How To Move To Bulgaria - The Definitive Guide
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Apply For A Visa[back to top]
As Bulgaria has been a member state of European Union since January 2007, there are various forms of documentation required for foreign nationals who wish to make a permanent move to this country.
Before moving to the country permanently, expats should consider visiting Bulgaria for a short period to get to know it first, search for a suitable property, and check out the terms and conditions of living there in general. These short visits, which vary between 30 and 90 days depending on the expats home country, require a valid passport but no visa for citizens of the following countries:
Up to 30 days:
Andorra, Australia, Canada, Estonia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK, USA and Vatican.
Up to 90 days:
Austria, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
To move permanently to Bulgaria, expats need a D long-stay visa type, for which they must apply through the Bulgarian embassy or consulate in their home country.
- For US citizens, the visa is free of charge, though there is a $25 processing fee.
- For UK citizens, the visa costs £44, comprising a GBP 30 visa charge and GBP 14 admin fee which is not refundable.
It is wise to contact the appropriate Bulgarian embassy for the application forms or download them from the official website. For the type D visa, expats need:
- Two completed application forms for a Short Entry Visa
- Two recent photos
- Originals of documents giving the reasons for your application
- Proof of your means of financial support (savings / employment contract, etc.)
- Proof that you have arranged suitable accommodation.
The type D visa is for single entry only and it is valid for up to 6 months. It is issued to people who intend to apply for a long-term or permanent residence permit in Bulgaria. Once expats have the D visa, they should be aware that they cannot leave Bulgaria for 3 months. When people get the D-type visa and go to Bulgaria they need to apply for an ID card in the regional directorate, a police station, and wait for it for about 3 months. After they have the ID card they will be able to leave the country and come back again without a visa. The ID card is renewable on a 6 or 12 month basis.
Those who are married to a Bulgarian citizen and are applying for either the short-term or long-term residence / work permit on the basis of being married do not need to apply for a D-visa. They should apply at the appropriate immigration office, which is located in 48 Maria Louisa Blvd. in Sofia. It is important to know that the D-visa is only for residence based on work.
Adequate medical insurance is a condition of visa approval and foreigners cannot enter Bulgaria without it. When they arrive, expats must have insurance to cover emergency medical expenses, repatriation, transporting mortal remains, funeral and hospitalisation, amounting to at least $5000 and valid for the duration of your planned stay. Those who have this already should submit a copy of the policy with their visa application. If contacted by the embassy to hear that their visa is granted, expats should then organize medical cover and submit a copy of the policy or letter from the insurer so that the visa can be issued.
Having entered Bulgaria on a Long-Stay visa, expats must then contact the Ministry of Internal Affairs to apply for a long-term or a permanent residence permit.
Providing they have the means to support themselves, have made social security payments and have accommodation and medical insurance arranged, a permit for up to one year may be granted if expats meet the following terms:
- Have a work permit to take up full-time employment
- Have a business in Bulgaria with vacancies for at least 10 Bulgarian citizens
- Are starting a full-time course at a Bulgarian educational institution
- Are married to a Bulgarian citizen or to a foreigner who is a permanent resident
- Are the financially secure parents of foreign permanent residents
- Have been admitted for long-term hospital treatment in Bulgaria, with the means to pay for treatment and support themselves
- Are retired, with sufficient means to support themselves
- Have a permit from the Ministry of Labour to be self-employed in Bulgaria
Residence permits for an indefinite length of time may be issued if expats meet these conditions:
- Have lived in Bulgaria permanently for 2 years, after marrying a Bulgarian
- Have lived there legally for 5 years
- Are of Bulgarian ethnic origin
- Are the child of a Bulgarian citizen or a foreigner with permanent residence
- Have invested over 250,000 USD in the country.
Informing the authorities
According to Bulgarian immigration law, visitors must inform the relevant authorities of their whereabouts, in writing, within 48 hours of arrival in the country, giving precise address details. If staying in private accommodation, it is wise to ask the host to register on the expats behalf. For anyone staying in hotels initially, hotel management will do this automatically.
Those intending to work in Bulgaria must have a work permit as well as a residence permit. These permits must be obtained before expats arrive and they cannot stay in Bulgaria while a work permit is being processed. If they bring dependent family members with them, they do not have the right to work in Bulgaria.
More info can be found at bulgarianvisas.com.
For more information, contact the Bulgarian embassy or consulate in your home country. The websites for US and UK citizens are:
As a member state of European Union, Bulgaria has different terms and conditions for non-EU / EEA nationals, so it is best to visit the official website of Bulgarian government to check all the details about visa and various permits in this country.
