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Help for British nationals overseas – guidance
Living in Bulgaria
First published: 22 March 2013
Last updated: 5 May 2014, see all updates
How to stay safe in Bulgaria while living and working there and what UK benefits you’re entitled to.
- Bulgarian residency
- Living conditions and working in Bulgaria
- Driving in Bulgaria
- Earthquakes in Bulgaria
- Terrorism and national emergencies
In order to enter Bulgaria you must hold a valid travel document (eg British passport). For EU citizens, there is no minimum passport validity requirement but you should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your visit.
British citizens, as well as all other EU citizens can enter Bulgaria without a visa and stay for a period up to 3 months. If intending to stay for a longer period than 3 months, EU citizens need to apply for a continuous residence certificate with the Migration Directorate of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior.
EU nationals who have continuously resided in Bulgaria for 5 years and are self-sufficient can apply for a permanent residence certificate. For guidance about the documents required in support of a residence certificate application, please contact either the central office of Migration Directorate on 48 Knyaginya Maria Louisa Boulevard in Sofia or your local regional police department.
The European Commission guide to free movement is a useful source of general information and guidance.
Your Europe Advice provides custom-made legal advice on your rights within the EU free of charge, within 8 calendar days and in any official EU language.
The secret of a successful long-term move to Bulgaria is to integrate with your local community as much as possible by learning the language and registering with the Municipality (Obshtina) as well as the Migration Directorate.
Living conditions and working in Bulgaria
General information on living and working conditions and relocating to Bulgaria. Please follow the links to Bulgarian institutions provided for further specific advice.
Social security rights and pensions in Bulgaria
For information about social security rights and pensions, please read this leaflet designed to offer you a basic introduction to your pension, benefit and healthcare rights and responsibilities. Don’t listen to rumours. Instead, use our list of official sources to start planning ahead today.
If you have retired, and you live in Bulgaria, you could claim your pension from the UK. For detailed information on how to claim your state pension, please check the Pension Service or the Department for Social Development.
If you spend time in both the UK and another EEA country or Switzerland, and are unsure about how this affects your UK pension, benefit and healthcare rights, always consult the relevant UK authority.
Driving in Bulgaria
Please read the general information about EU driving licenses.
The Bulgarian authority responsible for driver and vehicles registration and licensing isKAT. Please note that no English version of their website is available yet so you will need to contact them directly, preferably with the help of a Bulgarian speaker.
Please note: UK driving licences seized by the Bulgarian authorities are returned to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK.
You can find out more about how to plan for your healthcare if you are going to live abroad on a permanent basis on the NHS website.
Before you go to Bulgaria on holiday make sure you bring a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you, and take out private travel insurance.
There will be an important change to UK-funded healthcare for early retirees and visitors from July 1st 2014. See the NHS Choices pages for more details on EHIC changes and changes for early retirees in Europe.
Earthquakes in Bulgaria
Earthquakes are not uncommon in Bulgaria and small tremors are recorded throughout the year. Bulgaria is located in a seismically active area of the world making it susceptible to earthquakes. The most seismically active areas are: Krupnik, Blagoevgrad, Sofia, Maritsa, Shabla, Veliko Turnovo and Gorna Oryahovitsa areas.
From 2001 – 2012 there were several small tremors (below 5 on the Richter) each year. The most devastating earthquake was on 18 September 1858 in Sofia at around 9 on the Richter. In 1901 (Shabla and Kaliakra) and 1904 (the valley of Struma river) there were 4 serious earthquakes at 7.1, 7.2, 7.1 and 7.8 on the Richter with 200 deaths and significant damages. In April 1928 there were three disastrous earthquakes (6.9, 7.0 and 5.6) in Chirpan, Popovitsa and Galabovo that affected 1/7th of Bulgaria’s territory. The major earthquake in Vrancea, Romania measured 7.2 in magnitude in 1977 also affected northern Bulgaria (Svishtov). (Source: Earthquake Hazards Program
The Bulgarian Government is responsible for assisting foreign nationals immediately after a major earthquake or serious natural disaster. It is important to co-operate with the authorities. Despite much research and speculation, nobody can predict when or where a large earthquake might occur, but there are things you can do to be ready. These can make the difference between life and death. In the event of a major earthquake we will try to locate British nationals affected by the disaster and check on their condition. Please note, however, that the embassy may also be severely affected by an earthquake and may not be in a position to offer immediate assistance. Local infrastructure including roads, phone systems and hospitals are also likely to be affected.
We recommend that you make preparations at home and at the office to help you survive an earthquake.
Please note that this information is provided as a general guide only and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual, neither can it be regarded as legal advice. Definitive information should be obtained from the Bulgarian authorities or by consulting a suitably qualified professional. The British Embassy in Sofia bears no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided on the external websites quoted above and cannot guarantee that it is comprehensive and up to date.
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