LIVING IN SOFIA

Sofia is a welcoming city, standing out among the European capitals with its ancient history and culture, young and talented population, dynamic lifestyle and artistic evenings. Sofia has an impressive atmosphere attracting even the pickiest tourist.

The city has well-functioning infrastructure, a strong educational system, vibrant startup and business community that can make living and working in Sofia an amazing experience for you and the family you may want to bring.

Are you curious about living and working in Sofia? Follow the links below for general tips and information about the city.

Sofia at a glance

Sofia was founded around 7000 BC by the Thracians, later home to Slavs and during the centuries ruled by the Roman Empire and the Ottomans. Today, one of the oldest capitals in Europe lies on top of rich history and ancient ruins. The city has 1,400 cultural monuments and landmarks.

Sofia’s population exceeds 1.3 million over an area of 492 sq km, making it the 15th largest city in the European Union, a well connected cross-point between Europe and Asia. Most major European hub airports are located at a 1- to 3-hour flight from Sofia.

Sofia is a growing tourist destination. In 2017, the city was within the Top 3 cities in Europe in growth of international visitors*. At 550 m above sea level, Sofia is one of the highest capitals in Europe, sitting at the base of Vitosha mountain, easily accessible from the city for a day or half-day trips, a convenient place to hike, mountain bike and ski.

Sofia’s economy is growing at a rapid pace. The city was ranked among the top 10 best performing cities in Europe in 2017**. It is the financial, educational, cultural, business and commercial center and the biggest city-economy in Bulgaria and has one of the most vibrant start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Central and Eastern Europe.

*MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, 2017
**Best-performing Cities, Europe 2017, Milken Institute

Ski & Hiking:

  1. Vitosha Mountain
  2. Borovetz (Rila mountain)
  3. The 7 Rila lakes
  4. Bansko (Pirin mountain)

SPA resorts:

  1. Bankya
  2. Sandanski
  3. Sapareva Banya
  4. Velingrad

Cultural trips:

  1. Rila monastery
  2. Koprivshtitsa
  3. Veliko Tarnovo

In order to open a personal bank account in Bulgaria you need:

  1. A valid ID card/passport/driving license
  2. An address for correspondence (your personal address or an office address)
  3. A small minimum deposit amount to activate the account

Learn more about opening a personal bank account in Bulgaria and Sofia here and here. You can find more information about opening a bank account of a foreign business or organization here.

Buying Property

Non-EU resident can experience certain restrictions on acquiring properties. There are multiple real estate agencies in Bulgaria that can help you with the process. You can find additional information in the links below:

Renting Property

Renting a private accommodation in a city with a growing population can be stressful. In general, city dwellers in Sofia prefer the southern neighborhoods that are closer to Vitosha mountain. However, a real estate agent can save you a lot of time and stress. You can still connect directly to a private landlord by looking for real estate listings in Bulgaria:

Keep in mind that in Bulgaria 2-room apartment means 1-bed apartment and 3-room apartment means 2-bed apartment.

Daycare centers & Kindergartens

  1. Private Kindergarten Germani
  2. The Castle
  3. The Small School – Victor Hugo
  4. Private Kindergarten Doverie
  5. Weda
  6. Drita
  7. D-r Maria Montesori

 

Primary & Secondary Schools

  1. British School of Sofia*
  2. Anglo-American School of Sofia*
  3. The American College of Sofia
  4. German private schools – “Erich-Kästner”* & Deutsche Schule
  5. French Lyceum Victor Hugo*
  6. Italian Lyceum
  7. Russian Lyceum*

* with kindergartens

Check out the list of digital academies in Sofia, some of which are geared towards children.

Working and living in Sofia

Sofia has one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems in Central and Eastern Europe. The rapid entrepreneurial growth cannot be solely attributed to the availability of EU funds. Other reasons behind the development of the start-up ecosystem include the accumulation of experience, knowledge and skills by Bulgarian SMEs and start-ups; the easier access to international know-how; the improved processes of information and experience exchange between firms and entrepreneurs, etc.

Citizens of all EU and EEA countries, plus Switzerland have the right to reside and work in Bulgaria indefinitely.  All other nationals need a work permit and a long-term visa in order to work or reside in Bulgaria.

Find 10 great reasons to start and grow your business in Sofia and check useful tips below for internationals moving to, or living in Sofia. Furthermore, you can look for specialized websites for expats like that one.

With more than 1.3 million people, Sofia is the biggest and most populated city in the country and a crossroad between East and West. The city has a global reputation of a vibrant technology centre, and offers easy access to the EU investment funds and the European 550 million consumer market.

It takes only 3 days to register a business in Sofia. The required company capital is 1 euro. Sofia has the lowest corporate tax in EU – 10% flat and the lowest personal income tax in EU – 10% flat.

 

Follow the links below to find more about the business and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sofia.

