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Can I Get a Visa if I Open a Company in Bulgaria

No business visa route directly leads to a visa, residence, or citizenship. While opening a company in Bulgaria can be one of the requirements for a specific visa type, the act of starting a Bulgarian business is not sufficient by itself to qualify anyone to stay legally in the country.

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Can I Stay in Bulgaria If I Register a Company?

Bulgarian law does not restrict foreign nationals from having a business in the country. As long as tax and administrative requirements are met, foreigners can start a Bulgarian business from scratch or purchase an existing company.

However, it does not necessarily mean that setting up a Bulgarian business automatically has an impact on the owner’s immigration status. While your immigration status does not affect your ability to establish a company in Bulgaria, it determines whether you can get a visa or live in the country as a permanent resident.

Navigating the Path to Residency through Business Ownership

Setting and running a business is part of the requirements of different visa categories, which gives foreign nationals a chance to own a Bulgarian business and qualify for a visa at the same time. Instead of filling out the paperwork and registering a Bulgarian company without perspective to attain residence, the best approach is to rely on guidance and find a solid strategy to obtain one. Read on to find out how to enhance your eligibility for residence.

Do I Need a Visa to Establish a Bulgarian Business as a Foreigner?

There is no need for a visa to start a business in Bulgaria. When you set up a business, you are not required to provide proof that you can work. Does this mean you can set up the business and then travel to Bulgaria and work under your own company name? No, it doesn’t. You can establish a business in Bulgaria, but that does not mean that you will be eligible to work in the country.

Can You Start a Bulgarian Company from Abroad?

You don’t need immigration status or even to be residing in the country. This is because a director or shareholder of a Bulgarian company can live anywhere in the world. The only stipulation is that the business must be established at a Bulgarian address. This is for accountability and communication purposes, not for legitimising the company’s ownership.

The business address can either be a purchased or rented property, the property of a friend, anyone who agrees to have your company registered to their address, or a virtual office address.

Bank Account for Foreign Business Owners

Comparing company registration for non-residents and residents, a question may arise regarding Bulgarian bank account requirements. It is a legal requirement to set up a business bank account in Bulgaria. Long-term residence in the country is not required, but a physical presence in almost all cases is necessary for bank account opening.

How to Open a Business and Reside in Bulgaria?

Registering a company in Bulgaria does not directly grant you immigration status. However, it can be considered as a part of a strategy to obtain a visa and residence. The process involves a series of steps, the type of company you choose to register and the company's economic activity can influence your eligibility for immigration status. The most common grounds for issuing a long-term residence permit through owning a company are:

Registration of a Bulgarian company.
Expected to have at least 10 Bulgarian nationals employed for at least 6 months as a result of their economic activity in the country.
Formation of a branch of a foreign company.
Once again, in the context of an intra-corporate transfer, the senior management team of a foreign legal entity established in Bulgaria is required to ensure the employment of a minimum of 10 Bulgarian nationals for a duration of at least 6 months as a consequence of their economic activities in the country.
Establishment of a Trade Representative Office.
Not expected to have any Bulgarian nationals employed and relatively cost-effective.
Registration of a Startup (Entrepreneur visa).
Expected to have investment contract for no less than BGN 100,000 or intent for such investment.

Can I open a company in Bulgaria and then employ myself in the company and thereby get a visa to live in Bulgaria?

No, it is possible to open a company in Bulgaria and employ yourself in the company. This can be done through a third party, as you, as a director, cannot hire yourself directly. The company needs to be registered under someone else's name, and that person can then hire you. This employment can be used as a basis for obtaining a type D visa to live and work in Bulgaria. The available visa options will depend on factors such as the nature of your business activity, your qualifications, and the number of employees. Here is a general outline of the options available:

Single Work and Residence Permit.
Provided that for the last 1 year, the overall number of non-EU nationals with long-term residence permits employed under an employment contract with the company is not over 20% of the average number of employees, and for small and medium companies it is not over 35%. Bulgarian minimum wage applies to this type of employment.
Highly Skilled EU Blue Card.
The applicant is required to have at least 5 years of relevant work experience or hold a Bulgarian, a recognised, or a comparable foreign academic degree. The offered gross salary should be at least 1.5 times higher than the Bulgarian average for the last year. Although there is no requirement to have any Bulgarian nationals employed this option might not be very cost-effective as it will involve payment of higher tax and social insurance.

You Don’t Have to Set Up Your Business Yourself

Always keep in mind that immigration policies can change, so it's crucial to stay informed about the latest regulations and requirements. The registration of a Bulgarian company may appear straightforward, but it can quickly get out of hand if you aren’t familiar with the legal structure and Bulgarian business practice. Seeking legal advice or consulting with immigration professionals in Bulgaria can help ensure that you navigate the process successfully and comply with all applicable laws.