Apr 07 2021

Streamlined Immigration Process Forthcoming

Bulgaria

At a Glance

  • Effective June 1, 2021, the application process of most employment-based work and residence permits in Bulgaria will be streamlined, but application deadlines will become stricter and foreign national accommodation checks will be introduced.
  • Foreign nationals and employers can expect that the changes will modernize and streamline the processing of immigration applications through digitization, but they should also expect potential issues due to new technology and as authorities adjust to using the new system.

The situation

Effective June 1, 2021, the application process of most employment-based work and residence permits in Bulgaria will be streamlined, but application deadlines and accommodation scrutiny will become stricter.

A closer look

Details of the new system include the following:

CHANGE  NEW PROCESS CURRENT PROCESS IMPACT

Streamlined and digitized processing

  • Combined permit applications, which include the EU Blue Card, EU Intra-Company Transferee (ICT) Permit and general Combined Work and Residence Permit, will be filed via the Migration Office. The Migration Office will contact the Employment Agency for labor market access as required.
  • The Migration Office will seek additional documents via electronic notification, if required, and will issue electronic approval notifications. 
  • Work authorization applications are filed with the Employment Agency. Residence permit applications are filed with the Migration Office upon arrival.
  • Requests for additional information are sent in hardcopy. 
  • Foreign nationals and employers must make all documents available at the initial filing (currently, documents, such as lease agreements are only required later at the visa application stage). The single filing also means that documents evidencing accommodations should cover a longer validity period than is currently required.
  • The new process seeks to streamline processing, but requires close cooperation between various government bodies. Fragomen anticipates issues may arise at this stage, particularly during the transition phase as authorities adjust to this type of cooperation, which is unusual in Bulgaria.
  • The Migration Office will be the primary actor in the immigration process, which should make the process more coherent. However, Employment Agency information and document requests will now go through the Migration Office, which may cause delays and communication issues.

Streamlined renewal applications 

  • Applicants will be able to file Combined Work and Residence Permit and EU Blue Card renewal applications up to 60 days before expiry.
  • EU ICT Permit applications will be eligible for renewal and applicants will be able to file renewal applications up to 30 days before expiry (as long as the foreign national is still compliant with maximum stay restrictions).
  • Currently, these renewal applications must be filed no later than 90 days before expiry.
  • Currently, EU ICT Permit applications cannot be renewed. Applicants are advised to immediately apply for the maximum permit duration.
  • Employers should be aware that they will have less time to file renewal applications, as the filing window is shorter.
  • However, the ability to renew EU ICT Permits could  potentially improve the retention of foreign talent as foreign nationals may stay for longer durations.

Combined Work and Residence Permit improvements

  • Combined Work and Residence Permits will be issued for three years.
  • Combined Work and Residence Permit applications will be able to be filed in country. 
  • Combined Work and Residence Permits can be issued for up to one year.
  • Combined Work and Residence Permit applicants must await processing abroad. 
  • The new policy reduces the administrative and financial burden of frequent renewal applications.
  • Foreign nationals will not have to leave Bulgaria in order to renew or obtain these work and residence permits.

Visa and residence permit application deadlines

  • Foreign nationals will need to apply for a D Visa within 20 calendar days of approval, and for a residence permit within 14 calendar days of arrival.
  • Residence permit applications will be approved within three business days.
  • D Visa applications must be filed within the work authorization validity and residence permit applications must be filed no later than 14 calendar days before D Visa expiry.
  • Residence permit applications are currently processed in 14 calendar days. 
  • Applicants should be prepared for the next steps of the application process, which will arrive more quickly than before.
  • Applicants should benefit from faster in-country processing. 

Stricter document requirements

  • EU ICT Permit applicants will need to submit a separate legalized document confirming the transfer duration.
  • For Combined Work and Residence Permits, professional experience will need to be evidenced by an official government document.
  • Currently, the assignment letter suffices to confirm the transfer duration for EU ICT Permit applicants.
  • Professional experience can currently be demonstrated by a legalized employer statement.
  • Employers should anticipate providing this document to ensure smooth EU ICT Permit processing.
  • The stricter professional experience document requirement will only affect applicants ineligible for the more common EU Blue Card permit type, in locations where no government certification of professional experience is available. 

Accommodation check

  • The State Agency for National Security may conduct accommodation verifications.

Currently, no such check is in place. 

Foreign nationals may find it more burdensome to find suitable accommodations earlier in the application process. 

 

Background

  • Increase immigration. The current amendments aim to reduce the administrative burden on foreign applicants and streamline the long-term visa processes, making Bulgaria a more attractive destination for sought-after foreign nationals.
  • Alignment with EU Directives. Additionally, these changes align Bulgarian legislation with many EU Directives, particularly with respect to the process changes to the Single Permit Directive.
  • Use of EU-law based permits. Bulgaria and Germany are the only countries that use the EU Blue Card as their main employment-based immigration route. Bulgaria is also unique in that it mainly uses EU-law based permit types as key immigration routes, as it also frequently utilizes the EU ICT permit and Combined Permit as key work authorization options.

 

Looking ahead

Applications filed before to May 31, 2021 will be processed under current immigration rules. Fragomen will monitor implementation of these new procedures and will report on related developments.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].