Guidance

Living in Bulgaria

Information British citizens moving to or living in Bulgaria need to know, including guidance on residency, healthcare and passports.

This guide sets out essential information for British citizens about moving to or living in Bulgaria. Read about how our embassy in Sofia can help.

This information is provided as a guide only. You should obtain definitive information from the Bulgarian authorities. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is not liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Read general guidance on moving or retiring abroad.

To stay up to date:

If you were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021

Some parts of this guide only apply if you were living in Bulgaria since before 1 January 2021. These are indicated with sub-headings.

You should also read our living in Europe page for detailed guidance about citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Coronavirus

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

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

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 the Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE) Centre’s guidance on residency in Bulgaria.

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).

Passports and travel

You can apply for or renew your British passport in Bulgaria.

Check the travel advice for Bulgaria for passport validity requirements.

Always carry your passport when travelling to other EU / European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries. If you have citizenship of an EU / EFTA country, in addition to your British citizenship, you should enter and leave Bulgaria using your EU / EFTA passport.

If you stay in Bulgaria with a residence permit or long stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit in Bulgaria or for the Schengen area.

If you visit countries in the Schengen area outside Bulgaria, make sure you do not exceed the visa-free 90 days in any 180-day period. You are responsible for counting how long you stay under the Schengen visa waiver, and you must comply with its conditions.

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

If you were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021

When you travel, you should carry with you your residence document (Документ за пребиваване) or frontier worker permit issued under the Withdrawal Agreement, in addition to your valid passport.

You must proactively show your residence document, or other evidence of residence status, if you are asked to show your passport at border control. Other evidence may be your tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020. If you have applied for, but not yet received, your residence document, carry your certificate of registration.

If you cannot prove 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.

If you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you do not need any extra months on your passport to enter or exit EU countries.

Healthcare

Read our guidance on healthcare in Bulgaria and make sure you are correctly registered for your circumstances.

If you’re leaving the UK with medicine that contains a controlled drug, check with the embassy about the rules for the country you’re going to before you travel and the NaTHNaC guidance on travelling with medicines.

You should also read our guidance on:

Working in Bulgaria

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

To apply for a job you may need to provide 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).

Read:

If you were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021

You have the right to work under the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you live in Bulgaria and were regularly commuting to work in another EU or EFTA country before 1 January 2021, read our guidance for frontier workers.

Professional qualifications

You may need to get your professional qualification recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in Bulgaria.

Read guidance on:

If you were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021

If the relevant regulator in Bulgaria officially recognised your professional qualification before 1 January 2021, or you started the recognition process by this date, make sure you understand the terms of your recognition decision. Seek advice from the regulator if needed.

Studying in Bulgaria

If you plan to study in Bulgaria, you must meet all visa requirements before you travel.

Contact the relevant higher education provider in Bulgaria to check what fees you may have to pay.

Read guidance on:

If you were living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021

The studying in the European Union guide includes specific information for those who were already living in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021.

Money, tax and banking

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.

You should get professional advice on paying tax in Bulgaria. Find an English-speaking lawyer in Bulgaria.

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.

Read guidance on:

National Insurance

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

UK Banking

Whether UK banks can provide services to customers living in the EEA is a matter of local law and regulation.

Read the Money and Pension Service’s MoneyHelper 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.

If you are moving or retiring abroad, you must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax.

Read our State Pension guidance if you have lived in Australia, Canada or New Zealand and you are claiming or waiting to claim your UK State Pension.

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’s MoneyHelper 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.

If you are moving or retiring abroad, you must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax.

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

Many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit cannot be paid if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.

You can request proof from HMRC of the time you’ve worked in the UK and of your UK National Insurance record.

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.

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.

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 and general information on driving licences for UK nationals (in English) (in Bulgarian).

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.

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, marriage and civil partnerships

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

If someone dies in Bulgaria, read our guidance on:

Find out how you can get married or get a civil partnership abroad.

You may also need:

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

You can dial the European emergency number 112 in Bulgaria, or dial:

  • 166 for police
  • 160 for fire brigade
  • 150 for first aid
  • 116 000 for reporting missing children

If you’re the victim of a crime, have been arrested, or are affected by a crisis abroad, contact the British Embassy Sofia.

Returning to the UK

Check the COVID-19 travel guidance for entering the UK.

Tell the Bulgarian and UK authorities if you are returning to the UK permanently.

To move your pension to the UK, contact the International Pension Centre.

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

If you return to the UK permanently and meet the ordinarily resident test, you’ll be able to access NHS care without charge.

Useful information

Support for British nationals abroad: a guide sets out how to stay safe abroad, and explains how the FCDO can support you if you get into difficulty.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 12 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Guidance reviewed for Passports and travel, Healthcare, Working in Bulgaria, Studying in Bulgaria, Money, tax and banking, Benefits, Births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships, Emergencies, Returning to the UK and Useful information sections.

  2. Updated information on professional qualifications and pensions.

  3. Professional qualifications section updated for British citizens who are moving or moved to Bulgaria after 1 January 2021 and those living there since before 1 January 2021.

  4. Working in Bulgaria section updated: new guidance for frontier workers

  5. Additional support section updated with link to guidance on UK Nationals Support Fund, healthcare section updated including guidance on the S1 form and applying for EHIC and GHIC cards; education section updated with information on funding eligibility for students, and link to Department for International Trade (DIT) guidance on recognition of professional qualifications; working in Bulgaria section updated with link to DIT guidance on working or providing services.

  6. Coronavirus section updated with a link to guidance on vaccines

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

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

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

  10. Residency section updated with new information on registration.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

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

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

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

  17. 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"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  25. Information about citizens outreach meetings added.

  26. 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

  27. Updated March 2018

  28. Updated in March 2018.

  29. Updated January 2018

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

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

  32. First published.