Before 2016, it was a breeze to open a non-resident bank account in Bulgaria. You could show up at the bank with a passport and have an account in under an hour.
But times have changed…
Now, banks have new rules in place that make non-resident account opening much more difficult.
On top of that, foreigners and non-residents are hit with a hail storm of mixed signals and bad information.
It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not. Especially when the banks don’t respond to email and it takes 37 minutes to track down an English-speaker dial at a bank call center.
Then, there’s the law firms and service providers selling bank introductions for $500 to $1,000 a pop. They claim it’s impossible to open a bank account in Bulgaria without a professional introducer. They’re wrong.
So, what is going on here?
And, more importantly, why are non-residents and companies even opening bank accounts in Bulgaria?
In this article, we’re going to show you how to open a non-resident bank account in Bulgaria. We’ll also reveal some exciting, little-known opportunities and advantages about Bulgarian banking that most people miss.
So, let’s dive in…But first, if you’d like to get started opening accounts in Bulgaria as a non-resident then download our FREE Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide right now!
Open a Non-Resident Bank Account in Bulgaria
In the 1990s, all Bulgarian banks were state-owned. And, they did what state-owned banks do… made massive loss-making loans to state enterprises.
With no oversight, zero lending policies, and deep-seated corruption, it was a cash grab for a select few… until it all came crashing down.
The banking sector restructured and foreign banks bought in.
Today, more than 75% of Bulgaria’s banks are foreign-owned.
Why Should You Bank in Bulgaria?
Okay, this is a fair question and one that needs to be addressed.
Beyond being the last resort option to open accounts within the EU, Bulgaria actually offers some benefits… let’s take a look.
SEPA (or the “Single Euro Payments Area”) is how EU banks make cross-border transfers. It’s like an ACH transfer if you’re in the US. Or making a domestic transfer to another bank in your home country.
So, people want access to SEPA transfers because it’s a super cheap way of sending money within the EU. If you’re making intra-EU transfers without it, you’re probably losing a lot of money.
Bulgarian banks are extremely comfortable using other currencies, like USD, GBP, and of course EUR. So, if your European banking options are limited and you need to hold multiple currencies, a Bulgarian bank might be an option for you.
European Bank Account
As mentioned, if you’re struggling to open accounts in other EU member countries, Bulgaria might be your best shot.
Maybe you have European clients, have expenses in Euro, or want to make SEPA transfers.
The problem? Opening a European bank account is difficult if you’re abroad, not a resident, and not an EU citizen. But, you might be able to open a non-resident bank account in Bulgaria.
Backup Bank Account & Diversification
Some people don’t want to hold 100% of cash in an EMI like Revolut, Monzo, Monese, or N26. Others want geographic diversification. Others may just want a bank account in Europe.
Whatever the case, opening a non-resident bank account in Bulgaria can help you diversify. Sure, it’s not our first choice, but for some people with limited banking choices, it’s an option.
For instance, non-EU citizens and non-residents who struggle to open accounts in other EU countries may find it’s possible to open accounts in Bulgaria.
Easy Business Structuring
Bulgaria has a comprehensive tax treaty with the US, yet it only has a 10% flat corporate tax. That means, your company could only be subject to 10% Bulgarian tax instead of the hefty 30%+ corporate income tax.
If you do business in the United States, read this section again…
Low Personal & Corporate Taxes
Where Bulgaria really shines is its tax code.
Both personal and corporate tax is a low flat 10% tax, the lowest in Europe.
That alone makes Bulgaria an attractive low-key tax residency option for Europeans from higher-tax countries. Especially those who are forced to move to another European country before moving to a low-tax country outside of Europe. Bulgaria is also beneficial for European business owners looking to lower their tax bill.
To take advantage of low personal and corporate tax rates (and pay tax), most people find they need to open a bank account in Bulgaria… you’re in the right spot.
Cryptocurrency Traders & Investors
European traders, entrepreneurs, and investors who struck it big in crypto and are now looking to cash out of their holdings in a tax-efficient manner could find Bulgaria interesting.
With low tax rates and appealing CFC rules, Bulgaria can be a useful jurisdiction for wealth restructuring and residency acquisition.
Corporate Substance & Internationalizing Your Business
Do you live in a high-tax country with CFC rules and want to internationalize your business? Then you probably need to think about acquiring corporate substance and tax residency somewhere else.
Or maybe you just want to increase profits by outsourcing to cheaper countries.
In either case, some people find that Bulgaria is a viable option.
Remote Non-Resident Account Opening
Yes, Bulgaria is one of the options that you can explore to open non-resident bank accounts in the EU remotely.
Challenges & Difficulties of Banking in Bulgaria
Like many post-soviet countries, Bulgaria has some issues when it comes to banking… especially if you’re a foreigner or non-resident.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. On the contrary, there are plenty of service providers that would love to help you, for a very fat fee of course.
But that’s only one of the challenges you’ll face when you open a non-resident bank account in Bulgaria, so let’s take a closer look…
Service Provider Scams
Most service providers claim it costs between $500 and $1,000 to open a bank account in Bulgaria… that seems a bit rich.
Especially when you compare it to the average monthly salary of $900 and the fact that over 65%+ of Bulgaria’s 7 million population have bank accounts.
Many expats who have lived here for decades often say Bulgaria has low trust, bureaucratic culture. Things take longer than they should and the country isn’t as digitized as its neighbors.
You also need to watch out for inflated pricing amongst lawyers and accountants if you don’t speak Bulgarian. Like everywhere, using inflated pricing is common when selling to foreigners.
Wide Spectrum of KYC & AML Procedures
EU banks are heavily regulated. But they can set their own internal procedures and application requirements.
Sure, there are similarities, but beware banks in Bulgaria have wildly different requirements when it comes to supporting documents, translations, authentication, and residential ties.
Bankers Don’t Like Non-Residents
After a banker finds out that you’re a non-resident and can’t speak Bulgarian, it’s possible they might just turn you away, or ignore you, or tell you “this branch can’t open accounts for foreigners.”
This is because opening a bank account for a non-resident in Bulgaria requires more time, more effort, and more paperwork. And, simply put, the banker might not want to deal with you.
Are You Ready to Open a Non-Resident Bank Account in Bulgaria?
Fortunately, if you’re a non-resident, foreigner, or business owner looking to open a non-resident bank account in Bulgaria or sort out your banking options, we can help.
If you want to know which specific banks will accept you, which account opening strategies to use, how to avoid high fees, and overcome tough paperwork requirements, then we’d be happy to help you on your journey.
If you’re ready to take action and start opening international accounts now, you can access GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.
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