Equal treatment – right or wrong?
One of the fundamental rights, protected not only in our national law, but also in those around the world, is the inalienable right to be able freely to choose your place of residence and the right of free movement. These rights are guaranteed at the highest level – constitutionally. In addition, we find many provisions in this direction also in the international law:
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Thus, everyone must be treated equally under the law. And this is regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination or bias. It could not be otherwise. This logically follows from a democratic time in which we already live.
An American strategic contractor can’t get his immigration papers in order in Bulgaria
But what if the foreigner is coming from a strategic country and is sent to Bulgaria on an important assignment. What if his mission in Bulgaria could bring the country one step closer to the US strategic agenda. What if Bulgaria can indeed benefit from this particular foreigner’s professionalism (though not enough for citizenship for special merits). Shouldn’t there be some “exceptions” so this foreigner can circumvent some of the legal requirements? Doesn’t this foreigner deserve faster and easier processing of his residence permit application?
The story of our client
Along the democratic paths thus established, one of our clients, a US citizen, arrived on work assignment in Bulgaria with visa D. As a narrow specialist, carrying out a specific activity, pursuant to Art. 24, para. 1, item 4 of the Foreigners Law, he was sent to Bulgaria by the United States to carry out his work at a high state level in one of our ministries. Our client arrived in Bulgaria with his wife, also a non-EU citizen. Their path was full of obstacles and vicissitudes with a simple goal – getting Bulgarian residence permit.
A foreign specialist residing in the country by virtue of an international agreement to which Bulgaria is a partyArt. 24, para. 1, item 4 of the Foreigners Law
The situation of our client’s wife
Our client’s wife is a citizen of a non EU country, which caused additional difficulties. She came to Bulgaria under the conditions of visa-free regime on the grounds of Art. 4, para. 4 of the Ordinance on the terms and conditions for issuing visas and determining the visa regime. She enjoys the exemption to have a visa when visiting EU countries. On this basis, she has right to stay in Bulgaria for no more than 90 days within each 180-day period. After the 90 days period however, she has to either leave the country or arrange residence permit.
Long-term residence permit – not as easy as it may seem
It was not difficult for the family to enter the country. The husband already had Bulgarian visa D issued, but even without it, he would be allowed visa-free entry. His wife, as explained above, also enjoys visa-free entry rights to Bulgaria. But staying long-term in the country was the thing they had to solve after they arrived in Bulgaria.
Coming from the United States to carry out a specific mission, our client had to apply for a long-term residence permit on this basis of Art. 24, para. 1, item 4 of the Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria. Sent by the US State Department, our client had at his disposal many (but not all!) of the documents that are required by the Regulations of the Foreigners Law. Unfortunately, some of his documents did not comply with the requirements by the law. This was one of the main obstacles on his way to issuing a residence permit in the country.
The legislation in Bulgaria – quite clear and non-discriminative
However, our legislation in this direction is extremely specific and clear. The documents are described in detail in the laws. All of them must be submitted to the competent authorities in order to be able to obtain residence permit. The laws don’t foresee any exceptions, based on “importance of the applicant”. The law is the law for all, and all people are equal before the law, right? Otherwise, we would face a situation of discrimination against some people at the expense of others.
The required documents
The required documents for obtaining a long-term residence permit on the basis of a foreign specialist residing in the country under an international agreement to which Bulgaria is a party, according to Art. 17 of the Regulations for implementation of the Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria are:
- a document certifying that the foreigner is a specialist residing in the country by virtue of an international agreement;
- a copy of a regular passport;
- evidence of available housing;
- compulsory medical insurance;
- evidence of stable, regular, predictable and sufficient means of subsistence, without resorting to the social assistance system, in the amount not less than the minimum monthly salary … for the period of residence in Bulgaria;
- a criminal record certificate issued by the state of which the foreigner is a citizen or by the state of his / her habitual residence – upon initial submission of the application.
The legislator has imperatively established these documents and requires them to be presented by each applicant when applying for a long-term residence permit on this basis – a foreign specialist. In addition, these documents must meet the legal requirements for translation and legalization.
Failure to comply with the Law
Our client failed to present one of the required documents, namely the criminal record, certified by an Apostille. This was also the reason why the procedure for terminating the procedure to issue him residence permit proceeding was initiated by the immigration authorities. The law clearly states that no matter what position you hold or where you come from, you are equal before the law. The equality under the law is the most important principle. It states that all people must be equally protected by the law. Legal equality and the rule of law require equal application of the law to all, in the same way and by the same authorities, ensuring that no person or group of persons is privileged over others by law.
In view of what has been said, we could make a well-founded conclusion that if we follow the law strictly, there would be no obstacles in front of us.