Published on 26.02.2021, based on the information provided by Emiliya Bratanova van Harten during the webinar “Social support for asylum seekers and refugees in Bulgaria”, February 20, 2021. Updated on 02 May 2022
Who can apply
If you have refugee status, humanitarian protection or got asylum or temporary protection in Bulgaria, you can apply for social benefits. The below factors affect your eligibility and what type of social assistance you receive:
- Marital status
- Whether you’re employed
- Whether you’re a current student
- Whether you rent or own property or land
A project financed by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and implemented by State Agency for Refugees (SAR) from 2018 onwards provides Asylum-seekers, with financial assistance - 20 leva per month, plus additional 10 leva for participation in activities for maintenance of the facilities. You simply need to contact SAR staff members to get these benefits.
If you applied for international protection after your first asylum application was rejected, you are not entitled to shelter, food and social assistance unless you are a member of a vulnerable group.
Types of social assistance
1. Monthly social benefits
If you and your family members are unemployed and in between 16 years old and retirement age, you need to register with an Employment Bureau office.
You have 3 months to register with the Employment Bureau after receiving your refugee status or humanitarian protection. Once you register, you can apply for monthly social benefits.
However, if you miss this deadline, you will need to wait at least 6 months as an employee registered at the Employment Bureau office until you can apply for monthly social benefits.
You can find out about exceptions to the registration requirements at the offices of the Social Assistance Agency.
How much can I receive in social benefits per month?
The amount you receive depends on how much income you or the family members in your household earn. To calculate this amount, you subtract the previous month’s income that you or your family received from the minimum income specified by the Social Assistance Agency.
You can see the different categories and relevant minimum incomes in 2020 on the Social Assistance Agency’s website in Bulgarian, in the third column from the right (the information for 2022 should be uploaded).
Below are a few examples.
You can apply for monthly social benefits only if your income for the previous month was equal or lower than:
- 136,50 BGN if you live alone and are more than 75 years old
- 115,50 leva if you live alone and you are more than 65 years old.
- 60 leva if you live alone and are aged 65 or under.
- 99 leva if you are a single parent and your child is less than 3 years old.
- 75 leva if you are under 20 and attending school.
- 54.75 leva if you live with a partner (spouse) or family.
If you are of working age but are not participating in employment programs when you get these benefits, you will have to do community service for 14 days per month, 4 hours per day. There are certain exceptions to this rule such as pregnant women after the third month of pregnancy, and people taking care of a child younger than 3 years old.
In the events of a declared state of emergency or emergency epidemic situation, families with children up to the age of 14 years old are entitled to a monthly assistance when both or one of the working parents, or a parent raising a child alone:
- cannot switch to remote work from home and do not have the possibility to use paid leave or to receive compensation for temporarily being unable to work;
- lost their job, but are not entitled to unemployment benefit or the amount of the received compensation is lower than the average monthly income (150% of the minimum wage for the country – for example for 2020 that will amount to or is less than 915 leva);
- are self-insured persons who cannot exercise their occupation due to the introduced anti-epidemic restrictions.
This financial assistance aims to compensate for your lack of income during the time you are unable to work in order to take care of your child/children who due to the restrictive measures are not attending school/kindergarten.
You have to submit your application to the Social Assistance Directorate in your current address no later than the end of the month following the month in which the restrictions have been imposed in schools/ kindergartens in the country.
The amount of the financial assistance is:
- for families with 1 child - equal to the amount of the monthly minimum wage determined for the country ( 610 leva for 2020 and 650 leva for 2021);
- for families with 2 or more children – 150% of the amount of the minimum monthly wage
2. Financial benefits for heating
You can apply for financial benefits to pay your heating if in the past 6 months, you and your family members’ average monthly income was lower or equal to:
- 277,50 leva if you live alone you are more than 75 years old
- 262,50 leva if you live alone and are over 65 years old.
- 195 leva if you live alone and are aged 65 or under.
- 235,50 leva if you are a single parent
- 154,50 leva if you are under 20 and attending school.
- 184 leva if you live with a partner (spouse) or family.
You can find the amount of the average monthly incomes in the same table in Bulgarian, in the first column from the right the information for 2022 should be uploaded).
.The requirements for getting financial benefits for heating also include registration with the Employment Bureau.
