Guidance

Living in Bulgaria

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

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.

Stay up to date

You should:

Attend a citizen outreach meeting

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

The Withdrawal Agreement

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and provides for a deal on citizens’ rights. It sets out a transition period which lasts until 31 December 2020. During this time you can continue to live, work and study in the EU broadly as you did before 31 January 2020.

If you are resident in Bulgaria at the end of the transition period, you will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and your rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident in Bulgaria.

Any rights that are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement will be the subject of future negotiations. Read this guidance page for more information.

In the meantime, make sure you are registered as a resident in Bulgaria. We will update this guidance as soon as more information becomes available.

You should also read our guidance on living in Europe.

Visas and residency

See our travel advice for entry requirements for Bulgaria.

Residency

If you are legally resident in Bulgaria before the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, you will be able to stay.

The Bulgarian government has introduced a new residency permit, in line with the Withdrawal Agreement. All UK nationals resident in Bulgaria will need to apply for this 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 or you move to Bulgaria before 1 January 2021, you must apply for residency to your nearest Migration Directorate office. You will receive the new permit when you apply for residency.

If your current permit expires before 31 December 2021 or you are applying for a residency permit for the first time, 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.

If you move to Bulgaria after 31 December 2020, different immigration requirements will apply.

Read our guidance on moving or retiring abroad.

UK Nationals Support Fund

The government has announced funding for organisations to provide practical support to UK nationals who may have difficulty completing their residency applications.

This support is available only to those who need additional help. This may include pensioners, disabled people and people living in remote areas.

The services available for people who need this additional support include:

  • answering questions about residency applications, such as the documents required and application procedure
  • guiding individuals through the process, if necessary
  • supporting people facing language barriers or difficulty accessing technology

In Bulgaria, this support is being provided by The AIRE Centre. If you or someone you know may find it harder to complete the paperwork, you can contact them using the details below to discuss how they may be able to help you.

The AIRE Centre

Visit the 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)

Applying for Bulgarian citizenship

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

If you apply for Bulgarian citizenship after 31 January 2020, 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 are living in Bulgaria before the end of 2020, your rights to access healthcare will stay the same from 1 January 2021 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.

When you travel from Bulgaria for a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, you can use an EHIC to access state healthcare for free or at a reduced cost.

If you’re a UK student in Bulgaria or have a registered S1 you may be eligible for a new UK-issued EHIC. This EHIC which will remain valid from 1 January 2021. 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

The rules on travel will stay the same until the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. During this time you can continue to travel to countries in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU with your UK passport.

Check your passport is valid before you book your trip. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.

You can apply for your British passport from Bulgaria.

Passports from 1 January 2021

Check your passport is valid for travel before you book your trip.

From 1 January 2021, 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.

You will need to renew your passport before travelling 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 need to show a return or onward ticket and that you have enough money for your stay. You may also have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped for visits to these countries.

Entry requirements

From 1 January 2021, you will be able to travel to other Schengen area countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism. This is a rolling 180-day period.

To stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel, you will need to meet the entry requirements set out by the country to which you are travelling. This could mean applying for a visa or work permit. You may also need to get a visa if your visit would take you over the 90 days in 180 days limit.

Periods of stay authorised under a visa or permit will not count against 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.

Driving in Bulgaria

You will be able to use your UK driving licence until the transition period ends on 31 December 2020 or until your licence expires, whichever comes first.

If you are resident in Bulgaria, you should exchange your UK licence for a Bulgarian driving licence. However, you must wait to do so until at least six months after you register for residency.

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 on how to exchange your licence (in Bulgarian).

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

Read our guidance on what you need to drive abroad and road travel in Bulgaria.

Driving in the UK with a Bulgarian licence

Until 31 December 2020, you can still use your Bulgarian licence in the UK for short visits or exchange it for a UK licence without taking a test.

These rules may change from 1 January 2021. We will update this page once more information is available.

Working in Bulgaria

Read our guidance on working in an EU country.

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).

If you are resident in Bulgaria on or before 31 December 2020, your right to work will not change as long as you remain resident in Bulgaria.

Frontier workers

If you live in Bulgaria and commute to work in an EU or EFTA country, from January 2021 you may need a permit to prove that you are a frontier worker. We will update this guidance when more information is available.

Education and professional qualifications

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

Professional qualifications

If you have already been recognised by an EU country as holding valid professional qualifications, this will remain valid.

If you have not had your professional qualifications recognised, you can submit an application under the current rules until 31 December 2020.

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

You may be able to pay National Insurance while abroad in order to protect your State Pension and entitlement to other benefits and allowances.

If you are employed or self-employed in the EU or EEA and you have a UK-issued A1/E101 form, you will remain subject to UK legislation until the end date on the form.

Banking

Most people living in Europe should not see any change to their banking after 31 December 2020. 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 after 31 December 2020 for more information on cross-border retail banking.

Pensions

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 your UK State Pension or new State Pension.

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

If you have worked in several EU countries, see State Pensions abroad.

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.

Pensions after 31 January 2020

There will be no changes before 31 December 2020 to the rules on claiming the UK State Pension in the EU, EEA or Switzerland as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

You can continue to receive your UK State Pension if you live in the EU, EEA or Switzerland and you can still claim your UK State Pension.

If you are living in the EU, EEA or Switzerland by 31 December 2020 you will get your UK State Pension uprated every year for as long as you continue to live there. This will happen even if you start claiming your pension on or after 1 January 2021, as long as you meet the qualifying conditions explained in the new State Pension guidance.

If you are living in Bulgaria by 31 December 2020, you will be able to count future social security contributions towards meeting the qualifying conditions for your UK State Pension.

If you work and pay social security contributions in Bulgaria, you will still be able to add your UK social security contributions towards your Bulgarian pension. This will happen even if you claim your pension after 31 December 2020.

Read our guidance on benefits and pensions in the EU.

Read the Money and Pension Service guidance on pension and retirement changes after 31 December 2020 for more information on cross-border pensions.

Benefits

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

You may still be able to claim some UK benefits like child and disability benefits if you live in Bulgaria. You should:

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

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.

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

Benefits after 31 December 2020

There will be no changes before 31 December 2020 to the rules on claiming UK benefits in the EU, EEA or Switzerland as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

If you are living in the EU, EEA or Switzerland by 31 December 2020, you will continue to receive any UK benefits you already receive. This will continue for as long as you live there and meet all other eligibility requirements.

If you work and pay social security contributions in Bulgaria, your UK social security contributions will be taken into account when applying for Bulgaria contributions-based benefits. This will happen even if you claim contributions-based benefits after 31 December 2020.

Read our guidance on benefits and pensions in the EU.

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

You can read our guidance on:

Pets

Current pet travel rules will stay the same until 31 December 2020.

If you’re travelling with your pet for the first time you must visit your vet to get a pet passport.

Read guidance on bringing your pet to the UK.

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 23 November 2020 + show all updates
  1. Residency section updated with new information on registration.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

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

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

  8. 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"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  16. Information about citizens outreach meetings added.

  17. 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

  18. Updated March 2018

  19. Updated in March 2018.

  20. Updated January 2018

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

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

  23. First published.