This article will provide an overview of the procedure of issuing a residence permit in Bulgaria for individuals, who are citizens of the European Union (EU). The procedure is governed by the Law on Entering, Residing and Leaving the Republic of Bulgaria of EU citizens and members of their families (bulg: Закон за влизането, пребиваването и напускането на Република България на гражданите на Европейския Съюз и членовете на техните семейства). According to it:
Art. 6. (1): A European Union citizen shall reside in the Republic of Bulgaria with identity card or passport within a term of up to three months.
Art. 7. (1): A European Union citizen may reside in the Republic of Bulgaria long-term or permanently, for which a certificate shall be issued by the "Migration" directorate in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Sofia Directorate of the Interior Affairs (SDIA) or the regional directorates of the Ministry of Interior Affairs or by officials authorised by the directors.
(2) The long-term residence is for a period of up to five years.
The implication of these provisions is that any person who would like to stay in Bulgaria for more than 3 months, should obtain a permit by the competent departments of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. In order to qualify, a person must meet one of the following statutory conditions:
- To be an employee or a self-employed person in Bulgaria;
- To have health insurance and sufficient funds to cover the costs of their residence and those of their family members without being a burden on the social assistance system, in other words, be an insured or self-insured person in Bulgaria;
- To be enrolled in an educational institution for the purposes of training, including vocational training, and meet the above point.
The current article will focus on the cases under the first two items, since they are relevant to our experience and practice.
Regardless of the basis on which the issuance of a certificate is required, the following core set of documents must be presented in each case:
- standard application form which a person can obtain immediately on-site upon submission or in advance from the official website of the directorate;
- valid identity document (passport or a national identity card) - this must be presented to the directorate’s employees and be accompanied by a copy thereof;
- rental agreement or proof of current address in the country - what is specific here is that the contract must be with notarized signatures, which is a new requirement of the Commission issuing the certificates and is not announced on the information page of the directoate;
- a previous certificate for continuous residence if such has already been issued to the person;
- a proof for paid fee.
Depending on which of the above conditions is met by the applicant, they must file the following additional documents:
a) Employed or self-employed persons
- a copy of an employment contract or a document proving that the person is self-employed. This includes proof in the form of a document certifying that the person is an owner, partner or manager of a company registered in Bulgaria, that they are a party to a civil contract or registered in the Employment Agency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, etc.
b) Insured or self-insured persons
- proof that the person has health insurance - it is enough to present a European health insurance card or a concluded health insurance. In the second case, we would like to note that the time allowed for continuous residence will be determined by the period of the insurance, i.e. if the insurance is valid for one year, your certificate will be also valid for one year and not the maximum period stated above - 5 years;
- proof of good financial condition, where "good" means that the person has the means that could cover the minimum monthly salary in the country for each family member. A copy of a credit or debit card could be enclosed, stating the names of the person (i.e. credit or debit card, which indicates the name of a company would not be accepted), a bank certificate that the person holds an account containing funds equal to or larger than the ones required, or proof of pension or retirement benefits.
In the working day following the day of submission, the Commission issues the required certificate, which also indicates the term in which the person is allowed to stay in the country. If any ommissions were made in the application, the Commission must issue instructions for their removal and give a 7-day deadline to do this. Otherwise, a rejection is issued, which is subject to appeal under the general procedure of the Administrative Procedure Code.
Once the individual has obtained the certificate for long-term residence, they may request a certificate of residence, which contains a photograph, personal number of the foreign national, address of residence, etc. and acts as a valid Bulgarian identity document, which certificate is ready within three working days with an express order. The procedure generally lasts one month.
With the completion of the last step the foreign national already holds a valid Bulgarian identity document. For renewal of the certificate and therefore the card holder, they are obliged before the expiry of the given deadline to apply for an extension of their stay in the country. In this respect, the legislator has arranged the condition for withdrawal of the issued certificate:
Art. 18. The Permanent residence certificate shall be withdrawn from the person, to whom it is issued, in case he/she is absent from the Republic of Bulgaria for a period longer than two consecutive years.
The issued certificate is the basis for applying for permanent residence.
Everything stated above follows the published information by the Customs directorate, as well as our experience and practical observations on the issuance of documents by this administration. It should be noted that due to the unstable state of foreign politics, the work of the Migration Agency is also affected by unclarified policies and often the procedures there are governed by unspoken rules.
The Commission that issues permits or respectively refusals for continuous residence in Bulgaria sets out requirements which the applicant learns either immediately prior to filing the documents, only after having received instructions, or in the worst case when they are denied the issuance of a certificate. Despite the administrative difficulties, our experience shows readiness for cooperation from the employees who are responsible for the processing of the application. In our experience we have found that an applicant who is accompanied by a representative has not had serious difficulties in obtaining a residence permit, except in cases where changes are made on the go, which in most cases is avoidable with the help of an authorised person which represents the interests of the applicant for a residence permit.