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Opening a Personal Bank Account in Bulgaria for Non-Bulgarian Citizens

Following the submission of your bank account request form at the bank, a couple of weeks have passed. Upon inquiring about the progress, you were informed by the bank representative that they are currently awaiting "further checks". Has anyone else recently experienced the same or been able to successfully open a bank account?

Personal Bank Account

Is it easy to open a bank account in Bulgaria as a foreigner?

Opening a bank account in Bulgaria as a third-country national is not an easy process, and you may face a lot of uncertainty about the success of the bank account application. Sometimes people do get in on their first try and that’s brilliant, but it is important to emphasise that the process is not without its challenges and may require multiple attempts to achieve the desired outcome.

Among the challenges, the language barrier stands out as a significant consideration. It is important to note that bank documents in Bulgaria are typically not available in English as a standard practice, and the Bulgarian administrative system is known for its extensive paperwork requirements. Consequently, it is highly advisable to facilitate the process by engaging the services of a lawyer, accountant, translator, or a Bulgarian-speaking companion to accompany you during the bank account opening.

Can I open a personal bank account in Bulgaria as a resident?

As a member of the European Union, Bulgaria must adhere to various regulations, including those on banking operations. Within the EU, a Directive ensures individuals' entitlement to open and use a payment account for basic bank operations. This means that the bank has no right to refuse to open an account for a foreigner who has the right to reside in Bulgaria, including a person without a permanent address.

Can I open a personal bank account in Bulgaria as a non-resident?

Yes, a non-resident can open a bank account in Bulgaria. However, there’s no legal requirement for non-residents to open an account in Bulgaria, opening a local bank account is a logical step when settling down in a new country.

The process of opening a bank account for a foreign company presents practical challenges in establishing the customer's identity and beneficial ownership. This is the reason why banks require a multitude of documents and information to conduct various checks. The primary objectives are to ascertain the customer's identity, assess potential risks associated with their financial situation, and verify the legitimacy of their transactions.

A good example highlighting the necessity of a bank account for non-residents in Bulgaria arises when pensioners apply for a retirement visa (also known as D type visa). To fulfill the visa requirements, it is imperative for them to possess a registered personal account with a Bulgarian bank prior to their application.

What documents do I need to open a bank account as a foreigner?

While the actual process of opening a bank account can be relatively swift and straightforward, the associated paperwork can be time-consuming. This entails the completion of application forms, answering questions, and signing numerous documents.

To start the account opening process, it is essential to provide:

  1. Passport or national ID card as a means of identity verification.
  2. Bulgarian address to facilitate the registration of the account. The address will also be used for correspondence purposes. Something to keep in mind is that all documents for proof of address need to show your full name and current address.
  3. Proof of available funds. The specific amount required may vary depending on the chosen banking institution.

How long does it take to open a bank account in Bulgaria?

Once you have completed all the necessary paperwork, it should take between 2 and 5 working days for the bank account to be opened.

Do I have to pay to open a Bulgarian bank account?

Every bank account provider has a set of criteria they use to assess your account application. Fees only for document examination services when opening an account for a foreign legal entity or individual at Bulgarian banks range from EUR 300 to EUR 500, with the minimum fee being 60 euros. These fees have been criticized by foreigners as excessively discriminatory. Notably, the fees imposed by most Bulgarian banks are considered exorbitant not only by local standards but also by European norms. However, it’s worth noting that certain banks do not impose any fees for this service.

Fees the financial institutions may charge when registering a bank account

You inquire about the specific process involved in document verification for the purpose of opening a bank account, but the employees maintain silence. Attempting to steer the conversation toward the context of modern global anti-money laundering measures also yields no response. Instead, they assert that these fees have always been in place, with no avenue for complaint or voicing concerns. Foreign individuals, therefore, remain silent and comply by paying the fees. Moreover, it becomes apparent that some banks cleverly conceal these fees, not even disclosing them in their official tariff schedules.

Furthermore, when these fees do come to light, they are buried within extensive lists of charges and commissions, discouraging individuals who value their time from carefully examining and navigating through them. In contrast, European banks present important fees transparently in well-structured sub-pages dedicated to individual products and services, enabling users to read, compare, choose, and stay informed.

Upon contacting the banks' call centers, the employees on the other end of the line remain silent, seemingly unaware of such fees. Furthermore, they provide minimal support via phone. Instead, they redirect inquiries to the physical branch, where officials do acknowledge the existence of fees, often citing amounts such as EUR 200, EUR 300, or even EUR 500. However, once again, silence prevails when further explanations are sought.

As for the nature of the document examination process, it remains shrouded in mystery, as no one seems to show any comprehensive knowledge about it. Bank officials emphasise that this fee is not refundable if the bank refuses to open the account. Nor does it owe an explanation.

Refused or Declined to open a personal bank account

Banks in Bulgaria are not obliged to provide you with a reason for refusing to register a bank account. Even if they do, they often do not go into detail about their decision. Because of this often you won’t be informed if the refusal is due to your immigration status.

Banks have the right to refuse to open an account when they cannot meet the due diligence requirements. At the same time, however, there are no legally established rules that oblige banks to make a certain effort to carry out the document examination. For example, if the bank considers that due diligence may involve too much human and financial resources (i.e., it is complex and expensive), it may opt to decline the account application because it cannot meet due diligence requirements. This practice is further facilitated by the absence of an obligation on the bank's part to provide justification for the refusal, thereby withholding information from the customer regarding the grounds of rejection.

Getting help with opening a personal bank account

As an immigration lawyer, I am pleased to extend my expertise and assistance to foreigners seeking to open personal bank accounts in Bulgaria. Navigating the intricacies of banking procedures as a non-resident can be challenging, but with my experience in the legal and regulatory landscape, I can guide you through the process seamlessly. Whether you are an individual or a foreign legal entity, I will ensure that you have a smooth and efficient experience when establishing your bank account. With a focus on compliance and understanding your specific needs, I will work diligently to provide tailored solutions and ensure that all necessary documentation is prepared and submitted correctly. Rest assured, I am committed to safeguarding your financial interests and facilitating a successful bank account opening in Bulgaria.