Ilareva, V.: Overview on Immigration and Refugee Law in Bulgaria, 2011

Download PDF Document


I. Immigration Law

Legal Framework

The most important Bulgarian legal acts on immigration law are as follows:
1. Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria
2. Regulation for Implementation of the Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria
3. Ordinance for the conditions and the order for issuing of visas and determining of visa regime.
In 2011 a lot of amendments in the Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria took place. A new regulation for its implementation and a new ordinance on visas were adopted.


A foreign national may enter the Republic of Bulgaria if he/she holds a valid document for travelling abroad or other substituting document as well as a visa, in case the visa is required. Visa is not required when:

- So is provided in the Council Regulation (EC) № 539/ 2001 of 15 March 2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement.
- So is provided in other acts of the EU that have binding force;
- So is provided in international treaty and Bulgaria is a party on it;
- so is provided in an act of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers
- The foreign national has a valid permission for continuous, long – term or permanent residence in the Republic of Bulgaria.

There are three types of visas – one for airport transfer (visa type “A”), one for short stay (visa type “C”) and one for long stay (visa type “D”). Short term visas are valid for up to six months, calculated from the day of first entry, and grant a right to stay for no more than three months. Long term visas are valid for up to six months and grant a right to stay for up to 180 days. There is a long term visa with validity up to one year and a right to stay for up to 360 days. It is designated for foreign nationals that carry out scientific research or are students in one-year educational programmes or are post-graduate students or trainees or are sent on a business trip by a foreign employer in order to perform specific tasks related to the control and coordination of fulfilment of a contract for tourist services or are sent on a business trip by a foreign employer for making investments that are certified as following the procedure of the Law on Investments Encouragement that are certified as following the procedure of the Law on InvestmentsEncouragement.

Stay (Residence)

The stay of foreign nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria is permitted on the basis of:
1. issued visa;
2. international agreements for visa free regime or alleviated visa regime;
3. permission by the services for administrative control of foreigners. As an exception, the offices for administrative control of foreign nationals may extend the term of stay where this is required by state interest or extraordinary circumstances. There are the following types of residence in Bulgaria:

1. Short term stay – its permitted term is up to 90 days from the date of entering the country. The term may be extended by the services for administrative control of foreigners due to reasons of humanitarian character;
2. Continuous stay – its permitted term is up to one year; the term is renewable upon an application submitted not later than 14 days before the expiration of the current term;
3. Long term stay– its initial term is five years and there is an opportunity to renew it upon a request by the person;
4. Permanent - its permitted term is unlimited.


Foreign nationals who are permitted permanent stay or long term stay in the Republic of Bulgaria are able to be employed under the same procedure established for Bulgarian citizens. Foreign nationals staying for a short term or for a continuous term on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria are allowed to be employed only after receiving a work permit by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. There are exceptions with regard to continuous residence holders who are family members of Bulgarian citizens.

Blue Card of the EU

Some of the amendments that took place in 2011 in the Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria are related to the Council Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment. The permit for stay and work, that is, the “blue card of the EU”, may be received by third country nationals who have obtained a long–term visa and who are highly qualified workers according to the Law on Employment Promotion. The “blue card of the EU” is given upon permission by the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social policy with term for one year. After the expiry of one year it can be renewed. When the term of the labor contract is shorter than one year, the permit is given for the term of the contract, prolonged with one year.

II. Asylum Law


In 2010 1025 asylum applications were submitted in Bulgaria. Refugee status was granted to 20 of these asylum seekers. Subsidiary protection was granted to 118 of them. Among the top ten refugee countries of origin in the period 01.01.1993 – 30.09.2011 are Afghanistan, Iraq, Armenia, Iran, Stateless, Serbia and Montenegro, Nigeria, Algeria, Turkey and Syria.

Legal Framework

Bulgaria has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees. Bulgaria became a member of the European Union on 01.01.2007. Bulgaria is applying all sources of EU law, including the primary and the secondary legislation on the issues that are related to asylum seekers. The Bulgarian national law is named ‘Law on Asylum and Refugees’ (LAR).

Types of protection

Under the national law, LAR, there are four types of protection – asylum, which is given by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, refugee status and humanitarian status, that are granted by the Chairman of the State Agency for Refugees and temporary protection, which is given by the Council of Ministers.

Asylum is granted to aliens persecuted for reasons of their convictions or activity in advocating internationally recognized rights and freedoms. The powers of the President of the Republic to grant asylum are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria and follow from the sovereign discretion of the President.

Refugee status is granted to an alien who has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and/or conviction and he/she is outside the country of hisher nationality or permanent residence and he/she cannot avail of the protection or return to his/her country of origin. Refugee status is also granted to a foreigner, who is recognized as refugee on the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Humanitarian status (subsidiary protection) is granted to a foreign national forced to leave or to stay outside his/her country of origin or residence for reasons of real threat of serious harm such as death penalty or execution, torture or other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, serious and personal threats against his/her life as civil person due to violence in case of internal or international armed conflict. Humanitarian status may also be granted for other humanitarian reasons or on other grounds stipulated in the Bulgarian legislation, as well as on the grounds indicated in the Conclusions of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Temporary protection is granted for a specific period in the event of mass influx of foreign nationals who are forced to leave their country of origin as a result of an armed conflict, civil war, foreign aggression, large-scale violations of human rights or violence in the territory of the relevant country or in a specific area thereof and who, for those reasons, cannot return there.


Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees, (accessed on 26.10.2011)

Invest Bulgaria Agency

Valeria Ilareva, Head Lawyer, Legal Clinic for Refugees and Immigrants, Sofia, Bulgaria, November 2011