Information was last updated on 15.03.2023
Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is a program that helps people who want to return to their country of origin or to another country where they have a legal right to reside. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) runs this program.
Who can apply?
You can apply for Assisted Voluntary Return if:
- You are living in Bulgaria without a residence permit, with no documents or with expired documents.
- You no longer want to stay in Bulgaria — even if you were granted international protection.
- Your asylum request is pending, and there is no final decision.
- Your asylum request has been rejected.
- You have voluntarily withdrawn your asylum application
- You haven't received an expulsion or removal order yet
- You are fit/healthy enough to travel
Important! Once you withdraw your asylum application, you cannot reapply for asylum unless there are new circumstances regarding your personal situation or the situation in your country of origin.
If you cancel your asylum application and you decide not to go home through the AVRR program after all, the police can detain you and deport you.
It's also worth noting that you can use the AVRR service only once.
People under 14 travelling without an adult family member
If you are under 14 and you want to go back to your country, IOM first needs to ask your parents or close relatives in your home country for permission to return you.
You need to give IOM the name and contact details of your parents or close relatives.
If your family agrees, IOM will organize your travel and accompany you. Unfortunately, if your family doesn’t permit you to return, IOM cannot include you in the program.
How to apply and use AVRR program?
Step 1: Approaching IOM
To apply for assisted voluntary return, approach IOM officers at your location. IOM employees regularly visit the registration and reception centers of the State Agency for Refugees.
You can also contact the IOM team via:
- phone: +359 (2) 93 94 774;
- email: [email protected];
- On-site at the IOM office in Sofia, 77 Tsar Asen Street.
If you are currently situated in one of the centers of the State Agency for Reugees, you can ask the social workers for assistance.
The program will only assist returns to your country of origin or t another country where you can legally reside and is determined by IOM as safe. You cannot return to your home through AVRR if there is a war there. IOM’s list of unsafe countries changes each month. However, Syria remains on the list.
Step 2: Counseling
The IOM team will gather your personal details, talk with you to understand your situation and make sure that it is your final decision to return to your home country.
If you have any questions related to your return, this is the time when you can ask them.
Step 3: Getting your travel document
If you don’t have a passport, IOM can contact the relevant embassy and assist ъоу with issuing travel documents for you and your family.
This can take some time, depending on your case and which country are you from. Not every country has an embassy in Bulgaria. Sometimes, IOM has to reach out to embassies in other countries, and this can prolong the procedure by a few months.
However, after your travel documents are ready, you should wait between 1 week and 10 days to be able to return to your home country. This period depends on available international flights.
Step 4: Buying your plane tickets
IOM will purchase your plane tickets. They will try to find the safest way to return you to your home country, taking into consideration your language and religion.
You will probably need to change planes a few times to get home.
If necessary, IOM will also provide medical assistance and/or check-ups before you leave.
Step 5: Traveling
IOM employees will escort you to the international airport in Sofia and help you check-in and with passport control.
After passport control, you will travel alone as any other passenger, unless you are under 14 traveling without an adult family member. In this case, an IOM employee will escort you from Bulgaria to your family or relatives at home.
If you have health issues or other limitations, IOM staff can also accompany you through your entire journey.
Otherwise, you will receive a bag with the IOM logo that you need to keep with you. This shows airport staff that you are a beneficiary of the AVRR program.
A day before your travel, IOM will give you instructions. You will also receive financial aid of up to 100 euros, which can be increased to up to 150 euros in case you fall under a vulnerable group.
Some people who return to their countries can get financial and other support to reintegrate into their home countries.
In some cases, IOM can help you fund training courses or studies, psychological and medical support, repairs for your house, or new business activities.
Financial assistance for reintegration after returning to your home country can be up to €1 000 or €2 000 for vulnerable people such as children under 18 travelling alone, single parents, people with chronic illnesses and families.
The services provided by IOM are free of charge.
Informational videos on AVRR are available in Arabic, Kurdish, Dari, Pashto and English.
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