Find A Job[back to top]
Finding a good job in Bulgaria can be quite hard for foreigners who wish to start their life in this country. There are certain rules to employment of foreigners in Bulgarian legislation that should be considered before looking for a job. First of all, expats who have permanent residence status can easily qualify for any job they are offered in the same ways as Bulgarians. Other foreigners are subject to strict control by the state. Starting a job involves issuance of a working permit which is applied for by the employer and which must be renewed on an annual basis.
Like in many other countries, a position would be given to an expat only if there is no qualified Bulgarian national who could fill the post. However, the contemporary labour market in Bulgaria requires highly qualified and multilingual specialists all the time. In addition, many international high-profile corporations that have outsourced some of their service, production or marketing teams need a multicultural staff. The foreign investment in different spheres in the country usually requires the know-how of international experts.
Most jobs in Bulgaria are full-time. The working week is usually 40 hours, and daily work is 8 hours or more, with an additional hour for a lunch break.
Salary standards in the majority of sectors in Bulgaria are lower than in other EU countries. Yet some spheres offer competitive and sometimes international level remunerations. Professionals who are well paid in this country are usually highly qualified IT specialists, visual artists and engineers with knowledge of foreign languages.
Another developing job market in this country is tourism. The country boasts a wide range of landscapes and some rural and urban areas where tourism is already established or just emerging. There are conditions for winter sports in the mountains, hiking and sports like mountain and cross-country biking. During the summer season Bulgaria’s Black Sea is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. The hospitality industry in Bulgaria can offer many jobs around the year, although payment is still relatively low. A good option is to try looking for a job in tourism by contacting the agencies that are based in a foreign country, aimed at entertaining foreign tourists. This way, one can work in Bulgaria but receive a salary based on foreign standards.
One of the best choices for expats in Bulgaria is to find a teaching job. Bulgarians, especially those in big cities, are keen on learning foreign languages, mostly English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and recently Chinese. Native speakers of those foreign languages are always needed in this country. Even if it is not a full-time job, teaching can always be a source of additional income.
Among the other sectors that are in need for qualified personnel in Bulgaria are private properties, construction, environmental companies, renewable energy sources, consultancies and recruitment agencies. The country also has a lot of business opportunities based on franchising. Though the procedures for setting up a business in the country could be quite challenging, they can still lead to successful and lucrative entrepreneurship, as Bulgaria is still a market that is developing in many areas.
Apart from tourism, job opportunities in Bulgaria are mostly concentrated in the urban areas. There are three industrial and technological hubs in the country where the chances for a foreigner to get a good job are the highest.
Sofia – the capital city of Bulgaria is the place with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The IT, customer care and marketing sectors offer competitive salaries to both Bulgarians and expats. There is also a demand for highly qualified personnel with degrees in engineering, accounting and law. In recent several years many multinational companies have outsourced important departments to Eastern Europe, in cities like Sofia.
Plovdiv – this is the second biggest city in Bulgaria that has also something to offer expatriates in terms of employment. The IT and marketing firms in Plovdiv are expanding and engineers in computer sciences have a good chance of finding a decent job here. Since Plovdiv and its surroundings have a lot of industrial factories, mechanical engineers with relevant experience can also find good positions.
Varna – in addition to the IT sector and customer service and marketing area, the biggest city on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast also offers employment possibilities mainly in the private properties and hospitality industries, due to the demands of tourism. There is a port and some ship manufacturers are based here, so experts in maritime vessels could look for a post in Varna. Gas and petrol extraction are also options in this eastern region of the country.
Those who are not citizens of EU member states must obtain a working permit for the EU countries of their choice. One way to achieve this is to apply for the Blue Card. However, this is only possible if expats have a university degree with an adequate position that is already proposed by the future employer. Prospective employers should apply for work permits for their new employees at the local Labour Office. Foreigners with an employment contract and a work permit can also apply for residence for the duration of the contract. Within a company, no more than 10% of the workforce can be foreign according to Bulgarian law. The internet is an excellent resource for tracking down job opportunities.
Job search sites:
Rent Property[back to top]
Expat property owners can rent out their properties in Bulgaria. It is important to know that rental returns usually amount to 2-5% per year. If an apartment is in a new development, owners should consider going through some partners from the leading property management companies in Bulgaria to help them rent the property. In Bulgaria finding the right accommodation can be quite challenging, especially in larger towns.
As a mountainous country, Bulgaria has some significant weather changes during the year, and winter can be quite cold even on the Black Sea coast. This means that it is important to visit a property during the cold season as well as in the summer. It is smart to think about the weather during the whole year and to consider central heating, although air-conditioning is really a luxury.
