The acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship is regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Citizenship Act and the international conventions in force when the facts or events connected with the citizenship are present.
In general, the Bulgarian citizenship can be acquired by origin, place of birth and naturalization. A child is considered a Bulgarian citizen, if one of the parents is a Bulgarian citizen or if the child was born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. If none of the above cases apply, a foreigner can acquire Bulgarian citizenship through naturalization.
I. General rule
Art. 12, para. 1 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act provides the requirements that shall be fulfilled while submitting the application for naturalization, so that a foreigner can apply for Bulgarian citizenship. The most important requirement is that applicant had been granted permit for long-term or permanent residence in the Republic of Bulgaria at least 5 years prior to the submission of the application. There are also exceptions of this rule and the latter will be discussed in details below.
Other essential legislative requirements relate to the fact, that the applicant had not been convicted for intentional crime of general nature by the Bulgarian official court authorities and no criminal prosecution for such crime had been initiated against him, unless the applicant have been rehabilitated. The applicant shall also possess an income or occupation, which will enable his life in the Republic of Bulgaria, and shall also understand and speak Bulgarian language. Last, but not least, the applicant shall be released from his present citizenship or will be released from it by the moment of acquiring of Bulgarian citizenship.
The requirement, which presents the most significant obstacle for most of the foreigners to acquire Bulgarian citizenship, is the command of Bulgarian language. It has to be certified through an official certificate, attesting the successful completion of the examination at the Center for Quality Control and Assessment of the School Education. Persons, who have studied at a Bulgarian school in the country or abroad, certify the good command of Bulgarian language through a copy of their diploma issued by the relevant educating body.
Multi-nationality (dual citizenship) is not tolerated in Bulgaria and for that reason the applicant has to provide evidence that he/she has either been released from the foreign citizenship or is currently undergoing such procedure. Nevertheless, the option of having both nationalities exists for: spouses of a Bulgarian citizen; citizens of an EU Member State, or a state party to the EEuropean Economic Area Agreement, the Confederation of Switzerland or for countries which have entered into similar international agreements with Republic of Bulgaria.
1. Marriage with Bulgarian citizen
The requirement for a residence of at least 5 years in Bulgaria with a proper permit for long-term or permanent residence is reduced to 3 years for the cases, where the foreigner:
- has married and maintains a legally concluded marriage with a Bulgarian citizen for a period no less than 3 years;
- was born in the Republic of Bulgaria but has acquired another citizenship on the basis of his/her origin;
- has obtained a permit for long-term or permanent residence before reaching the age of majority.
The candidates who meet the above requirement should also command Bulgarian language.
Far more favorable are the requirements for foreigners who:
- possess Bulgarian origin. The Bulgarian origin is proved throung a certificate issued by the State Agency for Bulgarian Citizens Abroad. To obtain such a certificate, the Agency needs evidence for the Bulgarian origin (birth certificate, passport or other private/public document) of the applicant. The certificate is issued after an examination period, which lasts 2 months;
- who have been adopted by a Bulgarian citizen under the conditions of full adoption;
- whose parent is a Bulgarian citizen or has been deceased as a Bulgarian citizen.
Foreigners, whose applications for acquisition of Bulgarian Citizenship are based on one of the above mentioned conditions, do not need to prove their residence on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, income or occupation, which enables their support in the Republic of Bulgaria, release of another citizenship or command of Bulgarian language.
Finally, we will briefly mention the option of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship from a foreigner by the way of investments. In this context, we would like to point out that at the beginning of 2019, the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice submitted a proposal for the removal of the option for acquiring of Bulgarian citizenship through a short-term investment. In March 2019 the Amendment to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, in which this option was omitted, was published on the official website of the Ministry. The only option which has remained is acquiring Bulgarian citizenship from a person, who has carried out an investment in a project that has been certified according to the Investment Promotion Act.
III. Procedure for acquiring of Bulgarian citizenship
The application for acquiring of Bulgarian citizenship and all attachments thereto shall be submitted in person to the Ministry of Justice or to the Bulgarian diplomatic and consular missions abroad. Please note, that submission through a power of attorney, even notarized, are not allowed.
Upon the application appointment for an interview is being scheduled. The legislation does not provide a compulsory deadline for rendering of decision by the competent body. Each assessment is executed individually and the Ministry carries out several official examinations of the person, which is why the procedure may even take a year or even more time.
The acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by naturalisation, the restoration of Bulgarian citizenship, the release and deprivation of Bulgarian citizenship and the revocation of the naturalisation shall be carried out by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria through a special decree. The decree enters into force on the day of its issuance.
The Ministry of Justice issues certificates for changes of the citizenship. Upon receipt of the edict, the Ministry of Justice informs:
- the municipalities or mayor's offices under the permanent address of the person - for entering of the changes of the citizenship within the population registries;
- the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - for issuance or withdrawal of Bulgarian ID documents.
IV. Rejections and Appealing
The legislation of the Republic of Bulgaria does not provide any options for appealing of the rejected applications for a decree for acquiring of Bulgarian citizenship through naturalization.
V. Revocation of the Naturalization
A revocation of the naturalization, by which the Bulgarian citizenship has been granted, is possible in the following events, as far as the person:
- has used data or facts having become grounds for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship for which, by court order, it has been established that are false;
- has concealed data or facts which, should they have been known, would have been grounds for refusal of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.
The revocation of the naturalisation shall be admissible only until the expiration of 10 years as of the acquiring of the Bulgarian citizenship.
The revocation of the naturalisation of one of the spouses shall not lead to revocation of the naturalisation of the other spouse and/or the children, unless they have acquired Bulgarian citizenship on the grounds of the same false or concealed data or facts.
VI. Deprivation of the Bulgarian citizenship
An Applicant, who has acquired Bulgarian citizenship by naturalisation, could be deprived of it if he/she is convicted by enacted sentence for severe crime against the republic, on condition that he/she is abroad and does not remain without citizenship.
The deprivation of citizenship of one of the spouses shall not change the citizenship of the other spouse and of the children.