Social assistance in Bulgaria

Who can apply

If you have refugee status, humanitarian protection or got asylum in Bulgaria, you can apply for social benefits. The below factors affect your eligibility and what type of social assistance you receive:

  • Income
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Health
  • Whether you’re employed
  • Whether you’re a current student
  • Whether you rent or own property or land

Asylum-seekers have the right to apply for social benefits but in reality, you may face practical limitations to do so. If you applied for international protection after your first asylum application was rejected, you are not entitled to 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 the 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 wait longer than 3 months to register, you will need to wait at least 6 months 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 2018 on the Social Assistance Agency’s website in Bulgarian, in the third column from the right.

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:

  • 49.50 leva if you live with your husband or wife.
  • 54.75 leva if you live alone.
  • 68.25 leva if you are under 20 years old and attending high school.
  • 90 leva if you are a single parent and your child is younger than 3.
  • 105 leva if you live alone and you are older than 65.

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.

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:

  • 125.25 leva if you live with your husband or wife.
  • 135 leva if you are under 20 years old and attending high school.
  • 154.50 leva if you are a single parent and your child is younger than 3.
  • 174.75 leva if you live alone.
  • 222.75 leva if you live alone and you are older than 65.

You can find the amount of the average monthly incomes in the same table in Bulgarian, in the first column from the right.

The requirements for getting financial benefits for heating also include registration with the Employment Bureau.

Last season, the total amount a household received for heating from November 2017 to March 2018 was 374.15 leva. You can apply for this assistance from July 1 to October 31.

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 an orphan under 25 years old who graduated from a social vocational training center.
  • If you are a person over 70 years old, living alone.
  • If you are a single parent raising a child.

These benefits cover the entire rent. You will have to present an invoice or a receipt to the Social Assistance Agency as proof that you used this money to pay the rent.

4. One-off social assistance

You can apply to receive a one-time amount of up to 375 leva to satisfy your vital needs such as health, education and household-related expenses. You can also use this amount to pay for your identity card.

5. Free train travel

Twice a year, you have the right to travel in Bulgaria by train free of charge:

  • If the Medical Labor 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 of disability.
  • If you are a child under 16 years old with a permanent disability.

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:

Caritas Sofia’s St. Anna Center for Refugee and Migrant Integration

Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria

International Organization for Migration

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 labor 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 they refuse your application for social assistance, you can appeal it with a lawyer’s help.