Central heating systems in Bulgaria are usually powered by electricity, gas, oil, solid fuel or solar power. Most rural properties use fire wood and an electric boiler as a back-up. Whatever form of heating is used, it’s essential to have good insulation. Without it up to 60 per cent of heat generated can be lost through the walls and roof.
In larger towns, houses and apartments are heated by hot water which is pumped by the local heating company. The system is still quite inefficient, although the municipal government subsidises the cost to consumers. It is done mainly to ensure that low-income tenants, mostly pensioners, can afford to keep their homes warm during the wintertime.
Since the country switched to a market economy, electricity prices have substantially risen, and homeowners should prepare around 300 lev (€150) per month to heat an average two-bedroom house in winter, compared to around 100 lev (€50) when using an oil-fired system or 50 lev (€25) when using a wood-fired system. As a result, many Bulgarians have recently switched to wood-fired heating systems to save money.
Electricity prices have significantly risen after the switch to a market-based economy and are now quite similar to those in the UK at 0.17 lev (€0.08) per kilowatt hour (kWh). Night-time rates are lower in most areas. Most people who live in apartments in larger towns use a combination of oil-fired heaters and electricity if not supplied by the district heating company. Off-peak storage heaters are an economical solution for smaller, well insulated properties.
Gas central heating is common in the cities and towns where mains gas systems are available, but in rural areas wood burning heaters are more popular. For those who have access to mains gas, it’s usually the best choice for heating, as it’s clean, economical and efficient. A gas-fired boiler is usually quite small and can easily be mounted on a wall. In areas without a mains gas system, homeowners can use a gas tank installed on their property or use gas that is delivered in bottles. In these cases, additional space for the tank is needed and piping will add to the already considerable cost of a gas tank. This heating system also requires regular maintenance and tends to increase the household insurance.
Heating oil costs have risen along with the worldwide rise in crude oil prices, making it an expensive option for Bulgarians. In rural areas it is not common for people to use oil to heat their homes, mainly because wood is cheaper. Those who live in remote areas or have properties that are difficult to access should be aware that fuel companies may not be able to get delivery trucks to their houses. Roughly calculated, homeowners would require around 1,000 litres of oil to heat a two-bedroom house through the year. At the current price, which is around 1.7 lev per litre, it costs around 1,700 lev (€850) per year.
The gas network in Bulgaria is considered to be small, with only 500km of pipeline, although the process of "gasification" is slowly growing. Only 30 towns are currently served by the gas network. Those are Bourgas, Kyustendil, Pleven, Plovdiv, Ruse, Shumen, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Varna and Vratsa. Villages that are close to these towns can also have mains gas access much more easily than some remote rural areas.
Many rural homes have cookers and some water heaters that use bottled gas. When moving into a new property it is smart to check if the gas bottle is full. Keeping a spare bottle or two can be quite handy if theres a need to change the bottles, which can be quite a complicated procedure.
The water supply in Bulgaria has suffered from years of underdevelopment. For example, the main cities suffer massive water leaks due to ageing pipes, while in the countryside over a third of rural properties aren’t even connected to mains water. Only one in ten towns has a sewerage system. Nevertheless, mains water is safe to drink in the cities, although many people in rural areas choose to drink bottled water and use tap water only for washing up and watering the garden.
Mains water costs always depend on the location of the property, although its usually no more than 25 to 35 lev (€12–17) per month. Homeowners don’t pay water charges for well water or water from a stream or river running through their property.
Taking your pets to Bulgaria
If expats wish to take their pets to Bulgaria, it’s important that they check the latest regulations. They should make sure they have the correct papers, not just for Bulgaria but for all the countries they must pass through to get there.
If exporting a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, mouse or ferret to Bulgaria from the UK, people should have their pets microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood tested at least a month after the rabies vaccination, just to be sure that the animal has sufficient protection against the disease. These pets will need to stay a minimum of 30 days in Bulgaria after the blood test to make sure they haven’t contracted rabies. If returning with a pet from Bulgaria to an EU country owners need to obtain a "pet passport", details of which are available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Rabies is endemic in Bulgaria, especially in rural areas, so every pet will need evidence of a rabies vaccination to enter this country. Resident dogs need an annual rabies booster and it is recommended that they are also vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Adenovirus or canine hepatitis – an acute viral disease which attacks the liver;
- Distemper – a potentially fatal viral infection;
- Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease which can be transmitted to humans and can be fatal;
- Lyme disease – a parasitic disease carried by ticks which can also be transmitted to humans;
- Parvovirus or Parvo – an intestinal virus;
- Tracheobronchitis – known as kennel cough and one of the most common canine diseases, which can lead to fatal complications.