• Overview of The Start-up and Innovation Ecosystem in Sofia

• Sofia Business Guide 2019

• Setting as a founder, setting up your company, access to talent and capital in Sofia

• Industry, startup & business community news

• Reports and Statistics on the Business Climate in Sofia

 

There is a great variety of organisations in Sofia that could provide you with the information you need, help you start your business and make you feel at home from day one. Some of them are:

Sofia Investment Agency
Invest Bulgaria Agency
Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency
Municipal Guarantee Fund for SME-s, Sofia

Don’t forget to check how your Embassy and/or Consulate present in Sofia could help you.

There is a number of a foreign trade departments, chambers of commerce and business associations that could provide you with useful insights, information and support. You can find a list of those here.

You can find a comprehensive overview of the most important tax rates in Sofia on our website.

Further information about the types of taxes is provided by the Invest Bulgaria Agency and the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance.

You can read more about the Bulgarian tax and accounting system here and here.

There are two ways to get insured in Bulgaria: either by public or private health insurance. The public health insurance in Bulgaria is performed by one health insurance fund – the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). Health insurance is mandatory for Bulgarian citizens and citizens of other countries who reside permanently in Bulgaria and do not have health insurance in another EU member country. If you are an EU citizen and you work in one EU country and live in another, you are entitled to medical treatment on both sides of the border.

You can find more information about receiving medical help within the scope of the public health insurance in case of a temporary stay on the territory of Bulgaria at the official page of NHIF.

 

Even if you do not have health insurance, you are entitled to:

  1. emergency care;
  2. obstetric and gynecological examinations and medical care for childbirth for uninsured women;
  3. in-patient psychological care;
  4. transplantation of organs, tissues and cells;
  5. mandatory treatment and/or mandatory isolation;
  6. expert assessments of the type and degree of long-term incapacity to work;
  7. medical transport;
  8. assisted reproduction.

 

All Bulgarian citizens and EU citizens are entitled to:

  1. vaccines for mandatory immunization and re-immunization;
  2. vaccines for special indications and in extraordinary circumstances;
  3. specific serums, immunoglobulins and other bio-products connected with the prevention of contagious illnesses;
  4. technical equipment for applying them;
  5. all anti-epidemic activities;
  6. access to health care activities included in national, regional and municipal health programmes.
  7. Children (Bulgarian citizens and EU citizens) in care in health institutions are entitled to free medical and social care.

 

Useful Links:

You can learn more about using health care in Bulgaria at the official webpage of the EU Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

A comprehensive overview of healthcare and medical insurance for foreigners in Bulgaria can be found here.

For more details about any kind of business and personal insurance in Bulgaria, please read here.

A comprehensive guide on the Bulgarian pension system is provided by the EU Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Furthermore, you can look at Bulgaria’s country profile here. The National Social Security Institute is the public institution that manages state social security in Bulgaria.

 

  • EU citizens with a valid ID card or passport do not need a visa to stay in Bulgaria. However, after three months they should apply for a long-term residence permit.
  • Third-country nationals have the right to a transit through the territory of Bulgaria without a visa under the terms and conditions set by EU legislation. When an agreement between the EU and a third country is in force on the conditions for issuance of a visa, entry and residence of nationals of that country, the procedures under the respective agreement apply.

The Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act provides for the following main visa categories: air transit visa, short-stay visa and long-stay visa. A foreign citizen who wants to settle in Bulgaria for a prolonged period of time or permanently must obtain a long-term residence type “D” visa.

 

Who can obtain continuous residence permit:

  1. Persons who engage in commercial activity in the country, by means of which at least 10 jobs for Bulgarian citizens have been opened;
  2. Foreign specialists staying in the country under international treaties;
  3. Representatives of foreign companies.

 

Who can obtain a permanent resident status:

  1. Persons who have invested or increased their investment over BGN 1 million through acquisition of:
    • shares in Bulgarian companies traded on the Bulgarian regulated market;
    • bonds and treasury bills as well as derivative instruments issued by the state or municipalities, with a residual maturity of not less than 6 months;
    • ownership of assets of a Bulgarian company with more than 50% state or municipal participation in the capital in accordance with the Privatization and Post-Privatization Control Act;
    • state or municipal shares owned of a Bulgarian company in accordance with the Privatization and Post-Privatization Control Act;
    • Bulgarian intellectual property;
    • rights under concession contracts operating in the Republic of Bulgaria;
  2. Persons who have invested over BGN 1 million over 1 million in Bulgarian licensed credit institution for a period of not less than 5 years;
  3. Persons who have invested at least BGN 6 million in the capital of a Bulgarian company whose shares are not traded on a regulated market;
  4. Persons who have received a certificate for class investment / priority investment project.

 

Who does not need a work permit:

  1. Foreigners with long-term or permanent residence in Bulgaria;
  2. Managers of companies or branches of foreign entities;
  3. Members of boards of directors of companies who do not work under an employment relationship;
  4. Commercial representatives of foreign companies.

Read more about Blue Card work permits on our website. A specific startup visa is yet to be developed in Bulgaria.

Some of the job portals in Bulgaria include (and are not limited to):

LinkedIn is also becoming increasingly popular for finding jobs in both Sofia and Bulgaria. Many freelancers and entrepreneurs use such platforms as freelance.bgBetahaus Job BoardStartusf6sAngelList, etc. Many job seekers look at the listings on the National Employment Agency’s website.

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