Bulgarian residence permit applicants (for long term or permanent stay card, EU or non-EU citizens) should take into consideration some important amendments to Bulgarian immigration laws and specifically the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act and Regulations for Implementation of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act adopted in 2017. According to expert Bulgarian immigration lawyers some of the amendments to Bulgarian immigration program include requirement for visa applications to be now filed not earlier than 3 months prior to the scheduled date on which the foreign citizen has planned to visit Bulgaria and also when applying for visa from 2017 on foreign citizens will also have to provide biometric data (photos and fingerprints).
There are three types of visas which are issued for visiting Bulgaria – airport transit visa (type A), short stay visa (type C), and long stay visa (type D). Every holder of an airport transit visa type A is not considered to have entered Bulgaria. The short stay type C Bulgarian visa is issued for a stay no longer than 90 calendar days in each half a year period. And finally Bulgarian type D long stay visas are usually issued to foreign citizens who want to settle in the country permanently or at least for a longer period. Obtaining such a visa (type D) is a mandatory precondition for filing an application for any possible type of a stay permit in the Republic of Bulgaria.
Bulgarian residency permits can be 3 different types – long term stay permit, which is usually a first step, then permanent stay permit in Bulgaria and finally prolonged stay permit, which is a new type of Bulgarian residency permit, first introduced a couple of years ago.
Long term stay residency permit card in Bulgaria can be issued to foreign citizens on many different legal grounds, the most important, according to our legal practice, of which are the following:
- Performing commercial activity in the Bulgaria, as a direct result of which there are at least 10 Bulgarian citizens hired on a full-time job position; employment of at least 10 Bulgarian employees shall be kept for the whole term of the granted long term stay permit; the foreign citizen shall be either shareholder or director of the commercial entity;
- Obtaining a right of pension in Bulgaria or in the foreigner’s home country and having enough funds to support his/her living in Bulgaria; the required finances in this case are in amount of one minimal monthly salary per month (a little more than 255 euro as of 2018);
- Appointment as trade representative of a foreign commercial company, whereas the foreign company is being checked for lack of tax obligations, stability etc. One should bear in mind that with the latest amendments of the Regulations for Implementation of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act made the Bulgarian immigration program definition of trade representatives more detailed. Trade representatives will now have to substantiate the activity of their office, as well as to prove the stability and financial good-being of the mother company in order to be successfully granted Bulgarian long term stay residence permit.
- Performing of non-commercial activity in the country after obtaining of a special permit from the Ministry of Justice;
- Investment of not less than BGN 600,000 in either a) real estate properties on the territory of country or b) Bulgarian commercial entity’s capital, as a result of which the entity has acquired ownership over real estate properties at the said value; in this case, the respective foreigner shall own more than 50% of the share capital.
Long term stay permit in Bulgaria is usually granted for a set period between six months and one year and can be renewed afterwards if all required preconditions are once again met. A foreigner who has a long stay permit can leave the country and then come back without any visa during the validity of the permit. The long stay permit card does not automatically allow its holder to work in Bulgaria. If he/she wants to work legally under a labour agreement during the stay, an additional permit is needed to be granted by Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under the Labor Migration and Labour Mobility Act.
Bulgarian permanent residency permit card grants the respective foreign citizen an indefinite stay in the country. Some of the most popular grounds on which it could be granted are:
- Having a Bulgarian origin;
- Residing legally and without a break in Bulgaria during the last at least 5 years without being absent for more than 30 months for the whole 5-years period;
- Investment worth BGN 1,000,000 or more in Bulgarian government bonds;
- Investment worth BGN 1,000,000 or more in a Bulgarian bank in the form of a trust management portfolio for a period not shorter than 5 years, whereas the investment is not used with a Bulgarian credit institution for securing of other debts;
- Investment amounting to BGN 500,000 or more into the capital of any company duly registered in Bulgaria, whereas the respective foreign investor is a shareholder holding at least 50% of the shares and as a result of this very investment the aforementioned company has acquired new tangible and non-tangible assets worth minimum BGN 500,000 and hired at least 10 Bulgarian citizens as employees. The employment of at least ten Bulgarian citizens should be kept for the whole period of the permitted stay, i.e. if it is not permanently maintained, then Bulgarian residence permit is cancelled.
Holders of Bulgarian permanent stay permit cards can not only come in and out of the country at any time but they are also allowed to travel freely to some EU countries. Permanent residents are also allowed to work under employment agreements and they have the same labour, healthcare and pension rights and obligations as Bulgarian citizens
Prolonged stay permit combines to some extent both types of the above described permits and is usually issued if a foreign citizen has lived in Bulgaria for at least 5 years. After the prolonged stay permit card is finally granted by the state authorities, EU long stay permit is also granted entirely in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No 1030/2002 laying down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals.
Bulgarian residence permits are also legally granted to the family members of the main applicants. These rules apply only in case the stay permit is given for a term of minimum one year and in case the applicants match some further requirements. The common rule prescribed by law is that in applications for family reunion, the family members shall be issued with visas under a simplified procedure. Spouses of Bulgarian citizens also can obtain Bulgarian residence permits after the marriage but in case of divorce the permit is to be taken away, except in case that the spouse – member of the family has an employment, stable income enough to support his/her living in Bulgaria and paid health insurance and also matches one of the requirements listed below:
- Has been in a marriage for more than 3 years, one of which has been in Bulgaria;
- Exercises the parental rights by virtue of a court verdict;
- Has suffered a domestic abuse before termination of the marriage;
- Has the right to visit his/her underage child by virtue of a court verdict providing that visits shall be made in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian immigration lawyers can advise on more details about the different possible options for obtaining Bulgarian residency permit, either long term or permanent, as this review outlines only some general requirements. Please also bear in mind that Bulgarian residence for European citizens is granted much more easily and under different requirements which are not so strict.