Buy Property[back to top]
Bulgarian law allows foreign nationals to buy property in this country with certain limitations. All foreigners can buy apartments in Bulgaria in their own names, but there are some additional terms and conditions. Most of the apartments for sale in Bulgaria are usually sold without parts of the land, so it can be said that in most of the cases buyers would be able to buy an apartment without any limitations. When buying a house with a garden or a plot of land, buyers must know that land cannot be sold to foreign persons and can only be bought by registering with a Bulgarian company.
Exceptions to this rule are now applicable to EU physical and legal persons. These citizens are allowed to buy houses with gardens and regulated plots of land in Bulgaria in their own names as physical persons. The Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria to the EU allowed Bulgaria to keep the prohibition for EU physical and legal persons to buy land in Bulgaria for up to 5 years for land and up to 7 years for forests and agricultural land. This rule applies to houses with gardens, all plots that are within the zoning of settlements, apartments coming with ideal parts of land, offices and other commercial properties. The same regulation applies for citizens of countries from the European Economic Area (EEA). For all foreign persons who are not citizens of EU or EEA countries, the overall restriction to buy land in Bulgaria is still valid, which means that they need to register first.
How to buy property in Bulgaria
To begin with, the best place to look for properties is on the internet, as there are numerous websites with a huge variety of properties. After that it is best to contact the estate agents who are responsible for the listings and they usually advise buyer on any issue related to buying a property in Bulgaria. Once the list of properties is made, the potential buyer should choose a date to view these properties.
After the buyer has made their choice the purchase process starts. It consists of the following steps:
1. The chosen property needs to be reserved and taken off the market. After the unit is selected, as a rule the buyer has to pay a deposit to the amount of 2,000 EUR. Only after that will the property be marked as reserved on the site and will be no longer available for sale
2. After paying the deposit a preliminary agreement with the owner is signed within 30 days. The agreement settles the basic conditions which will later be copied to the Notary Deed. The conditions include a description of the property, the price, conditions and terms of payment, and for off-plan properties, the term for finishing the property
3. Drawing up of the Notary Deed (the same as a Title Deed in the UK) which is considered the legal document certifying the ownership of the property. It is drawn up by the local notary public in the presence of the buyer and the seller
4. The notary public certifies the deed and registers it with the Registry Agency. This is also noted in the notary deed
5. Only for legal persons: a week after receiving the Notary Deed the lawyers enter the legal person - the buyer of the property - in the system of the Bulgarian National Statistics Institute. The property owner (legal person) will then receive a card with a unique BULSTAT number (ID number) under which all issues related to the property will be accounted. Within a two-week period the lawyers will also register the property and its owner (the company) in the tax office.
Annual tax on the property
After buying a property in Bulgaria the owner must consider paying annual property taxes. There are usually two property taxes to be paid: the property tax and the garbage collection, which are paid at the local municipality. The owners have to pay their water, electricity and heating bills on a monthly basis. If they bought a property in a gated development, they would also need to pay fees for security, maintenance and management.
Expat property buying in Bulgaria
In recent years, property buying in Bulgaria is the fastest growing asset in the market. Lately property prices in Bulgaria have increased by more than 25% in general. Some real estate has gone up by 50% in one year, especially in the capital of Sofia, in the Black Sea beach resorts and in some ski resorts.
The improved economic conditions, along with the political and social stability in Bulgaria since entering the European Union have brought a real boom in the prices of property in Bulgaria. Another important factor for the rising property market is the huge tourism potential on the Black Sea coast. There are great natural attractions such as high mountains, the beautiful and clean Black Sea coast, preserved rural areas, minimal urbanization and thousands of years of history. Nowadays Bulgaria is considered to be among the fastest growing tourist destinations in Europe.
Since 2007, Bulgarian laws have been constantly improving and changing in accordance with the laws in other countries of the European Union. Bulgaria has one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the Balkan region. Foreign investment typically counts on establishing a joint venture with existing companies (state-owned or private), acquiring companies through privatization, setting up a new (green field) venture, or making a portfolio investment. Foreign investors can purchase property in Bulgaria directly or through a local company. Only Bulgarian-resident individuals and entities can own land, while non-residents may acquire only buildings.
The law does not limit the extent or amount of foreign participation in companies like in some other European countries. Foreign individuals and companies can open an unlimited number of accounts in Bulgarian banks, in any currency.
Some useful information about the current prices of properties in Bulgaria can be found on the following websites:
Register For Healthcare[back to top]
QUICK LINK: Bulgaria health insurance
As in most European countries, medical staff in Bulgaria are well trained, but the level of facilities and is not up to the standards of some other EU countries. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the progress, execution and supervision of the National Health Service and policy in this country. Regional Health Centres are in charge of administration in each of the 28 administrative districts in Bulgaria. Health insurance contributions are mandatory for everyone among the working population.
