New Labour Migration and Mobility Act

A new law regulating labour migration and mobility shall enter into legal effect on 21.05.2016 (“LMLMA”).

  1. Main goals of the new law

The new LMLMA aims to harmonize Bulgarian legislation with the acts of the European Union in the area of free movement of employees and employment of foreigners – citizens of third countries outside the European Union (EU) in the territory of Bulgaria. More specifically, the act implements provisions of a number of European directives, regulating the entrance and residence of third country nationals in the territory of the EU. The said European acts are designated to grant the legal rights of the third country nationals wishing to work within the EU, as well as to provide security and balance in the labour market of the accepting member states. The said directives also aim at guaranteeing the equal mobility rights to European employees of all nationalities.

On the other hand, the LMLMA codifies the effective legislation in the area of labour migration and mobility, previously fragmented in various Bulgarian regulations. The LMLMA combines and modifies the provisions, which were so far contained in the Employment Promotion Act and the Ordinance on the terms and conditions of the issuing, rejecting or cancelling of work permits issued to foreigners in Bulgaria.

The LMLMA contains the general rules and the order for granting access of foreign workers – third country nationals to Bulgarian labour market. However, the specific rules shall be developed in separate acts of secondary legislation, including a regulation on the implementation of the LMLMA and a number of new ordinances, which are supposed to be adopted on the basis of the new law.

  1. Access of foreigners to Bulgarian labour market

The LMLMA summarizes the legal grounds for third country nationals to obtain access to Bulgarian labour market:

  • Labour contract with a Bulgarian employer;
  • Sending the foreigner on official business trip to Bulgaria for provision of services;
  • Change of location within internal corporate transfer;
  • Performance of activity as a self-employed person.

The act contains the general requirements to foreigners for granting access to the Bulgarian labour market. They include, among all, preliminary research of the market conditions made by the employer (market test), requirement for 1:10 ratio between foreigners, on one hand, and Bulgarian citizens, EU citizens or other persons having equal rights to them, on the other hand, employed on the basis of labour contracts by the same employer, possession of specific knowledge, skills and professional experience, ensuring labour conditions equivalent to those offered to Bulgarian citizens, etc.

In the event of conclusion of an employment contract with a foreign national or change of location of such within internal corporate transfer, the Employment Agency shall issue a resolution for granting access to the labor market. In case of sending the foreigner on official business trip for provision of services in Bulgaria, the Agency shall issue a work permit. The resolution for access to the labour market and the work permit are issued for a period of up to 12 months, except for the cases of high qualified employment when the permit is granted for the period of validity of the employment contract with the foreigner, which shall be not less than 12 months.

After issuance of a positive resolution for access to the labour market, respectively work permit, the foreigner should apply for a long-term visa (visa type D) and after obtaining such visa, the foreigner may enter Bulgaria and apply for long-term residence permit before the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior.

The LMLMA specifies the categories of foreigners entitled to a free access to the Bulgarian labour market, without the need to undergo work permit procedures. The said categories include foreigners who:

  • are granted a permit for continuous or permanent residence in Bulgaria, as well as the members of their families;
  • are members of the family of a Bulgarian citizen;
  • are members of the family of a citizen of another EU member state, provided that the EU national has used his/her right to move freely within the EU;
  • are granted asylum or international protection in Bulgaria under the terms and conditions of the Asylum and Refugees Act, etc.
  1. Internal corporate transfer

The LMLMA introduces a detailed regulation of the internal corporate transfer as a legal ground for obtaining access to Bulgarian labour market.

Internal corporate transfer represents a temporary change in the place of work of an employee – foreigner, citizen of a third country, for the purpose of his / her work or education. The employee shall be employed under a valid employment contract by a company, having its seat and management address outside the territory of Bulgaria. Subsequently, the said employee is sent to work within the same company or a company from the same group, to another of its offices or the office of another related company, having its seat and management address in Bulgaria. The act defines the meaning of the term “group of enterprises”, thus indicating the corporate limits for using the option of internal corporate transfer when relocating employees between related companies.

The permit issued by the Bulgarian Employment Agency, granting access of the foreigner to the labour market on the ground of internal corporate transfer, gives the foreign employee the right to perform labour activity only for a specific company or a group of companies and only on specific position, namely – managing position, expert position or a trainee, whereas the law provides a definition of each type of position.

One of the main advantages of the option of internal corporate transfer is the fact that it does not require the performance of a market test, nor compliance with the above-mentioned ratio (1:10) between the employed foreigners and Bulgarian/European citizens, as a prerequisite for issuance of the work permit. The permit is valid for a period of 12 months and it may be extended for an overall period of up to 3 years in the case of employees occupying managing or expert positions.

By introducing amendments to the the Law on Foreigners in Bulgaria, the legislator provided an option pursuant to which a foreigner who has acquired a residence permit issued by another EU member state for the purpose of internal corporate transfer, shall have the right of short-term residence in Bulgaria (up to 90 days within each 6-month period) without the need to undergo any additional administrative procedures.

  1. High-qualified employment

Section III of the second chapter of LMLMA regulates the issuance of work permit for high-qualified employment of foreigners. The act reproduces the already existing regulation previously contained in the Employment Promotion Act and the Ordinance on the terms and conditions for issuing, rejecting or cancelling of work permits issued for foreigners in Bulgaria without any major amendments.

  1. Equal treatment

A separate chapter of LMLMA regulates the equal treatment between the employees of the EU and from third countries, and Bulgarian citizens regarding their general rights concerning their professional development and social and economic life in Bulgaria. Such measures are required in view of the increasing urgency of the matter considering the access to social rights as a measure for attraction of qualified employees from third countries on the territory of the EU in order to cover the deficiency in certain economic areas in the European labour market, more specifically high-qualified and seasonal workers.

  1. Amendment of other acts

The transitional and final provisions of LMLMA rescind provisions of the Employment Promotion Act which previously regulated the access of foreigners to Bulgarian market. They also amend certain provisions of the Law on Foreigners in Bulgaria as the most essential changes concern the implementation of new, detailed rules regarding the issuance of residence permits granted to foreigners for the purpose of internal corporate transfer.