Bulgaria’s Trade Representative Office Route to EU Permanent Residency

Ivan Petrov

Digital nomads and young entrepreneurs continuously seek viable pathways to residence within the European Union. Bulgaria, now a member of the Schengen Area, presents one such path through its Trade Representative Office (TRO) route, which offers not just residence rights in Bulgaria but access to the broader Schengen Area. 

This article considers how the TRO route can serve as an efficient way for digital nomads to establish their presence in the EU.

The recent accession of Bulgaria to the Schengen acquis marks a pivotal development for those holding a Bulgarian residence permit. This milestone means that digital nomads, through acquiring Bulgarian residence, can now enjoy unrestricted movement across the Schengen Area.

One less capital-intensive route to gaining residence in Bulgaria, and by extension, the EU, is by registering as a trade representative at a Trade Representation Office (TRO) of a company incorporated outside Bulgaria. This pathway is particularly tailored for digital nomads and entrepreneurs looking to explore and eventually expand their business within the Bulgarian market.

The regular IMI reader will find that Bulgaria’s TRO route shares many similarities with Italy’s Representative Office visa, which also serves as a path to residency in the country without investment – crucially without making the representative a tax resident.

Requirements for the company

The company on which the TRO resident bases his application:

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  • Must have been incorporated no fewer than two years ago and must have remained active and tax-compliant throughout that period; and
  • Should have plans to enter the Bulgarian business environment, conduct market research, and prepare for future business expansion.

The company is permitted to appoint up to three Trade Representatives based on its business needs and expansion plans.

Note that the TRO does not operate as a separate entity; it requires no director or shareholders.

Residence Permits for Trade Representatives

Trade Representatives can obtain “prolonged residence” permits, enabling them to settle in Bulgaria. These permits are subject to annual renewal. 

After five years of holding a valid prolonged residence permit—and residing in Bulgaria for over 30 months during this period—Trade Representatives can apply for Permanent Residence or “EU long-term residence.” The latter status allows for residence in another EU country without a visa.

Achieving Permanent Residence and Beyond

Upon completing five years under the TRO scheme, applicants can seek Permanent Residence, which then allows for employment and leads to Bulgarian citizenship, subject to certain requirements.

To initiate the process, you must establish a TRO, secure an office address, provide proof of long-term accommodation in Bulgaria, and appoint up to three individuals as Trade Representatives. 

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Ivan Petrov AuthorSubscriberParticipant

Having studied, lived, and worked in China for almost 8 years, Ivan has strong intercultural skills and extensive knowledge of China and East Asia. Prior to joining NBLO, Ivan was a lecturer in the Chinese department at the University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. His personal interests include current affairs and social media. He is fluent in English and has professional knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.