Thinking of moving to Bulgaria, Please help make sense of the process?

We're a family with two young children. We're mostly dual citizens US and Israel (and German).
We're currently residing in a Chicago suburb. Arrived back here in Dec after spending a year in Israel. So we've been moving lots including container hopping.
I have been to Bulgaria and love the country and people.
I would like to see if we can move to Bulgaria to live closer to nature. Something to do with a small B&B.

My questions are about the chicken and the egg and the other eggs.
Can we arrive in Bulgaria as tourists and then apply for a permanent visa? can we open a business while on a visa? At what point can we bring our belongings (container)? Not that we need anything special but we started from scratch twice in the past 4 years. Can't take a 3rd.
Anyway, hope someone can make sense of the process for me.
Thank you much,

Shalom David, I'm Swedish and live in Melbourne but also lived in Israel. Got a house and apartment in VT, very nice area. Please feel free to contact me any time. Behatzlacha!

In general, you cannot apply for a long term visa or residence while in Bulgaria unless you have EU citizenship. Non-EU, you have to apply in your home country or a country where you currently have long term residence status. I have known a few people who got around this- but one had been in Bulgaria for two years on a long term visa and then her work (and the visa connected with it) ended, and they allowed her to reapply for a long term visa while here. The other went to Serbia, established residence there, and applied in Serbia. I did something similar where I went to Turkey and established residence as a student there, and was able to apply at the Bulgarian embassy in Turkey. But in general, if you are not EU, you have to get your Bulgarian d-visa before you come. The process takes about 3 months after you apply... and it generally takes 1-2 months to get a background check completed for the application, so around 4-5 months for the visa process.

I would think you can import your container at any time, but if you have a long term permit, you are allowed 1 import of items you own without paying import taxes, so I would wait until you have your permit.

As for opening a business, I THINK you can, but I don't have experience in this area so I don't want to say for sure you can. Hopefully someone else can chime in.

Thank you so much 'kojidae' for the information.
If I may, I'd like to ask you a couple more questions.
I see that you are living in Gabrovo. How many months of the year do you believe are too cold to do any outdoor tourism in the central Balkan area (or the many are)?
Also, coming from the US, do you have any thoughts about what you would bring to Bulgaria, if anything?

If one of the adults is a German citizen, he or she can come here and establish immediate residency. And so long as he or she can prove that they can support the other spouse, they can subsequently bring the spouse and children with them.

Nothing electrical is worth bringing to BG.

As for outdoor tourism, we live in South-Central Bulgaria (the Plovdiv region). You can enjoy outdoor activity nine months of the year here; the other three months you can drive down (four hours) down to Greece.

By the way, the only place to get kosher food is through the Chabad in Sofia.


Honestly, most of the winter is too cold for me to go out, but I am from Arizona. ;)

In reality, there is tourism in the mountains around Gabrovo year round. In the summer there is hiking and cycling. In winter, there is cross-country and light downhill skiing. (The main skiing areas are in the south, but there is skiing for beginners-intermediate here and plenty of cross country). So, there are outdoor activities to attract tourists here year round. There are also mountain huts that are open (and in use) year round, so I would say that both the summer and winter tourism is pretty good. We have taken the scouts up to the mountains around Gabrovo in both summer and winter.

As far as what to take to Bulgaria... I moved here with a large suitcase and a backpack 7 years ago. I haven't really missed anything from the states. Most apartments and homes are rented or sold furnished. It is actually difficult to find unfurnished places, unless you are buying a new build. I would say if you are working online at all, you would want to buy a good computer/tablet from the US. They are available here, of course, but I paid $200 more for my laptop (lenovo yoga) here than I would have in the US. If you use a mac, definitely bring from the US- the prices here are always more. The same goes for e-readers and the such- they are all available here but they are quite a bit more expensive due to the import.

I didn't see how old your kids are, but if you have baby or toddler gear they still use, I would bring it. Again, there are plenty of cheap options here, but the high quality brands are more expensive than they are in the US. Specifically carriers for babies. If your kids are beyond that age I wouldn't worry about it.

I buy almost all of my clothes second hand- they are cheap and of good quality. Same with the furniture. Gabrovo has a bunch of second hand shops- they are known for being the most stingy people in Bulgaria. I honestly can't think of anything I used in the US that I can't get here.

Other than that, I would say everything can be purchased here for decent prices.

Thank you VillageGirl
That helps a lot.
It also seems as though the south will be better suited. I've been to Plovdiv as a backpacker back in the days and it was beautiful.
No worries about kosher for us. More worried about true vegetarian and organic (until we can grow our own).

And thanks again kojidae.
That won't work for us. After a few years in Chicago, I won't be able go through freezing winters again (wouldn't be able to stand AZ heat either).
We have a 1 and 4.5 y/o.
We moved to the states twice in the last 5 years, each time with 1 suitcase each. This time, we're hoping to take the kid's stuff with us wherever we go. Clothes too. My wife buys amazing second hand clothes and stuff for the kids here too. We're hoping to bring the stash with us in a container or boxes.

My husband is a vegetarian and we grow our own veg and have fruit trees (apple, cherry, plum, pear). The saying here in the Trakyia Valley is, "If you stick it in the ground, it will grow."  Organic products are available. We know Bulgarians who are setting up their organic bee hives in the Stara Planina (mountains).

However, we do get snow and low temps in the winter--just not to the degree that the areas north of the Stara Planina/Balkan mountains receive. If you want to avoid winter extremes, you may want to consider moving to the Sandanski area, which is close to Greece.

As for your comment re running a B&B, the area of Karlovo and Sopot might be an ideal location for you. These towns are close to the Balkan National Park (for hikers), and Sopot is a center for paragliding.


We live on the south side of the Sredna Gora and the weather is generally very good -not to mention the freak winter last year- it is a little milder than Plovdiv bot in the winter and summer. One of the beautiful things about Bulgarian winters is that the sun is still hot, so I don't mind the winter that much and the silence in our village is beautiful when most people have gone to their winter caves in the city :-)

No need to worry about organic or vegetarian, although it depends on where you decide to settle of course. In Plovdiv there is a real surge in organic shops, there are two vegan restaurants that I know and a weekly organic market in the city centre. Recently I noticed that one of the large supermarket chains also sells different kinds of tofu.. Also, there are a few organic farms that do veg boxes in the Plovdiv and Stara Zagora areas. If anyone is interested in these I can give some details in a PM.

Good luck :-)

My only issue with vegetarian meals was when I went over to Bulgarians' homes for meals... often they would slaughter a chicken to cook a meal for me and I would feel bad not eating it after they went through all of the effort of it. And I would remind them I was a vegetarian and they would say- "What? But it is just chicken, not meat." The same with fish...

Thank you Remedias. Do you know when (also where) the organic market in Plovdiv takes place?

Yes, every Tuesday between 16h and 20h on the central square (where the massive postoffice is).

:one Thank you!

Hi Mate

I currently live in the UK but have properties in Bulgaria, we intend to move this year, its not a problem for me to live in Bulgaria as i have EU passport this also applies to EEA countries, however if one of your family has a German / EU passport they can enter Bulgaria Freely, worth checking those of the family that have no EU connection as my wife is Russian and we need to get visa's for her to enter but she can and has applied for residency???
I have a friend that has lived in Bulgaria for man years and knows the in's and out's i could put you in touch with him if you wish....


Thank you Sara.

Thank you Neil. I'm visiting in July and then will make our decision. If it's a go, I'll definitely ask you for that contact.

New topic