Regardless of how you entered Bulgaria, by law you have a right to stay in the country as soon as you apply for asylum.
Applications are handed by the State Agency for Refugees (SAR). SAR decides on individual asylum applications and grants or rejects international protection.
How to submit an application
An application for international protection can be made by telling a state official that you seek protection or asylum. State officials include people like SAR employees, border police and detention officers.
You can submit a written application or make a verbal statement. To make sure your application is recorded, submit a written application if possible.
- Your written application must include a clear request for international protection
- Written applications can be drawn up in your native language
Request a reference number when you submit your application. This is useful in case you are not registered right away.
If you submit an application to someone other than a state official (such as a detention officer), that person must send the application to SAR immediately.
Information on the application process
Within 15 days of submitting an application, you will receive written guidance with details on the process. Information will be provided in a language that you understand.
You will receive information about the application review procedure, your rights and obligations, and organizations that provide legal and social assistance to foreign nationals You may also request to receive this information verbally.
After you submit an application
Once your application is submitted, SAR will register you within 3 business days. As part of registration, you will be asked for basic personal information and SAR will take your fingerprints.
Once you are registered, you will receive a registration card, which explicitly states your right to stay in the country. It contains your photo and your personal identity number as a foreign national in Bulgaria.
Carry the registration card with you at all times.
Your rights as an asylum-seeker
Once you are registered as an asylum-seeker, you have:
- The right to free accommodation
- The right to an attorney and legal aid
- The right to work in Bulgaria
Find out more:
- The right to medical care
Under the law, the SAR has the obligation to cover your health insurance until you are granted international protection.
- The right to enroll your children in Bulgarian state or municipal schools
SAR also offers Bulgarian language courses.
Issues with the application process
In practice, the law is not always implemented smoothly.
If you have entered the country without official permission, you might be treated as an irregular immigrant (detained for forced return) until your application is registered by SAR. For proof of your application, request a reference number when you submit your application.
If you aren’t registered within 3-6 days
If your application was submitted to SAR and you haven’t been registered within 3 business days, you have the right to file a lawsuit. You can file a lawsuit to the head of SAR.
If your application was submitted through another body (such as a detention officer) and you haven’t between registered within 6 business days, you can file a lawsuit.
You will need legal assistance to file the lawsuit.
If criminal charges are brought against you
According to Article 279(5) of the Bulgarian Criminal Code, border crossing is not a criminal offense if you are crossing to seek asylum (protection).
If criminal charges are brought against you for an illegal border crossing, you can refer to Article 279(5) when standing trial before a judge and refuse to plead guilty.