On 01.06.2021 the latest amendments in the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act (“LMLMA”) and the Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria Act (“FNRBA”) entered into force. The new rules have introduced significant changes in the procedures arranging the regime of residence and work of third country nationals in Bulgaria. The main changes concern the procedures aimed at issuing of a residence and work permit type EU Blue card and Unified Residence and Work Permit.

1.    General amendments

Previously, the procedures involved two stages – the first before the Employment Agency (“EA”), and the second before the Migration Directorate / Department / Sector / Group (“Migration”). After the entry into force of the amendments, the necessary documents have to be submitted only once to the relevant administrative unit within Migration (the latter is responsible for the entire process of coordinating, forwarding the necessary documents and collecting the mandatory approvals of the other competent authorities such as the EA and the State Agency for National Security (“SANS”)). The procedures are also facilitated by the mandatory electronic communication between the authorities involved and the applicants.

There are also amendments related to the terms for completion of the issuance of the permits, which end with the final opinion of the Migration Director. Another novelty in the regime is the possibility for the foreign nationals, in case of having another residence permit in the country, to start the procedure themselves by submitting all the necessary documents, including those prepared by the employer.

2.     EU Blue Card

Some of the most important changes concern the so called high-qualified employment. In the most common case, where the foreign national is yet to settle in the country, the procedure is initiated by the employer who submits an application, accompanied by all the necessary documents, at the local Migration office. The documents previously required by the EA in order to grant access to the labour market are now submitted along with the documents formerly needed for issuance of the visa D and the residence permit.

In case of any omissions in the documents, the Migration office is obliged to provide the applicant a term of 7-days for correcting them. Once the revised documents are delivered the Migration office should forward them to the EA (within 14 days as of their submission) and SANS, which shall provide their mandatory approvals within 14 days.

Not later than 3 days after the receipt of the opinions of the EA and SANS, the Migration office shall notify the employer of the approval of the documents and forward the same notification to the Consular Relations Directorate. The employer is obliged to notify the foreign national, who shall take the necessary steps for issuance of a visa type “D” within a term of 20 days.

The foreign nationals have to appear personally at the Migration office in order to complete the procedure and receive the residence permit within 7 days after their initial arrival in Bulgaria.

In case the foreign national holds a valid long-term residence permit and the procedure has been initiated directly by the employee, the full set of documents should be submitted at least 60 days prior to expiry of the existing long-term residence permit.

The FNRBA has also introduced a new maximum term for completion of the procedure, which cannot be longer than three months after the initial submission of the documents.

3.     Unified Residence and Work Permit

Similar changes have also been adopted in the regulations concerning the so called Unified Residence and Work Permit.

The former labour market vacancy research and announcement at the labour office is no longer required. The previous mandatory rule that the applicants must reside outside the country until completion of the application process has also been removed. This represents a significant facilitation of the procedure along with the extended term of the permit (which is now valid for up to 3 years).

The procedure is again a one stop shop type and takes place only before the Migration office. It may be initiated by the employee provided that the latter holds a valid residence permit. The documents are again forward to the EA (within 14 days) and SANS. The term for possible omissions is 7 days.

The approvals of the EA and SANS are expected within 14 and 15 days, respectively. The employer and the Consular Relations Directorate should be notified electronically within 3 days after the receipt of the approvals. Then, the employee has to take actions for issuing a long-term residence visa within 20 days.

The foreign nationals shall appear in person at the Migration office not later than 14 days after their arrival in Bulgaria. The entire procedure should be performed within two months. If initiated by the foreign national, the process should start at least two months before the expiry of the existing residence permit.

4.     Other amendments

Amendments, equivalent to the above-mentioned rules and implementing the once stop shop principle have been adopted with respect to the procedure of inter-company transfer and seasonal employment, where the foreign nationals should remain outside the country until the approval is granted.