Annoying requirement, but can we go without it?

Many customers are annoyed by the requirement to present certificate for lack of criminal convictions when applying for residence permit. Especially US clients have serious issues, as they often apply for this certificate through the FBI and the procedure is quite complicated. Another problem is the requirement for the criminal record to be certified with apostille.

So is the requirement for clean criminal record absolute and can it be legally circumvented? Let’s dig into the legal details.

Clean criminal record for long term residence permit – the legalities

The first and most important legal requirement is in Art. 24 of the Bulgarian foreigners law. The relevant text stipulates that:

When submitting an application for the issuance of an initial residence permit… foreigners who have reached the age of 18,… also present documents for a criminal record or for a criminal or police registration, issued according to the legislation of the country of citizenship, to the country of origin or habitual residence.

Art. 24 (2) of the Foreigners Law (edited)

Virtually identical requirements are foreseen in Art. 24b, 24v and 24i.

Imperative requirement

In other words, the applicant for (initial) Bulgarian long term residence permit has to provide certificate for lack of criminal convictions.

From which country should be issued the clean criminal record?

This is the most controversial issue. The law stipulates that the criminal record must be issued from either:

  • country of citizenship; or;
  • country of origin, or;
  • place of habitual residence.

Suppose a Cuban born person has obtained US citizenship later in his life. In the past few years (or months) he has been living in Germany. So what criminal record should he provide? Cuban, American or German? In fact, no matter how ridiculous it is, he may provide any of those. But why ridiculous?

Because if he provides Cuban certificate, it will have zero real value. The person may have left Cuba 50 years ago and logically, the chances of having criminal record there are close to zero. It is another question whether the Cuban authorities will ever consider issuing such certificate to an immigrant, who has left Cuba so long ago.

If the person provides US criminal record, it will be outdated, because the last years the applicant has been living in Germany.

And if the applicant provides German criminal record, it will be not “complete”. This is because the German state will only mention sentences from the last years when the person has been living in Germany. Any previous sentences (ie from the USA) will be missing from this certificate.

How people are trying to circumvent the system

Some applicants for Bulgarian residence are believing that they may provide clean criminal record from a random country. Such certificate will definitely be clean of any criminals sentences as the person has nothing to do with this country anyway. Usually however, a country will only issue criminal record to its citizens of residents. Still, there may be some countries that will, eventually for certain incentive, issue clean criminal record to a foreigner that has never lived there.

So what will happen if an applicant for residence permit provides such certificate?

The Bulgarian authorities will reject it. In order for this certificate to be accepted, the person will need to provide residence permit from this country, showing that he has been living there for certain period of time. Otherwise, the certificate will be rejected.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


  1. I was arrested for section 4 of the public order act. Threatening behaviour – fear or provocation of violence. Triable only summarily, Maximum: 6 months’ custody, Offence range: Discharge – 26 weeks’ custody

    So my criminal record after 12 years will show “No Live Trace” on police certificate, will this result in a complete ban to live in Bulgaria or another EU country even if not for citizenship? I am marrying a Bulgarian.
    Is there anyone I can contact to give me a definitive answer?

    1. Author

      Hello John,
      The matter is extremely subjective. A legal analysis needs to be done in order to determine, what is the corresponding Bulgarian offence to the offence that you have committed abroad. Many times this correspondence is subject to interpretation, which is in the core of solving (or not) the problem. Then, if the minimum sentence foreseen in Bulgaria for this particular crime is more than one year jail time, then you will be prohibited from obtaining residence permit. In case its less than one year, this need to be explained to the authorities, because they will not bother making analysis themselves and they deem each and every crime as a reason to reject the application.
      You can contact our offices for assistance.

  2. I am asking on behalf of my fiance who is UK passport holder. He has a criminal record for GBH maybe 10 years ago or more. Will he be denied a D1 visa if he applies? If so is there any way to contest it or work around it at all? Or is it a flat out ”No” he will not be able to gain residency to Bulgaria having a criminal record.

    1. Author

      It is not “flat out” no. In order to succeed however, you will need to prepare the application with extreme caution and with some specific points being pro-actively explained to the authorities in advance.

  3. Would having a DUI charge in the FBI background check be an issue when applying for a VISA D? My partner and I are expecting a baby and he’s looking to come to Bulgaria for a longer period and for the birth of our daughter. It would be horrible if that would prevent him from being here T.T

    1. Author

      This is the one million dollar question. It all depends on… many things. Such as the legal reason for the visa D application, the time when the DIU was committed, etc.

  4. Crazy, that a criminal conviction can be held against someone for life; especially when the justified punishment for the crime comitted has been fufilled.
    A person committing crimes within their youth often come to regret it as they mature & grow older.
    Continuous punishment for the same offence/s does nothing to deter future criminal activity.
    It is understandable that violent and sexual crimes (especially against children) should be properly noted when applying for residency; yet again if punishment has been metid out and served, a process can be established to merit any possibility of continuous public danger; lesser crimes should end at punishment served & entry should not be restricted.

    1. Author

      Dear John,
      We fully share your opinion. Past crime is a crime and when the sentenced is served or forfeited, it should be all left in the past.

  5. If a person has a criminal record from 40 years ago will they be denied a D Visa?

    1. Author

      It depends on the nature of the sentence and the reason for applying for visa D.

      1. I am looking to move to Bulgaria my wife is from there. I have a house an apartment in Pomorie and I have financial ability to provide for myself. I am a US citizen and I do have a criminal mischief charge that did not result in any jail time only probation in the US will this prevent me from getting a D visa.

        1. Author

          Eventually yes, this may prevent you from getting visa D. Still, there are many variables that need be taken into account. We would advise you to contact our offices or other reputable legal provider of immigration services for assistance.

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