Things to know
Bulgaria's Vibrant Capital City!
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, situated in the Sofia Valley at the foot of the Vitosha
mountain in the western parts of the country.
The city is built west of the Iskar river, and has many mineral springs, such as the Sofia Central Mineral Baths. It has a humid continental climate.
Being in the centre of the Balkans, it is midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, and closest to the Aegean Sea.
Known as Serdica in Antiquity and Sredets in the Middle Ages, Sofia has been an area of human habitation since at least 7000 BC.
Sofia is the 13th largest city in the European Union. It is surrounded by mountainsides, such as Vitosha by the southern side, Lyulin by the western side, and the Balkan Mountains by the north, which makes it the third highest European capital after Andorra la Vella and Madrid.
Being Bulgaria's primary city, Sofia is home of many of the major local universities, cultural institutions and commercial companies, while also being known as the "triangle of religious tolerance" due to the proximity of of three major religious temples, all of different faiths.
Sofia has been named one of the top ten best places for start-up businesses in the world, especially in information technologies and was Europe's most affordable capital to visit in 2013.
The city is known for its 49 mineral
and thermal springs as well as its cultural significance in Southeast Europe, Sofia is home to the National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria, the National Palace of Culture, the Vasil Levski National Stadium, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, the National Archaeological Museum, and the Serdica Amphitheatre.
A green Capital with lots to do!
The city is great to discover by walking as it is not too big.
The most important and most impressive buildings are the Alexander Nevski cathedral (the landmark of the city), the russian church, the church of St. George, the beautiful national theatre “Ivan Vazov”, the Sveta Sofia chruch, the monumental Largo complex, the national palace of culture and the Narodno Sabranie – the parliament of Bulgaria.
Sofia is a very green capital where you can find a lot of nice parks. The biggest and possibly most beautiful one in the center is “Borisova gradina” – there you can even find a small lake, a lot of statues of famous bulgarians and the 2 big stadiums of the city.
Also recommendable: the City garden, directly in front of the national theatre and the South park, south of the national palace of culture.
If you want to experience the life and spirit of the city you should take a seat in one of the many Cafés in the center, lean back and watch the people – if it's warm you should go to the Vitosha Boulevard where you can also enjoy the view to the mountains!
Bulgaria is also a country we would recommend you go to eat in! There are a host of amazing places to try with modern cuisine and local influences for an amazing price!
If you like things a little "fancier" - try visiting Tavan where you'll also enjoy one of the best views above Sofia while sampling some excellent Mediterranean cuisine.
You'll also find a host of trendy cafes await you in Sofia, perfect for relaxing over a tea or coffee before you take in the incredible nightlife, via a host of Bars and Clubs.
Sofia has it all - the only problem you'll have is fitting it all in!
How does Burgas Compare?
The average cost of living in Sofia is €760, which is in the top 34% of the least expensive cities in the world, ranked 6138th out of 9294 in a recent global list and 2nd out of 21 in Bulgaria.
The median after-tax salary is €897, which is enough to cover living expenses for 1.2 months.
Ranked 769th (TOP 8%) in the list of best places to live in the world and 1st best city to live in Bulgaria.
With an estimated population of 1.28M, Sofia is the 1st largest city in Bulgaria.
When compared to the other EU member states, only in Romania is life is cheaper than Bulgaria.
Expect to pay approx. €360 on average for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre, while going up to 3 beds will set you back around €642.
Venture away from the centre and as usual you'll see your costs come down, to approximately €260 for a 1 bed and €460 for a 3 bed.
The utilities per month - water, electricity, garbage fee for an apartment of 85 square meters are on average €90 per month.
Transport will cost around €25-€30 for a monthly pass, while petrol is relatively cheap at approx. €1.30 per ltr.
Sports and Leisure costs such a joining a gym would likely cost around €25 per month, while a trip the cinema would set you back around €6 for an international release.
Add together all these additional costs and on top of your rent, which is always going to be your biggest expense, you'll easily spend around €400 per month but with rental costs being (on average) 80% less than London, hopefully this will work in your favour.
Cost of Living
Bulgaria operates a flat tax system whereby personal and corporate tax rates are 10% across the board. For anyone looking to reduce the amount of tax they pay on their income or business profits, therefore, Bulgaria is definitely attractive!
The Bulgarian tax system is quite comprehensible if you keep in mind a few things. As in most European countries, taxes apply to locals as well as foreigners. The fiscal year is equal to a calendar year. It’s useful so you may plan how to manage your money distribution and spend them in the best way.
According to the Bulgarian legislation to be considered a "taxable resident" you must reside in Bulgaria for 183 days annually. As usual, the tax office will consider the location of your employment or freelancing, own business, residence permits, availability of property, family and others.