Bulgarian nationals are entitled to free or subsidised state medical care from a doctor, free referrals to a specialist, reduced price medicines and dental treatment. All Bulgarians have a National Insurance number which entitles them to use the state healthcare system, and employers are usually responsible for enrolling employees into the health insurance fund. Fees are split between the employer and the employee and they are directly taken from employees’ salaries to the Bulgarian social security (NOI). Contributions from working people are around 15 BGN per month. The figure is determined each year by the Bulgarian parliament which determines the budget for the National Health fund. Self-employed persons are obliged to pay the entire contribution themselves. Dependant family members are covered by the employed family member, meaning higher rates of contribution in this case.
The unemployed, the poor, pensioners, students, soldiers, civil servants and other vulnerable categories, like the Roma population, are exempt from payment. Registered foreign residents must also contribute to the Bulgarian national insurance fund regardless of whether they are employed or not. Otherwise they can consider private healthcare. It is not uncommon that Bulgarian hospitals treat foreign residents who hold European Health Identity Cards under this reciprocal scheme, while foreigners from EU member states are required to provide copies of their EHIC once they register.
The standard of private healthcare in Bulgaria is considered to be higher than public healthcare, but this is reflected in the fees that private practitioners charge. The system for reimbursement of private medical charges is time-consuming as well. Many foreigners come to Bulgaria to take advantage of the private healthcare system, which is considered much cheaper than in some Western European countries.
Most small towns in Bulgaria have at least one doctor that is always available but patients can also register with a doctor of their choice in any town. Doctors are responsible for referring patients to specialists and hospitals. However, they are not well trained in general practice and tend to make referrals to specialists or hospitals. Patients who visit specialists without a referral have to pay for any services provided. Some employers have their own clinics that employ a GP to serve the medical needs within the company. Under-the-table payments can occur, especially within the expat population, although membership of the EU has meant that such practices are being addressed.
Polyclinics were also included in the previous Bulgarian healthcare system, but when the new system was adopted, their function changed. The name "Polyclinic" can still be found on many former polyclinic buildings. Today, they provide specialist diagnostic and consultation centres for outpatient care. They are owned by the municipalities that govern each region. Some polyclinics offer only specialist outpatient care and are staffed by consultants who are specialists in a particular field of medicine. Some are attached to companies and others are open to the general population. Some of them offer dental services.
Hospitals and clinics can be found in all major towns and cities in Bulgaria, but those who want to access them from remote villages can find it quite challenging. Bulgaria has 30 specialist hospitals, which include hospitals for active treatment care for patients with acute diseases, cosmetic and surgical operations and obstetrics. On the other hand, hospitals for completion of treatment take care of the people who need rehabilitation or long term care. Rehabilitation care hospitals offer services to patients who need treatment like physiotherapy.
The best-qualified medical staff are employed in urban areas. Facilities in the majority of Bulgarian hospitals are in an adequate state. However, the health service has been poorly funded in recent years, so many hospitals still need some repairs. There is also a quite low ratio of nurses and consequently, general nursing duties such as changing sheets and administering meals sometimes have to be done by the family members of the patient.
Patients can be admitted to hospital only after a doctor or specialist referral. If going to the hospital without a referral, patients can only be admitted if the hospital has assessed whether they really need hospital care and if it is deemed necessary. Otherwise, patients must pay for their care themselves. There are various types of hospitals in Bulgaria and doctors tend to send patients to those that are best for their needs regardless of hospitals location in the country. This way, patients can often end up hundreds of miles away from home for prolonged periods.
Emergency cases are usually taken care of in the nearest medical institution until the patients condition is brought under control or until they are transferred to another hospital.
Until recently, pharmacies, known as Apteka, were not regulated by the state, so it was possible to buy a wide range of drugs over the counter, including antibiotics. Since 2007, qualified pharmacists must run pharmacies, but it is still possible to obtain medicines which are usually reserved for prescription in other countries, directly from the pharmacist.
Many doctors and dentists turned private with the introduction of the free market following the fall of communism in the early 1990s, leading to a huge development of private practices. This meant that clinics had to invest in better technology and provide better staff training and service in order to be competitive in the new Bulgarian market. At the same time, a low wage economy forced them to keep their prices down. It means that today there is a well-equipped private sector for medical work, cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dental surgery, with low prices compared to other European countries. For example breast enhancement surgery usually costs no more than €2,500 and a face lift is around €1,200. Bulgarian dental prices are quite low, with initial treatments as low as €10.
Useful information can found on the official website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Health.
