Bulgarian Work Permit for non-EU freelancers
Freelance activity can be defined as any economic activity carried out in a personal capacity, without a commitment to any particular employer long-term. While freelancers in Bulgaria do take on contract work for organisations and companies, they are ultimately self-employed.
Legal requirement for non-EU citizens to access the Bulgarian labour market
The document "Permit for freelance activities" is issued by the Executive Director of the Employment Agency at the request of a non-EU foreign national. This type of permit is only issued to third-country professionals who wish to pursue freelance activity in Bulgaria. The freelance work permit on the basis of which the foreign national gains access to the Bulgarian labour market is later used in the application for long-term residence permit.
The permission for freelance activities by non-EU foreign nationals in Bulgaria shall be granted under the following conditions:
- According to the state, development and public interests of the Bulgarian labour market. In order to carry out a freelance activity, the economic and/or social effect of the activity must be proven.
- When the citizen of a third country possesses specialised knowledge, skills and professional experience, necessary for the performance of the respective activity, for which official documents, legalised by the respective order, shall be presented.
- The application for issuing a permit for a freelance activity must be submitted before the beginning of the business activity.
Necessary documents and requirements for the freelance permit application
The documents for freelance work permit are submitted by the non-EU national or a person authorised by them at the Central Administration of the Employment Agency. If the documents are submitted in person, the applicant needs to find out if they will need a visa to enter the country and which type of visa for Bulgaria you will need to apply for. The following documents are required for granting a permit:
- Brief description of the type, nature and objectives of the business activity that will be developed.
- Detailed business plan for the commercial activity term covered by the work permit. The plan must state what the economic and/or social impact of the freelance activity will be, and clearly state the business objectives and how they are planned to be achieved. A financial justification and analysis of the specific market in Bulgaria is also required.
- Document certifying at least 2 (two) years of professional experience which clearly proves the undertaken activity. This document should be issued by the relevant competent authority.
- A bank statement or other proof of enough money brought in to start a freelance activity in accordance with the submitted plan.
- A proof that you meet the Bulgarian language proficiency requirements/certificate of Bulgarian proficiency - it must be proven that the applicant can read, write, speak and understand Bulgarian to at least level B1 on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) scale.
- A proof that the requirements for exercising the freelance profession have been met.
- Other paperwork requested by the Bulgarian legislation, regulating the respective type of freelance activity, if such is required.
If necessary, in order to certify the conditions for granting the permit, the Employment Agency may request additional documents, of which the applicant shall be notified in writing and a deadline for their submission shall be set.
After initial freelance permit application submission
The Executive Director of the Employment Agency will decide whether to permit the freelance activity within 30 days from the submission of the application, notifying the applicant in writing. In case of ascertained omissions and irregularities of the documents, the Employment Agency will notify the applicant in writing, setting a 15-day term for procedure termination. The term stops running when the required additional documents are received. If the documents cannot be submitted within the specified deadline, the applicant may withdraw the application with a written notification to the Employment Agency and may subsequently resubmit them. Documents received in connection with the granting of permits, including applications withdrawn by the applicant, are not subject to return.
The decision of the Executive Director is provided after payment of an application fee and presentation of a receipt or a proof of bank transfer. The permit for freelance activity is obtained personally by the applicant in the Employment Agency.
Within 7 days from the actual commencement of the activity, the third-country national is obliged to notify the relevant territorial directorate of the Executive Agency of General Labour Inspectorate. The Executive Agency of General Labour Inspectorate carries out specialised control activities in connection with the employment of foreigners in Bulgaria, within the framework of which the control authorities have the right to visit all establishments where work is carried out, as well as to request personal documents.
What visa allows non-EU citizens to freelance in Bulgaria?
After the "Permit for freelance activities" is received, a new set of documents should be submitted in the Bulgarian embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence for obtaining a type "D" visa. The initial freelance visa is for up to 1 (one) year and is granted for the purpose of allowing the applicant to travel to Bulgaria to find an accomodation, open a bank account, have initial business meetings and time to apply for the long term residence.
D Type Visa is Followed By Residency Permit.
The Immigration rules require that foreign nationals must submit their documents for a residence permit after arriving in Bulgaria on a type D visa. The residence permit is issued by the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior on the basis of the freelance work permit obtained. It is for foreigners who have lived in Bulgarian consecutively for a certain time frame without breaking visa or other immigration rules or Bulgarian laws.
Can I Change The Subject of The Freelance Activity after the Permit is issued?
For the duration of the initially issued permit for carrying out a freelance activity, no change in the subject of the performed activity is allowed.
Responsibilities after receiving the freelancer permit
The third-country national is obliged to notify the Employment Agency of any change in the personal data and circumstances declared in the application for freelance activities and in the attached documents, which occurred after the start of the activity, within 7 days of the change. Within the same period, the foreigner should notify the Employment Agency in case he/she finds himself/herself in temporary difficulty or impossibility to perform the activity of freelance practice.
Freelance permit renewal
The term of the freelance permit is up to one year, and it can be extended if the conditions for initial issuance have not been dropped. Necessary documents for renewal of the permit:
- A completed application form.
- Business plan of the activity for the term for which the continuation of the activity is requested.
- Two letters of intent from potential/existing Bulgarian clients (with information on the type, scope and description of the business activity intended to carry out for them). If there are already contracts in place (i.e. not just letters of intent), then they can be used instead.
- Report on the implementation of the freelance business plan for the previous period.
- Declaration that the applicant owes no obligations for taxes and/or obligatory social security contributions.
- Registration certificate from BULSTAT register.
- If the freelance activity you will be doing requires a patent declaration (like a regulated activity for which the freelance needs to pay patent tax), then you will need to provide your declaration.
- Copy of the residence permit.
Is the Bulgarian Language Proficiency Exam Really that Hard?
Many foreigners know from other Bulgarian language proficiency exam takers that the test can be difficult if the candidate goes unprepared on examination day. Preparing for this exam requires that exam takers focus on several different areas of Bulgarian including: listening, reading, writing, spoken interaction and spoken production.
Before starting to worry, candidates need to remember the difficulty perceived will vary from one person to the next. One person might say the writing and speaking sections were the hardest, while someone else may share that the listening and reading parts were the hardest for them.
How hard candidates find the B1 level of the Bulgarian language proficiency exam will depend on their particular learning style, the ability to retain what was learned, and how much practice they had ahead of time.
Things you need to consider before applying for a freelance permit in Bulgaria as a non-EU national
Before moving to Bulgaria, foreign nationals pursuing freelance opportunities are advised to research Bulgarian visa and immigration procedures, including long term residence process, before starting the freelance application process.