On 14 October a new ordinance was published in the State gazette introducing a so called Start up visa for third country nationals – a certificate for hi-tech and/or innovative business project. The certificate is not a new type of entry visa. Instead, its possession and at least 50% participation in a Bulgarian entity will be grounds for a third country national to receive a long-term residence permit valid for one year.
The certificate will be issued by an expert council at the Ministry of innovations and growth further to a points-based assessment of the business project made within 30 days of filing an electronic application. Some of the criteria are existence of negotiated investment in the project, client network, realistic forecasts for scaling, patents. Similarly to other immigration procedures, there is a requirement for proof of sufficient funds for the applicant. Up to three foreign nationals would be able to benefit from one Start up visa.
The total duration of the immigration procedure to obtain a long-term residence permit is expected to be similar to the one applicable for highly qualified workers – namely 3 months of which:
- 1 month for a Startup visa
- 1 month for visa D
- 2 weeks for long-term residence permit.
In comparison with the other type of procedure most widely used for foreigners in the cases of starting a new business in Bulgaria – the one for registered directors, in the case of the Start up visa there will be no requirement for hiring at 10 Bulgarian or EU citizens, but the term to receive the residence permit will likely be longer. The Start up visa would at least increase the opportunities for individuals who previously had no ground to physically join the startup ecosystem in Bulgaria.