Open A Bank Account[back to top]
After the banking crisis in Balkans in the mid-1990s, a Banking Consolidation Company was set up in 1996 in order to restructure and consolidate Bulgaria’s banking sector. All state-owned banks went private in 2000, while smaller commercial banks were either taken over by larger Bulgarian corporations or bought out by new foreign banks. Commercial banks in Bulgaria provide a full range of banking services. There are currently 28 commercial banks, more than 90 % of which are foreign-owned, and there are six branches of foreign banks as well.
The largest Bulgarian bank is Bulbank, which was taken over by Italian Unicredito in 2000. The second largest is DSK Bank, which is owned by the Hungarian OTP Bank. The National Bank of Greece holds a majority stake in United Bulgarian Bank, which is considered to be the country’s third largest bank. The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) is the authority which sets interest rates and regulates other banks.
Post Office Banking
As in many other countries, the most popular banking facility and the bank with the most branches in this country is the Post Bank. It is jointly owned by the American insurance group AIG and an international private bank, EFG. The Post Bank has 30 branches and a presence in more than 2000 post offices. In rural areas, where the nearest bank is often many kilometers away, many people choose the post office for banking services. Another advantage of the post office is that many branches are open for longer hours than regular banks. Post office accounts provide the same services as bank accounts, including international money transfers, which can be made by post and Western Union telegraph, and payment of bills. The Post Bank also offers internet banking.
There are many foreign banks with a substantial presence in Bulgaria, which include the French banks Société Générale and BNP Paribas, Austrian Raiffeisen Bank, Dutch bank ING and American bank Citibank. There are also numerous Greek banks with branches in Bulgaria, including the National Bank of Greece and Piraeus Bank. Those who travel abroad often or carry out international business transactions may find that the services provided by a foreign bank are more suited to their needs. These banks are also more likely to have staff that speak English and other foreign languages.
The popularity of internet banking in Bulgaria is growing, but it is still limited by the poor quality of the telecommunications network. A number of banks offer online banking services, but the range of services available and the cost varies from one bank to another. Some banks allow clients only to view their account balance. When registering for internet banking, clients’ access details are normally posted to them in about 7 days, so they need to be in Bulgaria for at least a week or have someone who can collect their post.
In general, bank opening hours are from 09.00 to 16.00, Mondays to Fridays, although some banks may open any time between 08.00 and 10.00 and close between 15.00 and 17.00.
Opening an Account
Expats can open a bank account in Bulgaria whether they have resident or non-resident status. It’s advisable to check which banks have branches nearby and whether they have staff that are able to speak foreign languages. This is not so common in some smaller towns, so expats usually choose to open an account at a bank’s Bourgas, Plovdiv, Sofia or Varna branch. To open an account in Bulgaria, clients need only a valid passport and evidence of their address in Bulgaria, if they have one. It is usually enough to have a utility bill. There’s no particular charge, but all new clients must make an opening deposit of at least a few Lev or Euros.
Most banks offer the choice between the Lev account and the Euro account. It is also possible to open both accounts at the same time. Those who wish to transfer money using a foreign exchange dealer will need a Lev account, because many dealers can deposit money only in the local currency. Euro accounts are often used for paying larger sums such as management fees or building work invoices, and for handling some rent payments. It is quite easy to transfer money from the Lev account into the Euro account if necessary. Bulgarian banks commonly charge for everything including for withdrawing money, so shopping around for the best deal is a good idea, looking for the lowest fees and an interest-bearing account. Internet banking fees may vary from one bank to another, but it is best to check with banks directly.
Learn The Language[back to top]
Bulgarian is the only official language in the country. It is spoken by the vast majority of the Bulgarian population and is used at all levels of society. It is an Indo-European language and a member of the Slavic linguistic group. Its closest relative is Macedonian and the main difference between the two is on a dialect level. Bulgarian is written with the Cyrillic alphabet, which is also used in other languages, such as Russian and Serbian.
According to the 2001 census, 84.5% of the countrys population speaks Bulgarian natively. The 2001 census defines an ethnic group as a "community of people, related to each other by origin and language, and close to each other by mode of life and culture", and ones mother tongue as "the language a person speaks best and usually uses for communication in the family (household)".
Turks make the largest minority group in the country. The Turks in Bulgaria are descendants of Turkish settlers who came from Anatolia across the narrows of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th century. There were also many Bulgarian converts to Islam during the centuries of Ottoman rule in Balkans.
The Roma are the second largest minority group in the country. The Roma in Bulgaria are descendants of Romani nomadic migrants who came from India across the narrows of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, in the late 13th century and following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th century, but also during the five centuries of Ottoman occupation.