There are different types of taxes in Bulgaria.
Both state and local authorities are collecting taxes. The most important taxes are collected at state level. The list includes corporate taxes, VAT and of course social security and income tax.
On the local level, there are various fees, most of them related to properties, a.k.a. property taxes.
The tax limitation in Bulgaria is 5 years.
All income earned in Bulgaria is taxed at a flat rate of 10% – both corporate profit and personal incomes
VAT applies at a flat rate of 20% on virtually all goods and services – food, books, machinery, etc. No exception, unless 9% on tourism-related activities.
Social security is paid by every employee. At this moment the employee pays 12.9% and the employer contributes what corresponds to 17.9%.
Eligibility to Work in Sofia
If you have skills that are in demand in Bulgaria, then you will be welcome as a worker. Sofia in particular has a strong ex-pat presence. This is because skilled Bulgarians tend to go abroad to seek wages commensurate with their skills, leaving a hole that is filled by skilled ex-pats, who are content to earn less than they might in other countries but live well thanks to Bulgaria’s low prices.
See the visas section for information on entering, staying in and working in the country.
The National Employment Agency can provide advice on job seeking and hiring, and lets you apply for vacancies listed in government job centres.
Tax And Social Insurance
There is a flat rate of 10% income tax and 13% social security contributions (pension, health, unemployment etc.), deducted at source. Employers also make a contribution. You will need a social security number to make these payments, but your employer will usually take care of getting one for you. Although you pay in from day one, eligibility for social security benefits doesn’t begin until you have completed six months’ full-time employment.
Your health payment contributions will go to a private health insurance scheme. It is your responsibility to understand exactly what your package provides and to add anything else you think necessary, e.g. dental care.
If you are self-employed, you should note that a business is expected to pay a minimum wage to its owners as well as its staff. In 2017, owners were expected to be paid at least BGN 460 (£198) per month.
The state pension is currently around BGN 150 per month, for someone who has worked a full 40 years in Bulgaria. A private pension is highly recommended.
Are any skills in particular demand?
Bulgaria has a general shortfall of skilled workers, but the fields of IT and Engineering are particularly in demand.
Do I need to speak the local language?
You will be expected to understand Bulgarian well enough to work at the skill level for which you were hired. Non-native speakers will almost always be asked to complete both an oral and written language test. The Bulgarian alphabet is based on Cyrillic, so this must also be mastered.
If you are able to speak more than one language, this could be extremely advantageous in finding a job, especially if you are looking for a role that involves interacting with non-Bulgarians. For example, if you want to work in customer support and you speak a Scandinavian language, or one of the less well-represented European languages (e.g. Dutch,) then you have a good chance of getting a well-paid job.
Typical working hours and annual holiday entitlement
Bulgaria has a definitive Labour Code that lays down a range of rights in black and white.
Working days are fixed at eight hours, and working weeks at 40 hours. Extended working time is allowed by prior arrangement, and is usually compensated for by time off in lieu.
Paid annual leave, once you have been with one employer for eight months, cannot be less than 20 working days.
Qualifications And Training
Experience is the most important thing. It does not need to be translated into a Bulgarian equivalent. Bring your certificates to the interview.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
All those entering Bulgaria should have at least six months of validity remaining on their passports, counted from the date they travel.
Many nationalities will qualify for entry to Bulgaria without a visa for a period of up to 90 days, whilst for others, it may only be up to 30 days, within each six-month period. This 30- or 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work and is intended for tourism, recreation, or short-term visits to friends or family. In order to work in Bulgaria, citizens of most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You may also need a visa before you travel if you’re planning to stay for a period of longer than 90 days, or if your intended visit would mean that you have been in Bulgaria for more than 90 days in the last 180 days. Any separate visits to Bulgaria within the previous 180 days will count against the 90-day limit. As Bulgaria is not within the Schengen area, visits to other EU countries will not count against this total.
For British passport holders, the rules and regulations are subject to change depending on the outcome of leaving the European Union. Therefore, if you are intending to visit any country in the EU in the foreseeable future, make sure you stay up-to-date with any requirements. UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry and exit, as well as airside transit.
Immigration authorities in Bulgaria may ask you to prove that you have sufficient funds for the duration of your stay and/or proof of a return or onward travel ticket.
Valid health insurance is required, and it is possible that you may be asked for evidence of this too.
All foreigners visiting Bulgaria are required to register as foreigners at a local police station within five days of arrival. This registration is usually done on your behalf through the hotel or accommodation provider that you are using, assuming you are visiting as a tourist. However, it is worth checking at the reception desk to confirm this. If the hotel confirms that they have submitted this registration on your behalf, enquire whether you can have a copy of the registration slip, in case you need it when you exit the country.
