Work and residence opportunities for third-country nationals.

Work and residence opportunities

In this article, we will look at the possibilities for third-country nationals, as well as EU citizens, to obtain a work and residence permit in Bulgaria.

The regulation concerning the residence and work of these nationals are found in the Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria (LFRB) and the Regulations for the Implementation of the Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria (RLFRB), the Law on Labour Migration and Labour Mobility (LMLM) and the Regulations for the Implementation of the Law on Labour Migration and Labour Mobility (RLMLM).

If viewed by a non-professional, these regulations can be seen as complex and confusing. Here we will try to explain the different procedures and requirements in more accessible language.

The two most commonly used methods for obtaining such a permit are the EU Blue Card and the Single Work and Residence Permit, which will therefore be the focus of this presentation. Both the Single Permit and the Blue Card are issued by the Ministry of Interior.

Although it is a work permit in both cases, the Employment Agency only gives a written opinion on the application. After a positive opinion from the Employment Agency, the Ministry of the Interior issues the work permit itself.

It is issued to third-country nationals who wish to reside in Bulgaria specifically for the purpose of work and are employed under an employment relationship within the meaning of the Labour Code by an employer established on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria.

EU Blue Card

This procedure is aimed at highly skilled workers from third countries. It is a requirement that the applicant has an employment contract with a Bulgarian employer.

There are no specific requirements to be met by the Employer, including no requirement for proportionality and a certain ratio between third country workers and Bulgarian national workers, and there is no limit to the number of third country workers who are EU Blue Card holders that can be employed by any employer.

The only more specific requirement is that the employment contract should stipulate a remuneration that exceeds the average remuneration by at least 1.5 times.

The permit shall be issued for the duration of the employment contract, but for no more than 5 years. A specific requirement of the applicant for the permit is that he/she must hold a university degree which corresponds to a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and that his/her studies have lasted a minimum of 3 years.

The EU Blue Card work permit allows you to change Employer within the same period for which the card has already been issued.

After two years have expired, the holder of the blue card may change his/her Employer if he/she meets the formal requirements for the issuance of the blue card – “have the necessary competence for the job. The Holder of the Blue card also has the right to ask the Bulgarian Employment agency for assistance in finding a new job is he/she stay without a job.

This assistance can be provided for a period of maximum three months after the termination of the Employment and it is a one-time option for the term of the Blue card permit, regardless when he/she has lost his/her job.

The applicant must have secured accommodation for the entire period for which permission is sought and evidence of this must be provided, as well as notarised consent from the property owner. Other documents must also be submitted, the most important of which are:

  • Justification of the request – Here, in simple text and without a predetermined form, the employer shall state and justify the need and desire to hire the specific employee, as well as the reasons that necessitate the need to hire an employee – a citizen of a third country, instead of a Bulgarian citizen or a foreigner with equivalent rights with the requested profession, who meet the requirements..
  • Documents on the education, specialty, legal capacity, professional qualification and experience of the third-country national worker, which must be relevant to the position applied for and prove his/her ability and qualification to take up this position and perform his/her duties in a quality manner. This may include any documents, diplomas, evidence of work experience, etc.
  • Other documents, including criminal record and health insurance.

It should be borne in mind that, depending on the country of which the applicant is a national, some or all of the documents may need to be apostilled.

Single Residence and Work Permit

The next option, which is applicable not only to highly skilled workers but to all others, is to apply for a Single Residence and Work Permit.

The differences with the EU Blue Card are in several directions. Here again, the permit is issued for the duration of the employment contract, but the maximum period is 3 years. Of course, it is an absolute requirement that the applicant has an employment contract with a Bulgarian employer.

The employer must meet certain conditions, which highlights the next big difference compared to the EU Blue Card. In order to obtain a Single Residence and Work Permit, the number of foreigners who are parties to an employment relationship with the employer must not exceed 20% of all employees under an employment relationship when it comes to large enterprises, and for small and medium-sized enterprises the percentage is 35.

There is no requirement here for the applicant to hold a degree equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree, but they must nevertheless have relevant education and experience for the post, as the employer must justify the need to employ staff from a third country.

Upon obtaining such a permit, the third-country worker is not able to change employer for the duration of the permit already obtained. If he or she wishes to make such a change, the whole procedure must be carried out again from the outset.

Here, too, the applicant should provide a wide range of documents, including proof of secure housing, a diploma, a criminal record and more. It should be borne in mind that, depending on the country of nationality of the applicant, some or all of the documents may need to be apostilled.

An important condition is that working conditions and pay must not be less favourable than those for Bulgarian nationals in the relevant category of work.

A particular feature of the single work permit, as opposed to the EU Blue Card work permit, is that the former requires the employer to have carried out a labour market survey for at least 15 days before submitting the documents.

Within this period, the employer is required to have made efforts to find an employee for the vacant position – a Bulgarian citizen or a person who has the employment rights of a Bulgarian citizen but has not been able to find one.

Only in these circumstances, the employer may proceed with the recruitment of a third-country national. In order to prove that it has carried out such a market survey, the Employer should provide, together with the justification, evidence that it has published an advertisement for the recruitment of the position in question, which should have been published in local and national mass media and/or on the internet;

D visa

After the issuance of positive opinions by the competent authorities and the notification from the employer to the foreigner, the submission of documents for the issuance of a visa under Art. 15, par. 1 of the RLFRB (Visa – D). The applicant should apply for the Visa – D at a Bulgarian embassy or consulate in the country of residence. Within 14 days of entering Bulgaria, the foreigner must personally attach to the application a copy of the page of his/her passport with the visa affixed.

This presentation aims to provide the readers with an overview of the nature and the process of obtaining a work permit on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria by third-country nationals.

Each individual case has its own specificity and an individual approach should be applied to it. Should you have any further questions or require assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.