According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2005, Russian was the most commonly spoken foreign language in Bulgaria, with 35% of population claiming a working knowledge of it, followed by English with 23%, Italian and Spanish with 12%, and French with 9%. In the 2012 Eurobarometer survey, the situation was slightly different, with 25% of people saying they know English well enough in to be able to have a conversation, and only 23% answering Russian, which was a decrease of 12 points. This happened because many people who used to learn Russian in school come from an older generation and many of them have forgotten how to speak the language. The other reason is that Russian is not so common anymore in schools in Bulgaria.
When asked which two languages, other than their mother tongue, would be the most useful for children to learn in their future, a vast majority of respondents said English (90%), with German coming second (36%), and Russian third (14%).
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, and also a member of the Southern branch of the Slavic language family, along with Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. It is the language of the Bulgarians and Pomaks. Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, with which it forms the East South Slavic languages group, has several characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages. These differences include the elimination of case declension, the development of a suffixed definite article and the lack of a verb infinitive, but it retains and has further developed the Proto-Slavic verb system. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Bulgarian became one of the official languages of the European Union as well.
The development of the Bulgarian language can be easily divided into several periods.
Prehistoric period – occurred between the Slavonic migration to eastern Balkans and the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia in the 860s.
Old Bulgarian (9th to 11th century) – also referred to as Old Church Slavonic, it is a literary norm of the early southern dialect of the Common Slavic language from which Bulgarian evolved. It was used by Saints Cyril and Methodius and their disciples to translate the Bible and other liturgical literature from Greek into Slavic.
Middle Bulgarian (12th to 15th century) – a literary norm that evolved from the earlier Old Bulgarian, after major linguistic innovations were introduced. It was a language of rich literary activity and the official administration language of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
Modern Bulgarian – dates from the 16th century, undergoing general grammar and syntax changes in the 18th and 19th century. Modern written Bulgarian was standardized on the basis of the 19th century Bulgarian vernacular. The historical development of the Bulgarian language can be described as a transition from a highly synthetic language to a typical analytic language with Middle Bulgarian as the main point of this transition.
As the size of Bulgarias English-speaking community grows, the prevalence of this language is also visible. It is the most common second language in the Sofia, where a wide range of facilities are available for English-speaking expats. Some people may also speak German or French. Until 1989, all Bulgarian children had to learn Russian in school, though many people chose not to speak it in public. Nowadays, children learn either English or German instead. The Russian and Bulgarian languages have much in common, so Russian speakers can communicate in Bulgaria more easily than visitors from other countries.
Bulgarian is a southern Slavic language, written with the Cyrillic alphabet. A significant amount of Turkish vocabulary has infiltrated the language, due to the influence of the lengthy Ottoman occupation. Though Bulgarian can be a difficult language to master, it is much easier to make some progress once the alphabet is learned. It can be extremely beneficial to learn Bulgarian when moving to this country because communicating effectively with officials is important, as well as reading road signs. Each area in Bulgaria offers language courses to expats, and it might be best to ask other expats for their recommendations. Bulgarian television and newspapers can also be very helpful when learning the language. It is important and interesting fact that Bulgarians actually shake their head for "Yes" and nod for "No".
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Bulgarias education system consists of three types of schools: state, municipal and private, which also includes religious. The levels are primary, from 1st to 4th grade; basic, from 5th to 7th grade; and secondary, from 8th to 12th grade. There are two terms in the school year. The first one runs from mid-September to the end of January, while the second one is from February to June. All Bulgarian secondary schools follow the same curriculum, which means that subjects include mathematics, Bulgarian and foreign literature, foreign languages, history, geography, biology, physics, chemistry, computer sciences, psychology, philosophy, ethics and law, music, arts, vocational training and physical education. The grading system for all Bulgarian secondary schools is based on a six-point scale and it goes from "fair" to "excellent". Bulgaria also has some language schools that start with an extra year of intensive language training, which includes around 20 classes a week. This is designed in order to equip students with enough linguistic competence to study all major subjects.
Education in Bulgaria is mainly overseen by the state through the Ministry of Education and Science. School education is compulsory for children from seven to sixteen years of age. The Bulgarian educational system follows the European continental tradition. The main types of secondary schools include general educational, vocational, language schools and foreign schools. There are fifty-one higher educational institutions in Bulgaria that offer various degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels. The academic year for most Bulgarian universities begins around October 1st and consists of fall and spring semesters. It lasts for 30 weeks.
The Ministry of Education and Science web site has more information.
Grading System in Bulgaria
All academic courses are graded from 2 to 6 according to the following standards:
• 6 (A) – Excellent (91.5 -100%)
• 5 (B) – Very Good (80.5 – 91.4%)
• 4 (C) – Good (70.5 – 80.4%)
• 3 (D) – Sufficient (59.5 – 70.4%)
• 2 (F) – Poor (0 – 59.4%)
6.0, which is the equivalent of 4.0 in the United States, is the highest possible GPA. As a matter of policy, Bulgarian education institutions do not rank or rate their students.
