At the end of July, 2020, a bill (the “Bill”) for amendment to the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act (the “FRBA”) was submitted with the National Assembly. The main purpose of these changes is harmonization of the national with the European legal framework of the rules and procedures regulating legal migration.
Which individuals are regarded as “foreigners”?
The legal definition of “foreigner” has been amended – now EU citizens are legally equated with Bulgarian citizens.
It will be possible that visa applications be electronically submitted through an application form completed online, signed with an electronic signature.
As a new ground for refusal for issuance of visa or as grounds for refusal of entry into the will be introduced the conviction for a publicly prosecuted intentional crime, handed down by the state of citizenship or residence of the foreigner.
The Bill specifies the conditions for issuance of a multiple-entry short-stay visa with a validity of up to 5 years. These conditions include that the foreigner:
- has a valid travel document issued in the previous 10 years with a validity term of at least 3 months after the date of departure planned from the Republic of Bulgaria;
- has duly explained the purpose and conditions of his/her stay, the sufficient means of subsistence during his/her stay in Bulgaria and for his/her return to the country of origin or for transit to a third country.
It is possible to issue multiple-entry short-term visas with different validity periods depending on whether the foreigner has a previous visa.
The issuance of a multiple-entry visa valid though up to five years will be a possible residence option for foreigners who prove:
- their intention to travel regularly;
- their good faith and reliability;
- the lawful use of previously issued visas;
- their economic situation in the country of origin;
- their actual intention to leave the country before the expiration of the visa they are applying for.
The following grounds are introduced for refusal for acquisition of residence status by stateless individuals:
- possession of a valid identity document or previous possession of an identity document that has not been renewed;
- the existence of coercive administrative measures imposed under the FRBA (e.g. for entering the country with a false or forged identity document);
- if there are grounds for refusal to enter the country (e.g., if the foreigner endangers national or international interests and/or security).
More detailed regulation of the procedures for issuance residence permits will be introduced regarding:
- seasonal workers;
- third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment – i.e. for applicants for an EU Blue Card;
- third-country nationals who are scientific researchers;
- third-country nationals participating in intra-corporate transfers.
Before the Bill, the only legislation applicable was not quite detailed and has not been provided for in a law, but under the Regulation for implementation of the FRBA.
New grounds for refusal of issuance of a residence permit and term-extension of a permit issued is the existence of a conviction for a publicly prosecuted intentional crime, handed down by the state of citizenship or residence of the foreigner.
EU Blue Card
A deadline for submission of applications for renewal of EU Blue Cards is introduced – 30 days before the expiration of the residence permit. The application should be signed by the employer, as well.
Electronic processing of applications for issuance of EU Blue Cards is introduced, as well as a 7-day term for correction of errors which the applicant is notified electronically for. Coordination activities between the Migration Directorate and the Employment Agency within the permit issuance procedure will be carried out more quickly and efficiently through electronic exchange of information.
Restrictions for the employment of EU Blue Card holders are introduced – if the permit has been issued by the Bulgarian authorities, during the first two years the foreigners are only allowed to exercise work on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. The right to receive compensation for unemployment by such persons is also limited, as it can only be granted once within the validity period of the EU Blue Card.
The procedure for family reunification of foreigners holding a residence permit is to be re-regulated – from the Regulation for application of the FRBA it will be regulated under the FRBA. In this regard, the requirements that a residence permit holder should meet in order to be able to reunite with his family are specified.
The section for administrative coercion measures introduces a new effective remedy for the expulsion of a foreigner to a safe third country when his/her life and liberty are may be threatened in his/her country of origin. No coercive measure of expulsion to the country of origin shall apply to such foreigners.
New sanctions imposed on employers
Fines or property sanctions are introduced for employers who:
- have not notified the Migration Directorate upon termination of employment agreement with a foreigner;
- employ a foreigner who holds a visa but has not obtained a residence permit;
- have not notified the Migration Directorate of an employed foreigner who does not attend his/her workplace to perform his/her job and his/her place of residence is unknown;
- employ a foreigner for short-term employment without meeting the requirements of the FRBA.