Renunciation of previous citizenship BEFORE obtaining Bulgarian citizenship

The problem with the requirement for a candidate for Bulgarian citizenship by ordinary naturalization to renounce his or her previous citizenship reaches new dimensions. More and more clients are seeking our assistance after they have already been approved by the Citizenship Council but have received a letter with vague “remarks”. Generally speaking, the letter from the authorities states that the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship should renounce his/her current citizenship within 3 years. In fact, the letter itself has no legal value. The bad thing, however, is that the authorities apparently halt the procedure and after receiving such a letter – nothing more happens and the applicant does not get Bulgarian citizenship.

Alexander Dobrinov - speaker
author: Alexander Dobrinov

Legal Analysis of the Absurdity of Article 14 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act (BCA)

M.C. Escher
M.C. Escher, Relativity. Lithograph. Private Collection, USA. All M.C. Escher Works @ 2018 The M.C. Escher Company. All rights reserved
There is something ingenious in the Bulgarian Citizenship Act. There are so many contradictions in it that it resembles a work by M.C. Escher, with all its absurdity…Alexander Dobrinov

Today, we will focus on the provision of Article 14 of the BCA, which defines the conditions under which stateless persons can be naturalized. The problem with this article of the law is that it provides for a shorter period of naturalization for stateless persons than for persons who hold another citizenship. That is, the period for ordinary naturalization for stateless persons is 3 years, while the general period is 5 years from the time of obtaining a permanent residence permit.

Let’s see what the legal provision in question says:

A stateless person may acquire Bulgarian citizenship if he/she meets the conditions under Art. 1(1), (3), (4) and (5) and has been granted a permanent or long-term residence permit in the Republic of Bulgaria for at least 3 years prior to the date of submission of the application for naturalization.

Article 14 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law

But in what lies the absurdity of Article 14? The fact that according to Art. 1 (6), any applicant for Bulgarian citizenship by ordinary naturalization must also have renounced his former citizenship:

A person who is not a Bulgarian citizen may acquire Bulgarian citizenship if, at the date of the application for naturalization, he or she is exempt from his or her former citizenship or will be exempt from it at the time of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.

Art. 12, para. 1, item 6 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law

However, for those who have renounced their previous citizenship under Article 12 of the BCA, the requirement for the period of permanent or long-term residence is 5 years (Article 12(1)(2) of the BCA), while for stateless persons under Article 14 of the BCA, the period is 3 years. However, those who have renounced their previous citizenship certainly meet the definition of stateless persons. Why then do they have to wait 5 years and not 3?

Are only stateless persons eligible for Bulgarian citizenship by ordinary naturalization?

According to the text of Art. 1(2) of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law, it is clear that only persons without other citizenship may obtain Bulgarian citizenship by ordinary, standard naturalization. We have explained why this is not quite so in our article Exemption from foreign citizenship for the purpose of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship. But the hypotheses we have discussed in our article are based on the application of the ordinance implementing the Ordinance, not on the law itself. And let us not forget that the Ordinance is, after all, a subordinate normative act. And in the law, the standard naturalization requirement is very clearly defined:

The applicant must have been released from his/her previous citizenship at the time of application for naturalization or at the latest at the time of acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship.

In other words, in order to obtain Bulgarian citizenship under Article 12 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law, the applicant must not hold any other citizenship. However, if the applicant does not hold any other nationality, then he/she can also apply under Article 14 of the Citizenship Act as a stateless person. Thus, the residency (permanent residence) requirement will be 3 years instead of 5 years. Is Article 12 then applicable at all? And Art. 14?

The institution of Bulgarian citizenship is extremely complex and, unfortunately, controversial. In recent times, obtaining Bulgarian citizenship has become not only difficult, but for many applicants – almost impossible. The struggle with the administration and bureaucracy is difficult and requires a lot of effort. If you need assistance, you can contact us.

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