Working in Bulgaria
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Finding work in Bulgaria can be a challenge as the country, plagued by corruption and organised crime, continues its struggle to recover from the downturn.
Unemployment levels have reduced from previous heights and inflation is under control, but living standards remain low; although equally the cost of living is also low so it can be a very affordable place to live.
Job opportunities do exist in the larger cities, especially for those with language abilities, specific job experience and IT skills. Most opportunities will be for specialists working for multinational companies; local companies usually recruit Bulgarian graduates before considering those from overseas.
Speaking Bulgarian (the official language) is useful and many jobs will require a good command of one or more foreign languages. English is most popular, followed by German, French and Russian.
Seasonal work in the ski industry is usually relatively easy to come by, although wages are likely to be low.
Where can you work?
Major industries: machinery and equipment, chemicals and plastics, food and drink, electricity, gas, water, tobacco, base metals, coke, refined petroleum, nuclear fuel.
Other rapidly developing areas are IT, telecommunications and the financial sector.
The agricultural sector has modernised radically in the last 5–6 years and a Rural Development Programme – adopted by the European Commission and scheduled to run until 2020 – will see considerable investment made into the sector.
Recent growth areas: IT, telecommunications and financial- particularly in the investment and banking sectors.
Major companies: AstraZeneca Bulgaria, GlaxoSmithKline, Lidl Bulgaria, Lukoil Bulgaria, NEK EAD (National Electric Company), McDonald's Bulgaria, MobilTel, Petrol AD, SAP Labs Bulgaria, Telerik, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
What’s it like working in Bulgaria?
- Average working hours: the normal working day is eight hours long and Bulgarians work five days a week.
- Holidays: the annual leave is a minimum of 20 days. There is also an entitlement to 13 public holidays.
- Tax rates: all individuals are subject to a flat tax rate of 10% which is deducted automatically from an employee’s monthly earnings. The value-added tax rate in Bulgaria is 20%. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
The majority of graduate positions will be within multinational companies, with the jobs being arranged before arrival in the country.
The application and interview processes in Bulgaria are similar to those used in the UK. A CV and covering letter is the norm, although some large international companies use application forms.
The employer usually asks for further information and documents before moving on to the interviews, so have any qualification certificates, evidence of work experience and references prepared in advance.
Interviews are formal and may be conducted in Bulgarian or English, depending on the requirements of the job. Assessment centres may be used by larger international companies.
See Application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- EURES – European Job Mobility Portal – job search facility and network of careers advisers.
- Jobs.bg – many jobs available in English.
- JobTiger – jobs available in English and Bulgarian.
- Karieri – many vacancies available in English.
- Zaplata – jobs in Bulgarian.
- Bulgaria is represented among the members of the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT).
- Some UK-based employment agencies deal with international vacancies or have branches in Bulgaria. Search Angloinfo for a list of recruitment agencies.
(Mostly in Bulgarian)
- 24 Chasa
- Onlinenewspapers.com provides a list of newspapers and other media sources available in Bulgaria.
- JobTiger organises a series of 'Career Days' focused on particular sectors, which are aimed at students and graduates.
- LinkedIn is used by Bulgarian companies to advertise vacancies.
- Networking and personal contacts play a role in finding vacancies.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014 to 2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
Some large international companies offer internships and placements. Check individual websites for information.
AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) provides an international exchange programme for students and recent graduates. They offer voluntary and paid work placements in professional organisations, schools and charities in a range of countries, including Bulgaria.
There are some opportunities for teaching English in Bulgaria. You will need a recognised TEFL or other teaching qualification. Vacancies are likely to be found in schools or international companies offering English courses to their Bulgarian employees.
Seasonal work is sometimes available in the main mountain ski resorts and seaside resorts of the country. The pay for unskilled jobs is extremely low, often at the minimum wage of €208 per month and sometimes not even that. Opportunities are usually advertised in the newspapers or on job websites.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are some volunteering projects in Bulgaria, mainly in conservation and youth work.
Do you need a visa?
EU nationals do not need a visa or work permit for Bulgaria but citizens of non-EU countries may be required to have these documents and should check with their embassy.
EU citizens may enter Bulgaria on a passport and stay for up to three months. If you plan to stay in the country for more than three months you will need to register with the police and apply for a continuous residence certificate.
To do this you will have to show that you are either employed, enrolled as a student or have sufficient funds to support yourself without being a burden on Bulgaria’s social security provision. You will be provided with a temporary residence permit which will be valid for up to five years.
If you are not a UK national, contact the Bulgarian embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you are living in the UK, go to the Bulgarian Embassy in London.
You might also find it helpful to contact your ministry of foreign affairs (or your own embassy if you are not living in your home country) to ask whether there are any issues to be taken into account when considering working in Bulgaria.
How do you become a permanent resident?
EU nationals who live in Bulgaria continuously for five years are issued with a permanent residence permit.
Living in Bulgaria
- Cost of living: food and drink in Bulgaria are generally cheaper than in the UK, although wages can be low (unless working in a skilled job for a large or multinational company). Property prices are also generally lower.
- Internet domain: .bg
- Currency: Lev (fixed to the Euro)
- Health: UK citizens should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as this entitles you to state provided medical treatment on the same terms as a Bulgarian national. Standards of medical care are acceptable, although facilities in most Bulgarian hospitals are basic compared to those in the UK and specialised equipment and treatment may not be available. Bulgarian hospital staff rarely speak English. Private hospitals are generally better equipped and most now accept the EHIC, but you should check first.
- Type of government: parliamentary democracy.
- Laws and customs: drug-related and sex offences are taken very seriously and will usually result in a prison sentence. Drunken and disorderly behaviour may be treated more seriously than in the UK. Although homosexuality is not illegal, the gay community generally keeps a low profile. Do not take photographs near politically sensitive areas such as military establishments.
- Emergency numbers: the European emergency number is 112 for anywhere in the EU. You can also use 150 (ambulance), 166 (police) and 160 (fire brigade). UK citizens can get a range of services from the British Embassy in Bulgaria.
- People: Bulgarian with Turkish and Roma minorities.
- Major religion: Christianity