Languages of Study
The official language of instruction in this country is Bulgarian. At the school level, the general curriculum provides opportunities for ethnic minority children to study their mother tongue as well.
In specialized language schools and in some profile-oriented schools, the instruction is also in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Armenian, Hebrew, Russian, and other languages. At university level, instruction language at the American University is English, in some programs in technical universities it is English, German and French.
Primary and Secondary Education
The Ministry of Education and Science creates and applies the national education policy, and also organizes the development of education by putting together long-term programs and operational projects. Education in Bulgaria is compulsory from the ages of 7 to 16. Children complete their compulsory education in upper secondary schools.
Basic education refers to grades 1 to 8, which includes primary school at grades 1 to 4 and pre-secondary school at grades 5 to 8.
The Upper Secondary level lasts for 4 or 5 years following the Basic Education Completion Certificate. Upper Secondary education is provided in three types of schools: comprehensive secondary schools, profile-oriented schools and vocational-technical schools.
Basic education is free, except in private schools. Students can enter the profile-oriented schools upon completion of grades 7 or 8 after passing entry examinations, according to the profile of the school.
The curriculum is the same for all the schools in the country. It includes subjects such as Bulgarian, English, French and German literature, Mathematics, Foreign Languages, History, Geography, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Psychology, Ethics and Law, Philosophy, Music, Arts, Vocational Training, and Physical Education.
The school year is divided into two terms: the first is from Mid-September to the end of January, and the second is from the beginning of February to the end of June. At the end of each term students receive term grades in each subject, and at the end of the school year they get the final grades.
There are four types of higher education institutions that include the Higher Education College, the University, the Specialized Higher Education Institution Equivalent to Universities and Technical University, and the Academy.
Private and Public Institutions
The requirements for enrollment depend on the type of school and the particular specialty, as well as how a student has performed on written competitive exams, tests that vary in volume and structure in the different higher schools, and a diploma of completed secondary education. The procedure for application in each specialty is determined on an annual basis and made public in the reference manual of the higher school.
"Specialist in…" Degree
Colleges, which are generally incorporated into the structure of universities, offer some three-year-long vocationally oriented programs that lead to the "Specialist in…" degree. Holders of this qualification are eligible for bachelor-level studies or for entry into the labor market.
First or Bachelor’s Degree
Four to five years of study is required at this level. The curriculum at the bachelor level provides basic comprehensive training, but also facilitates direct access to the labor market. About two thirds of graduated bachelors continue their education in various master programs.
Second or Master’s Degree
This level requires one to two years of additional studies after the bachelor’s degree. The new Master’s degree is currently offered in parallel with the traditional, which is the integrated master’s-level degree known as the Diploma of Higher Education. Both these qualifications have the same academic value. Only universities and specialized higher education schools offer a master’s degree of one year, in addition to the bachelor program of four to five years. There are still some long, integrated master’s programs of five to six years in subject areas such as architecture.
Third or Ph.D.
This level requires a minimum of three years’ studies after the master’s degree and leads to the Doctoral degree. Doctoral programs are essentially research programs and the graduates are awarded a Doctor’s degree upon successful defense of their doctoral thesis.
International Schools in Bulgaria
Anglo-American School of Sofia (AAS-Sofia) – (English)
Address: Siyanie Street 1
Pancharevo, Sofia 1137, Bulgaria
Tel: 359 2 9238810 11
Tuition Rates: €5,835 - 21,345 per year
Zlatarski International School (English)
Address: 49 Kliment Ohridski blvd
Sofia, Bulgaria 1756
Tel: 359 2 974 36 66
Tuition Rates: €3,500 - 8,000 per year
American College of Sofia (English)
Address: Floyd Black Lane, MLADOST-2
Sofia 1799, Bulgaria
Tel: (359-2) 434 10 08, 434 10 10, 434 10 11
Tuition Rates: €5,700 - 14,500 per year
Lycée Victor-Hugo de Sofia (French)
Address: 110 Simeonovsko chaussée
Sofia 1700 Bulgaria
Tel: (00359-2) 963 29 64, 963 21 19
Tuition Rates: Inquire at school
Ecole Francophone Internationale de Varna (EFIV) – (French)
Address: Varna 9006 Bulgarie
Tel: +359 879 533 802
Tuition Rates: Inquire at school
Address: 18 Marin Dochev Hristov str.
Tel: 359 2 9311467
Tuition Rates: Inquire at school
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