Visa C – Nationals of countries that do not qualify for visa exemption can apply for visa C if they wish to travel to Bulgaria. This is valid for single or multiple entries with stays that do not exceed the 90-day limit within a six-month period.
Visa D – This visa is typically issued to students, long-term business travellers, work permit holders or investors. A personal interview is required in order to obtain this visa. This visa can also be granted to foreigners who have married a Bulgarian citizen permanently residing in Bulgaria. Eligible pensioners can also apply for visa D. Family members, such as spouses, dependent children and, in some cases, parents can qualify, as well as those who work for NGOs and charities operating in Bulgaria.
Visa A – This visa is valid for an airport transfer only, and is for those who do not qualify for visa exemption.
If you are a foreign national wishing to apply for a Bulgarian visa, you will need to hold a valid passport issued within the last 10 years. The passport will need to have a minimum validity of three months beyond your intended departure from the Republic of Bulgaria. It must also contain at least two blank pages for stamps and visas.
You can apply for a visa at your local embassy or consulate, and you should do this no more than three months before you intend to travel.
You should complete and sign your visa application in either English or Bulgarian. If you are from the European Union and wish to extend your application to your family, you can fill in the relevant fields on the paperwork.
For visa D applications, a personal interview must be conducted with no exceptions.
Applications must be accompanied by relevant supporting documents, such as:
• Photocopies of your passport
• Photocopies of your most recent Bulgarian and Schengen visas, and, if applicable, your latest visas to the UK and the US
• Two recent passport-size photographs to passport specifications (i.e. white background, colour photo, clear shot of head and shoulders etc.)
• Proof of medical insurance valid in the EU for the duration of the trip; this will need to state cover all costs in regards to repatriation, urgent medical care, and emergency hospital treatment; the insurance cover cannot be less than €30,000
• Tickets (both original and a copy) or ticket booking confirmation, or proof of sufficient financial means for the duration of your trip
• If applicable, copies of birth certificates for your children
• Payment of any applicable visa application fees
The Republic of Bulgaria does not issue open work permits.
In order to obtain a Bulgarian work permit, you need to have secured a job with an employer based in Bulgaria first.
Work permit applications are filed by your employer on your behalf and are issued by the Employment Agency at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
The employer is also required to submit the following supporting documents in addition to the specific application form:
• A letter stating the reasons for the request
• Three passport-size photos of the employee
• A copy of the company’s certificate of incorporation
• Copies of the employee’s education and qualification certificates
• The employment contract
• A copy of the employee’s valid passport
Bulgarian work permits are valid for one year (on a renewable basis) and allow you to work for a single company/employer. There are exemptions for citizens of the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland, who do not require a work permit to be authorised to work in Bulgaria. This condition is not applicable if you have obtained permanent residence or claimed asylum in another country.
Regardless of the type of permit being requested, you are required to open a bank account in Bulgaria. The bank will then issue a confirmation letter to support your permit application.
A residence permit is compulsory for all foreign nationals, regardless of their nationality. It must be requested within 90 days of your arrival in Bulgaria. There are two types of residence permits, the long-stay permit and the permanent residence permit. The long-stay permit is valid for one year for non-European nationals and for five years for European nationals. The permanent resident visa has an unlimited validity.
Long-stay resident permit
The long-stay resident permit is issued to foreign nationals holding a valid work permit, spouses of Bulgarian citizens, qualifying foreign investors, eligible retirees, family members of visa D holders, children (or grandchildren) of Bulgarian citizens, and full-time foreign students studying at an accredited institution.
An application for the long-stay permit must be made at the Sofia Immigration Office or at your local Police Immigration Department in Bulgaria. For applicants who are nationals of any European Union country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Sweden, the supporting documents you will need for your application are as follows:
• Completed and signed application forms
• A valid passport
• Proof of address
• Employment contract or company registration certificate (whichever is applicable)
• Proof of health insurance, translated into Bulgarian
• Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants throughout the duration of your stay
For nationals of other countries, in addition to the above, you may require:
• Proof of accommodation and other facilities during your stay in the country
• Proof of compulsory social or commercial insurance covering you for the duration of your stay in Bulgaria
European nationals have to pay a resident tax upon filing their application form. A temporary resident permit will be issued upon receipt of payment. The long-stay resident card will be issued within three months of application.
The permanent residence permit is issued by the Ministry of Interior. You can become eligible to apply for permanent residence once you have resided in the country for five continuous years. Permanent residence allows you to enjoy the same rights as Bulgarian citizens, except the right to vote.
The permanent residence permit must be requested within 60 days of your long-stay resident permit’s expiration date, and it should then be issued to you within two months.
Information is taken from: