You may face some legal challenges when you arrive in Bulgaria and seek international protection. Here's how to choose a lawyer who can help you.
Where to find a lawyer?
Free legal aid
Legal aid organizations and lawyers who work for other kinds of nongovernmental organizations are available to help you. You may find them at your State Agency for Refugees (SAR) reception center.
Note that not every person who gives you legal advice is registered as a lawyer. This person may be only a legal advisor working at an NGO or an international organization.
You can also click the button below for a list of legal service providers in Bulgaria.
You can ask for a particular lawyer within a legal aid organization, but whether you get that lawyer depends on that organization's policies.
You have the right to hire a private-practice lawyer.
Under Bulgarian law, private lawyers must charge you:
- At least 400 leva for legal representation, defence and assistance in asylum proceedings
- At least 500 leva for legal representation, defence and assistance in immigration detention cases
You could pay more than these minimum rates. You will need to pay at the beginning of your contract with the lawyer.
How to get in touch with a lawyer if you are in a detention center
If you are in a migrant detention facility, you have the right to call or send a message to a lawyer. You can use your own phone, if you have one, or borrow one from another detainee.
Tell the lawyer:
- Your name
- Your nationality/country of origin
- Your badge number
- Your room number or floor in the detention center
Tips for choosing a lawyer
- You should choose a lawyer with expertise in refugee and migration law.
- You should choose a lawyer who speaks a language you know well or who can meet you with an interpreter
- You can get recommendations from friends or other people who have hired lawyers in Bulgaria.
- You can check whether the person you have chosen is actually registered as a lawyer at the Bulgarian Bar Register and whether he/she is practising.
What to expect from a lawyer
Lawyers will ask you to sign a power of attorney and a contract for legal assistance. With these documents you agree to be represented by the lawyer and you define what kind of legal assistance you expect from the lawyer. You can ask for copies of these documents.
To assess whether you are eligible for free legal aid, your lawyer may ask you to fill in and sign a declaration of marital and financial status. You will be asked for information about the income you and your family (your spouse) receive and the properties or/and vehicles you own.
You can expect your lawyer:
- To meet you in person when you have an appointment
- To hear your concerns and address your questions
- To keep the information that you share strictly confidential
- To explain your situation at every stage of your case
- To discuss the preparation of your defence with you
- To advise you on your rights and obligations
- To promptly share any news about your case
- To give you copies of all documents prepared and submitted as part of your legal defence
- To treat you with patience and respect
You can't expect your lawyer:
- To answer your phone calls right away or outside business hours
In Bulgaria, business hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
How to improve communication with your lawyer
Always ask your lawyer to write down:
- Their full name
- The name of the organization they work for
- Their contact information
Do your best to tell your lawyer all the facts and details of your case and any new evidence that may come to light. That will help your lawyer help you.
If things go wrong with your lawyer
If your lawyer misses your court date
If your lawyer does not show up for your court date, you may ask the court to postpone the court hearing. You have the right to an interpreter during the hearing.
You will need to tell the judge exactly why your lawyer is not present and how you will make sure your lawyer is present next time. The court will decide whether to honour your request to postpone or to proceed with your hearing anyway.
If you are not satisfied with your lawyer
- You have the right to withdraw the power of attorney that you gave to the lawyer and authorize another lawyer to represent you. You should tell your previous lawyer in writing. You also need to give the court or authority overseeing your case a declaration that you are withdrawing your previous lawyer's power of attorney. Your new lawyer can help you with this process.
- If your lawyer is part of an organization, you can submit a complaint to the director of the organization and/or the organization's funder.
- You can submit a written complaint at the Bar Association where the lawyer is registered. This complaint should not be anonymous. You can find the addresses of the bar associations here.