Start-up Visa in Bulgaria – Application Process Overview

25 October 2022

Startup Visa, Startups, Private Clients, Citizenship and Immigration

On the 7th of October 2022, the Council of Ministers adopted the Secondary Regulation to the Bulgarian Start-up Visa. This legal framework serves as the final component of the Start-up Visa, which the Government initially introduced in the 2021 Aliens in Bulgaria Act. Designed to attract entrepreneurs seeking to grow high-impact start-ups in Bulgaria, the legislation aims to increase Bulgarian presence in the global tech ecosystem and establish a technological hub on the Balkans.  

The Regulation details the procedure and requirements for issuing a Start-up Visa Certificate (“the Start-up Certificate”), which is the basis for a Type D Visa and a subsequent residence application. 

Application

The procedure may commence with an online application. The applicant should provide information about the project, including:

  • Details of the product/service
  • Presentation 
  • Business plan
  • Financial forecast for the next three years
  • Market analysis
  • Future partnerships forecast

Additional information that may be provided by the applicant, if applicable, evidencing:

  • Patent/Utility model registration (from an EU, USA or OECD country)
  • Documentation evidencing raised funding from a VC fund
  • Seal of excellence under the Horizon and Horizon 2000 programmes
  • Awards won in special innovation/entrepreneurs contests or competitions
  • College degree of founder
  • Scopus or Web of Science publications

Start-up Council 

Similarly to the endorsing bodies in the UK (Innovator Visa)Business Finland in Finland (Finnish Start-up Permit), and the Start-up Denmark expert panel in Denmark (Start-up Denmark), Bulgaria has also tasked a special committee to provide an opinion on the application.

The Bulgarian regulation provides for a Start-up Expert Council (“the Start-up Council”), which will include government officials and individuals involved in NGOs in the start-up and VC ecosystem. The Minister of Innovation and Growth determines the Start-up Council’s exact composition on a case-by-case basis. 

Procedure

Individuals may apply online at the Ministry of Innovation and Growth. All available information and documents ought to be attached. In cases of discrepancies or need for additional information, the applicant shall be given 14 days to provide the requested information or comply with the instructions. If everything is in order, the application is reviewed by the Start-up Council within 30 days. The Start-up Council issues a report which may include the following:

  • a positive opinion as to why the application should approved;
  • a detailed explanation of the reasons to deny the application.

Based on the report, the Minister of Innovation and Growth can either approve or deny the issuance of a Start-up Certificate. 

In total, 3 applicants may benefit from single approval – the applicant and 2 individuals whose contribution is needed for the project’s development. 

Criteria

The Ministry of Innovation and Growth will evaluate each application based on 6 criteria, determined by a numerical points system, including:

  1. Available funds – worth up to 3 points
  2. Financial forecast and initial capital – worth up to 3 points
  3. Client network – worth up to 1 point
  4. Investments (planned or realised for not less than EUR 50,000) – worth up to 1 point
  5. Valid patent or utility model registration – worth up to 1 point
  6. Business plan or presentation – worth up to 5 points

Each of the criteria has a different weight, and the applicant must receive a minimum of 8 out of 14 points.

Visa and Residence

Upon receipt of the Start-up Certificate, applicants can apply for a Type D visa at a Bulgarian Consulate accredited to their country of permanent residence. Once the visa has been obtained the applicant has to come to Bulgaria and may obtain residence valid for up to one year with the option to renew it. 

Renewal

To renew their application, applicants must provide information about the start-up’s progress and evidence that they hold 50% of the capital of a Bulgarian company whose scope is the one signified in the initial application for the Start-up Certificate. The submission has to be made within one month before the expiry of the Start-up Certificate. 

For more information, please contact us at [email protected] or via our contact form.

If you are interested in other types of residence in Bulgaria, you may wish to also check our articles related to residence as an EU Blue Card holder or Trade representative of a foreign company.

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The Bulgarian and dual-qualified lawyers of New Balkans Law Office are regulated by the respective Bar of their registration. New Balkans Law Office is a brand name of Legal Services EOOD, a company registered under Bulgarian law. Reg’d No. 202331677. Further details are available here.

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