Access to the labour market for foreigners in Bulgaria and the relevant residence permits

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Updated on 29.04.2022

This article is based on the information provided by lawyer Magdalena Miteva during the Final webinar on project ACF/667, dedicated to the latest amendments in the Bulgarian legislation on foreigners, held on 15.06.2021.

If you are a third-country national, in general, in order to work in Bulgaria, you need a special work and residence permit. In this article we will examine two of the possible options, namely:

  • Single Work and Residence Permit (SWRP);
  • Blue card of the European Union

Please note that a special work permit is not required:

  • If you have a permanent or long-term residence permit;
  • If you have humanitarian or refugee status or are an asylum seeker in a procedure for international protection;
  • If you are a family member of a Bulgarian citizen or an EU citizen;
  • A student. However, students can work only for up to 20 hours a week during the school year, as well as during the official holidays of the respective university.

This list is not exhaustive and there are some other exceptions.

Single Work and Residence Permit (SWRP)

This is a continuous residence and work permit, which you can recieve if you meet certain conditions and have a visa type D or you already have another residence permit in Bulgaria, but on a different ground (for example as a student).

If you already have a continuous residence permit on another ground in the country, you do not have to leave Bulgaria when you first apply for a single permit. However, if you do not have such a permit, then in the course of the application procedure you must also obtain a visa type D to enter Bulgaria.

You are not required to be outside Bulgaria when you are subsequently applying for a single permit.

Where can you apply?

The application together with all the documents have to be submitted to the Migration Directorate or to the Migration Department / Sector / Group at the regional directorates of the Ministry of Interior.

Who can apply?

Your employer (if you are outside Bulgaria) or you personally when you have a continuous residence permit. If you are applying in person, your application must be signed by your employer as well.

When you have a continuous residence permit, the deadline for submitting the application for a single permit is up to 2 months before your current residence permit expires

What documents do I need?

You need the following documents:

  1. a copy of a valid passport with the pages that include the photo and your personal data;
  2. a criminal record certificate issued by the State of which you are a national or by the State of your habitual residence, upon initial application;
  3. evidence of secured housing (e.g. rental contract);
  4. justification by the employer in which they need:
  • indicate the facts and circumstances that require hiring you
  • submit copies of ads and job offers in local and national mass media and the Internet for the position;
  • justify their refusal to employ a Bulgarian citizen, a citizen of another EU Member State, a state party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area, or the Swiss Confederation or another third-country national who can work without a special permit and meets the requirements specified in the job offer;

5. Documents for education, speciality, legal capacity, professional qualification and experience, legalized and accompanied by a certified translation into Bulgarian. These documents must meet the requirements for the position for which they want to hire you. For example, if you will be hired as a chef, you must have experience/education as such.

6. Reference-declaration from the employer for the foreigners hired by them under an employment contract

7. Reference declaration  from the employer for the average number of employees under an employment contract in the previous 12 months, indicated by months:

  • Bulgarian citizens, citizens of an EU Member State, a State Party to the EEA Agreement, and a Swiss Confederation, including citizens with a long-term or permanent residence permit in Bulgaria and their family members;
  • foreigners with granted right to asylum or with granted international protection in Bulgaria and their family members;
  • foreigners working in Bulgaria in accordance with an international agreement.

The documents under items 6 and 7 are required because the total number of third-country nationals with a residence permit working for the employer who wants to hire you in the previous 12 months may not exceed 20% of the average number of employees hired on a labour contract; regarding small and medium enterprises this threshold is 35 %.

9. Declaration by the employer that the working and pay conditions have been met and that they are not more unfavourable than the conditions for Bulgarian citizens.
10. A copy of a concluded and signed fixed-term employment contract certified by the employer and effective from the date of issuance of your residence permit and a copy of the job description,
11. Document that the conditions for exercising a profession included in the List of regulated professions in Bulgaria are met
12. Mandatory medical insurance, valid for Bulgaria for the entire period of residence, unless you pay health insurance in the country.
13. other documents required for the job you are applying for.

The documents shall be attached to the application form according to Annex № 3a of the Regulations for implementation of the Law of Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria.

If a document is missing or new ones need to be submitted, the Migration Directorate will notify you electronically. You have 7 days to present them, otherwise, they will stop your procedure

What happens after you submit your documents?

If your application is given preliminary approval, you or your employer will receive a notification from the Migration Directorate.

If you are outside Bulgaria, you must apply for a type D visa within 20 days of sending this message at the nearest Bulgarian diplomatic or consular mission in the country where you are located.

Within 14 days of entering Bulgaria with a D visa, you must appear in person at the Migration Directorate and present:

  • a copy of the page from your passport with the visa;
  • mandatory medical insurance valid for Bulgaria for the entire period of residence.

After you present these documents, the Migration Directorate will come up with a decision within 3 days or deny you the single residence and work permit.

If you fail to present the documents before the deadline, your proceedings will be terminated.

How long will the whole procedure take?

Not more than 2 months. If your case is more complicated, this period can be extended by other 2 months - a total of 4 months.

For how long is the residence and work permit valid?

For up to 3 years. However, if the term of your employment contract is shorter than 3 years, the permit is issued for the duration of the contract.

Blue card of the European Union

The application procedure is similar to the one for the single permit therefore, down below we will only discuss the differences.

The EU Blue card is issued only to highly qualified foreigners. There is a requirement  that you have to have completed a higher education that lasted at least 3 years. The other requirement is that the gross salary specified in your employment contract has to be at least 1.5 times higher than the average salary in Bulgaria.

The term of the employment contract must not be shorter than 12 months.

Again, you must have either a type D visa or a continuous residence permit in Bulgaria. When you have a continuous residence permit, the deadline for submitting the application is up to 60 days before you residence permit expires.

The EU Blue Card is issued for up to 4 years, but if your employment contract has a shorter term, the permit is issued for the term of the contract, extended by three months.

There is a difference in the documents. There is NO need to submit the documents under item 7 and item 8 mentioned above required for the single permit. Also, the justification from the employer does not need to include copies of published job ads.

In case you are about to enter Bulgaria with a type D visa, you must appear in person at the Migration Directorate within 7 days of entering.

The procedure for issuing a long-term residence and work permit type "EU Blue Card"  cannot take more than 3 months.

During the first 2 years you can work only in the job filed for which you have been issued an "EU Blue Card " and only on the territory of Bulgaria.

If you lose your job, you have the right, but only once for the validity period of your card, within 3 months to look for and start a new job. To do this, you must register with the Employment Agency within 7 working days of losing your job.

The information in this article is not exhaustive. Seek legal assistance for details.

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This article is created under the project "Legal aid to financially disadvantaged refugees and immigrants during a pandemic by using and improving the Migrantlife.Bg platform", implemented by the Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area.

The project "Legal aid to financially disadvantaged refugees and immigrants during a pandemic by using and improving the Migrantlife.Bg platform" is implemented with financial support in the amount of EUR 10,000 provided by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism. The main goal of the project “Legal aid to financially disadvantaged refugees and immigrants during a pandemic by using and improving the Migrantlife.Bg platform” is to offer modern digital solutions for access to reliable information and a lawyer during a pandemic.

The entire responsibility for the content of this article lies with the Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR and under no circumstances it can be assumed that this content reflects the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.