As well as the European emergency number 112, Bulgaria also has:

  • 166 for police
  • 160 for fire brigade
  • 150 for first aid

You can also look at emergency numbers in Bulgaria.

If you’re the victim of crime, have been arrested, or are affected by a crisis abroad, contact your nearest British embassy or consulate.

Other useful information

Returning to the UK

Read the guidance on returning to the UK permanently which includes information on, amongst other things, tax, access to services and bringing family members.

Disclaimer

Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the Bulgarian authorities. The FCDO will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 4 March 2021 + show all updates
  1. Coronavirus section updated with a link to guidance on vaccines

  2. Information added on driving licence validity and rules on buying property

  3. Updated as the transition period ends with new information on pet travel and moving to Bulgaria.

  4. Passports and travel section updated on carrying proof of residence when travelling.

  5. Residency section updated with new information on registration.

  6. Healthcare section updated on how to apply for a new UK EHIC as a student or S1 holder. Working section updated with information on frontier workers.

  7. Visas and residency section updated to include information about how to access the UK Nationals Support Fund for those who may find it harder to complete their residency applications.

  8. Passports and travel section updated to include information on passport validity and entry requirements when travelling to other European countries from January 2021.

  9. Brexit update: includes further details on passport validity, healthcare rights and State Pension updating if the UK leaves the EU with a deal.

  10. Brexit update: healthcare section updated to reflect transitional arrangements announcement

  11. Brexit update: Pensions section updated to include further details on State Pension uprating.

  12. EU Exit updates: new information added to the following sections: "Passports and travel after the UK leaves the EU"; "Pensions after the UK leaves the EU" and "Returning to the UK"

  13. EU Exit update: Updated information in visas and residency, working, passports and travel, driving, healthcare and voting.

  14. Updated "Applying for Bulgarian citizenship" section: permanent residence required for 5 years in order to apply.

  15. We have updated the contact details you need to apply for an S1 form.

  16. EU Exit update: updated information in the visas and residency section

  17. EU Exit update: updated information on access to healthcare

  18. EU Exit update: updated information on pensions and driving

  19. EU Exit update: Added further information to residency, healthcare and driving sections, including links to external websites.

  20. Information about citizens outreach meetings added.

  21. EU Exit update: New information in residency and visa section on draft withdrawal agreement in principle between the UK and EU. Plus information on travelling with pets in Europe in pet section

  22. Updated March 2018

  23. Updated in March 2018.

  24. Updated January 2018

  25. The article now contains further detailed information on living in Bulgaria and reflects developments in light of the EU referendum.

  26. Information added on changes to EHIC rules and health cover for early retirees.

  27. First published.