Overview of the start-up visa in Bulgaria
Considering the amendments to the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act promulgated in the State Gazette /12th of March 2021/, a huge set of changes in the legislation were adopted such as new types of residency and citizenship grounds, centralization of the procedures, etc.
Most of the adjustments are primarily aiming to ensure the development and improvement of the business environment and competitiveness, in particular the start-up companies with high-tech and innovative ideas which will be implemented in Bulgaria.
I. What’s a start-up company?
Start-up companies are companies in their initial stage of incorporation or development and most often seek to cultivate either high-tech products or services. One of their main features is that they are considered as “high risk”, which invariably defines them as companies having the opportunity to grow very quickly.
II. Needed changes
More than 20 countries in the EU have already adopted adequate rules and provisions assuring the corresponding benefits to invest there and provide the relevant positive incentive measures in that connection. In the past few years, Bulgaria has attracted a variety of investors and entrepreneurs from countries outside the EU that changes in the Bulgarian legislation were inevitable.
Considering all of the above and keeping up with the other European countries, Bulgaria finally has to offer a “start-up” visa attracting innovative companies and developers by giving them the right to apply for a prolonged residence permit on a separate ground.
III. Start-up visa
The “start-up” visa in fact is not a typical visa. As mentioned above, it’s namely a special project certified by the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy (“BME”) and it’s representing a ground for obtaining a prolonged residence permit.
In order to be qualified under this ground, the BME shall confirm that the project is “high-tech” and/or “innovative”. The procedure before the BME is finalized with the issuance of a purposive document, i.e. a certificate for a high-tech or innovative project.
Once obtained, the certificate will serve as the main document for obtaining a visa type “D” (long-term visa) which visa allows its holder to enter the country. The next step would be the actual incorporation of the company corresponding to the certificate and the entrepreneur shall become a shareholder with more than 50% participation in the Bulgarian company, the subject of activity of which is the one declared at the time of issuing the certificate.
Once the aforementioned steps are completed, the entrepreneur has the opportunity to apply for a prolonged residence permit in Bulgaria allowing them to stay close to the project throughout the whole development process. Also, the prolonged residence permit offers the possibility to obtain a permanent residency if all other prerequisites are also met.
IV. High-tech-innovative project
It is not yet finalized what categories of projects will be considered as high-tech and/or innovative. Observing the development of specific sectors and industries worldwide, most likely the main projects expected to fall within the scope of the provisions are in the areas of development of AI, Biotech, E-commerce, FinTech, Telecommunications, Data Analysis and Processing, Cybersecurity, etc.
V. Next steps
The adopted regulations will have a number of positive effects on the startup ecosystem, as well as on the entire economy of the country.
However, in order to enter into force, the „start-up visa” requires the elaboration and implementation of a special procedure before the BME. The expected internal rules and regulations will contain the full information with regard to the grounds, prerequisites, documents, terms, and all relevant information for the issuance of the relevant certificate for a high-tech and/or innovation project. All of the above shall be incorporated in an Ordinance of the Ministry of Economy, which is expected to be adopted within few months.
* The information in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content expresses the opinion of the author on the topic.