In 2020, the total amount a household will receive for heating is 495.90 leva. You can apply for this assistance from July 1 to October 31 in order to use the benefit in the next heating season.
3. Financial benefits for municipal housing
If you live in municipal housing, you can apply for assistance to pay the rent if your income is under a certain amount. You may apply for this benefit:
- If you are a person over 70 years old, living alone.
- You are on orphan below 25 years old and you have been educated in a social educational and professional centre.
- If you are a single parent raising a child.
These benefits cover the entire rent (except waste collection fees). The benefit is paid montly via wire transfer after an invoice or a receipt for the rent is presented to the Social Assistance Directorate
4. One-off social assistance
Once a year you can apply to receive a one-off amount of up to 375 leva to satisfy your urgent vital needs such as health, education and household-related expenses.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: In order to receive this amount you should submit an application form (declaration) to the Social Assistance Directorate operating at the place of your residence and to attach the following documents:
- registration card of a foreigner who has been granted temporary protection;
- identity document from Ukraine;
- address card of a foreigner issued by the Migration Directorate at the Regional Office of the Ministry of Interior or from the place where you are accommodated (hotel)
You may also receive a one-off benefit for issuance of identity card (up to 75 leva).
5. Free train travel
Twice a year, you have the right to travel in Bulgaria by train free of charge (round trip):
- If the Medical Labor Expert Commission determines that the degree of your disability is 71% or over (contact your doctor for more information about this).
- If you have a certain type and degree of disability.
- If you are a child under 16 years old with a permanent disability.
6. Family benefits
Here are some of the most common family benefits:
- One-off benefit for pregnant women 45 days before delivery - 150lv.
In order to receive the one-time allowance, the average monthly income per family member for the previous 12 months must be less than or equal to 510 leva (from 1 January to 31 March 2022) / 610 leva (from 1 April 2022), and the pregnant woman must not be entitled to pregnancy and childbirth benefits and must live permanently in Bulgaria..
- One-off benefit for 1st graders for the 2022 -2023 – 300lv. You must apply before 15 October!
The benefit is paid notwithstanding the income of the family, .
- Monthly benefits for child upbringing for children up to 18 years old or, by exception, up to 20 years old until completion of high school.
The aid is received by families with an average monthly income per family member for the previous 12 months lower than or equal to 510 leva (from 1 January to 31 March 2022) / leva 610 (from 1 April 2022) and is in the following amounts:
- for a family with one child - BGN 50;
- for a family with two children - BGN 110;
- for a family with three children - BGN 165;
- for a family with four children - 175 BGN, and for each additional child in the family the family allowance increases by 20 BGN.
To receive it you need to apply once every year and provide documents for your income for the past 12 months, a document from your child’s school for his/her attendance and a document from your doctor, proving your child has all the mandatory immunizations.
- One-off benefit at the birth of your child regardless of your income. The amount depends on the number of children– e.g. 250 lv. for 1st child, 600 lv. for 2nd child, 300lv. for 3rd, 200 leva for fourth and a children.
How to apply
You can find the application forms here. The application process, including the forms, is in the Bulgarian language and is complex. Here are the organizations that can help you with filling in the forms and submitting your application for social assistance:
In the application form, you will need to state whether you want to receive the money in cash or via bank transfer. If you’d like a bank transfer, you will need to specify your bank account details.
After filling in the application form, you need to submit it to the Social Assistance Agency in the area where you currently reside. They will ask you to show them your Bulgarian identity card or the decision granting you protection status.
Depending on your personal situation, you may also need to provide:
- Your marriage certificate
- Your children’s birth certificates
- Documents stating your income (for example, a labour contract)
- Documents from your doctor or other medical experts detailing your serious health problems
If you don’t have birth or marriage certificates, you can contact the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) and ask them to issue substitute documents.
After you apply
After you submit your application, a social worker will visit your home within 20 days to verify the information in your application and prepare a social report. Within 21 days after completing the report, you should receive a decision on your application for social assistance.
If you do not live at the address, where you are officially registered, your application will probably be rejected.
A home visit is not required when applying for family benefits
If they refuse your application for social/family assistance, you can appeal it with a lawyer’s help.
COVID-19 related support
It offers subsidized employment for up to 6 months with a focus on job opportunities in hotels, restaurants and tourism. It is open until 30.06.2022.
This article is updated 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.