On April 13th 2016, the Bulgarian Parliament adopted a new Labor Migration and Labor Mobility Act, with which the Bulgarian legislation transposed a number of directives governing the possibility of third-country nationals working in EU Member States. The Labor Migration and Labor Mobility Act will come into force on 21st of May 2016.
The new Act overcomes the fragmentation of the current legal framework related to the work of foreign nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria and combines the rules that were previously scattered across various legislative acts. Chapter VIII of the Bulgarian Employment Promotion Act - "Work of Bulgarian citizens in other countries and of foreign nationals in Bulgaria" - is repealed, recreating its contents, with some modifications into the new Act; repealed are also some provisions of Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act concerning the residence of foreign nationals in the country for the purposes of employment or freelancing activities.
I. Permission to access the Bulgarian labor market
Third-country nationals are granted access to the Bulgarian labor market according to the current labor market situation after a prior study by the employer when they have an employment contract with a local employer; when they are seconded or appointed to provide services throughout the country; when they are moved via intra-group transfer or when carrying out freelancing activities. It is important to note that there is a limit on the positions that can be held by foreign nationals. Firstly, they should not be required to hold Bulgarian citizenship. Moreover, the number of foreign nationals who have worked for the local employer in the last 12 months must not exceed 10% of the number of EU/EEA citizens working under an employment contract with the same employer. Foreign nationals must possess specialized knowledge, skills and experience for the particular job, such that the working conditions and remuneration offered to them must not be less favorable than those of Bulgarian citizens for the same category of employment. When a person is authorized to access the labor market, they can work under an employment contract only for a particular legal or natural person in a specific place of employment, position and for a specified term.
Access to the Bulgarian labor market is granted by a written decision of the Executive Director of the Bulgarian Employment Agency, which is issued within 30 days from the application. The decision has a term that corresponds to the duration of employment contract, but which is no longer than 12 months. However, this period may be extended as long as there is no change in the original circumstances. The application and required documents must be submitted by the employer, who must also pay the fee of BGN 400. So far, the fee was BGN 600. The reissuing of the decision is subject to a fee of BGN 200. The employer is obliged, to inform the Bulgarian Executive Agency "General Labour Inspectorate" within 7 days from the effective start of employment by the foreign national. Upon starting work the foreign national must present a notarized copy of a valid residence document, which is kept by the employer. In case of early termination of employment, the employer is obliged to notify the Employment Agency of this change in circumstances within 3 days.
II. Single permit for residence and work
When foreign nationals apply for a residence permit in the Republic of Bulgaria for the purposes of employment, or already hold a valid residence permit in the country for purposes other than employment, the decision of the Executive Director of the Employment Agency to permit access to the Bulgarian labor market is contained in the single permit for residence and work issued by the Ministry of Interior under the provisions of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. The decision is issued within 30 days for a period of 12 months and may be renewed, but its total duration may not exceed 3 years.
III. EU Blue Card
If the foreign national has a residence permit and works using an EU Blue Card, the decision to grant access to the labor market in Bulgaria is contained therein. In this case, the deadline for issuing a decision is 15 days when the worker - third-country foreign national has adequate competencies for the job - acquired higher education evidenced by a diploma, certificate or other document issued by a competent authority after finishing education with duration not less than three years conducted by an educational institution recognized as a university by the respective state, and when the gross wage specified in the employment contract of the third-country foreign national is at least 1.5 times higher than the average salary in Bulgaria according to the data available for the last 12 months prior to the conclusion of the employment contract.
The most significant change is related to the issuance of a decision permitting the exercise of highly qualified employment by a foreign national on a position picked from a single group of trades and positions of the National classification of professions and occupations included in the list of occupations for which there is a shortage of highly qualified specialists. The list of occupations for which there is a shortage of highly qualified specialists will be prepared according to a proposal by the nationally representative employer organizations and will be approved by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy after a discussion in the National Council on Labour Migration and the National Council for Promotion of Employment. It may be updated annually by 31 January.
In this case, according to Art. 18, para. 1 LMLMA, the requirement for a preliminary study of the labor market is eliminated, along with the limit for the percentile ratio between foreign nationals and EU/EEA citizens employed by the local employer. In order to issue the permit, the gross salary provided for in the employment contract must be at least two times higher than the average wage in the country over the past 12 months.
In the first two years of highly qualified employment, the holder of the EU Blue Card may exercise, only on the territory of Bulgaria, activities that meet the conditions under which the EU Blue card was issued. During this period, a change of employer is possible only with the written permission of the Employment Agency. If the employment relationship is terminated early, the person is given an opportunity within three months to seek and start a new job. However, this option may be exercised only once.
IV. Freelancing activities
In order for a third-country nationals to carry out freelancing activities in Bulgaria, they must be authorized by the Executive Director of the Employment Agency (Art. 44, para. 1 LMLMA) after presenting a detailed plan of their activities for the period of authorisation. Based on it the foreign national is granted a permanent residence permit or visa for continuous residence under the provisions of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. The permit is issued within 30 days of the issuance of the decision to grant access to the labor market. The permission to carry out freelancing activities is issued for a period of one year, and it may be extended, if the conditions for its initial issuance have not lapsed. For the issuance and extension of the permit, the foreign national must pay a fee of BGN 400. It is important to note that any change in the personal data or initially declared circumstances must be declared by the person within 7 days of the respective change. In addition, the Employment Agency must approve the circumstances relating to the nature of work and the work commitments for the duration of the initially issued permit, such that for the duration of the initially issued permit it is unacceptable to change the scope of work performed. If the foreign national is experiencing temporary difficulties or an inability to perform the action, then they are obliged to notify the Employment Agency within 7 days.