3. Residence permits, residence certificates and residence cards
Foreigners who wish to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis (in any case more than three months within each six-month period) should apply for and obtain a residence permit.
European citizens who intend to stay in Bulgaria longer than three months are issued residence certificates.
Family members of European citizens, who are not European citizens themselves, who wish to reside in Bulgaria for a period longer than three months, should be granted residence permits and should obtain residence cards.
The residence permits for Foreigners, the certificates for European citizens and the residence cards for European citizens’ family members who are not European citizens themselves, are issued by the Migration Directorate at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
3.1. Residence permits
The Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria Act provides for three types of residence permits:
A. Extended residence permit – with a term of validity of up to one year
B. Long-term EU residence permit – for initial period of five years and option for renewal, and
C. Permanent residence permit – for an indefinite period of time.
In order to apply for an extended or permanent residence permit the Foreigner should initially obtain a long-stay visa.
The most common grounds for issuance of extended residence permits are:
- The Foreigner is a member of the management or supervisory bodies of a Bulgarian company, provided that such company has employed at least 10 Bulgarian nationals
- The Foreigner is a trade representative of a foreign company registered with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and
- The Foreigner has been issued a work permit by the Bulgarian Employment Agency.
The extended residence permit can be renewed, if the grounds for its issuance still exist at the time of the renewal.
Once the Foreigner is granted an extended residence permit, he/she may live, reside and travel in the Republic of Bulgaria while the permit is valid. The Foreigner may freely choose and change his/her place of residence, or leave the country and enter it again.
Foreigners who have obtained an extended residence permit have all the rights and obligations granted to or imposed on the Bulgarian citizens, with the exception of such rights and obligations for which Bulgarian citizenship is required. For example, they can be employed by Bulgarian employers, receive social security compensations, health care insurance, etc.
Foreigners who have been granted status of a long-term resident in the Republic of Bulgaria can obtain long-term EU residence permits. Long-term resident status can be granted to Foreigners who have resided legally and continuously (i.e. uninterruptedly) on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria for five years prior to the submission of the application for obtaining a long-term residence status. The expiration of the validity term of a long term EU residence permit does not result in losing the long-term resident status.
Permanent residence permits are issued to Foreigners: (i) of Bulgarian descent, (ii) who have been married for more than five years to a Foreigner with a permanent residence status in Bulgaria and have resided legally and continuously on the territory of Bulgaria for a period of five years, (iii) minor or underage children of a Foreigner with permanent residence status in Bulgaria, who are not married, (iv) members of the family of a Bulgarian citizen, if they have resided continuously on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria in the last five years, etc. Permanent residence permits are issued also to Foreigners who have made certain investments in Bulgaria, such being Foreigners (i) who have invested in Bulgaria over BGN 1,000,000 (one million Bulgarian Leva) or have increased their investment with such amount, through acquisition of shares in Bulgarian companies which are traded on the Bulgarian stock exchange, through acquisition of rights under concession agreements on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, or through acquisition of other securities or rights explicitly provided by the law, or (ii) who have invested in Bulgaria over BGN 6,000,000 (six million Bulgarian Leva) in the capital of a Bulgarian company whose shares are not traded on the Bulgarian stock exchange.
The extended, long-term or permanent residence status of a Foreigner is evidenced by the issuance of a Bulgarian residence document evidencing the right of residence in the Republic of Bulgaria, which can be in the form of a residence permit or a residence card.
3.2. Residence certificates
European citizens are issued two types of residence certificates:
A. Long-term residence certificate – with a term of validity of up to five years, and
B. Permanent residence certificate – for an indefinite period of time.
The grounds for issuance of long-term residence certificates are:
- The European citizen is employed or self-employed in the Republic of Bulgaria
- The European citizen has medical insurance and sufficient financial resources to cover the expenses for his/her residence and that of the family members without being a burden to the Bulgarian social security system, and
- The European citizen has enrolled in a school/college/university in Bulgaria for study, including professional training, and has medical insurance and sufficient financial resources to cover his/her expenses and that of the family members without being a burden to the Bulgarian social security system.
In order to apply for a long-term residence certificate, the European citizen should submit an application to the Migration Directorate at the Ministry of Internal Affairs within three months after his/her first entry in the Republic of Bulgaria.
In case some of the necessary documents are missing or not valid, the European citizen shall be granted a seven-day term to correct them. If the person fails to correct the omissions within this term the competent authority shall deny the issuance of a long-term residence certificate.
The right of entry and the right of residence in the Republic of Bulgaria of a European citizen may be restricted in exceptional cases and on grounds related to national security, public order or public health.
Permanent residence certificates are issued to European citizens who have resided continuously in the Republic of Bulgaria for a period of five years or who meet other special requirements set forth in the law. In order to apply for a permanent residence certificate, the European citizen should submit an application to the Migration Directorate at the Ministry of Internal Affairs enclosing document evidencing the necessary circumstances.
3.3. Residence cards
Members of the family of European citizens, who are not European citizens themselves, are entitled to obtain an extended or permanent residence permit in the Republic of Bulgaria, on the basis of the their relation with the European citizen.
Foreigner, who has obtained a residence permit in Bulgaria on that ground, is issued a Bulgarian residence document evidencing his/her right of residence in the Republic of Bulgaria. The residence document is in the form of a residence card.