I am married to Bulgarian woman/man or I am planning to get married soon. What are my options in order to obtain residence permit in Bulgaria?
Is our marriage legal if concluded outside of Bulgaria? What is the procedure for obtaining legal residence and is my residence permit guaranteed as a spouse of Bulgarian citizen?
The marriage is usually one of the happiest moments in life. It is often associated with love, honeymoon, travel around the world, exotic places and romantic resorts, just to name a few. When your spouse is citizen of another country though, there are often some formalities that need to be followed. And if you have chosen your future country of residence to be Bulgaria, you should carefully take into account the following particularities:
EU citizen marrying Bulgarian national
If you are citizen of an EU country and you have married Bulgarian national, the procedure is quite straightforward and simple. We will therefore not waste our readers’ time to explain the administrative formalities. A worth mentioning is the situation of British nationals married to Bulgarian citizens after (and if) the Brexit becomes reality. We will dedicate additional article about this phenomenon, its legal consequences and the administrative hurdles that will need to be addressed.
Non-EU citizens to marry Bulgarian
The much more complicated scenario is when the marriage is between a Bulgarian national and a citizen of non-EU country. There are more and more marriages between Bulgarians and nationals of USA, Canada, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, Libya, South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, China, Malaysia, Turkey, etc. When the couple has decided to live in Bulgaria, the non-Bulgarian partner has to go through the process of, first, obtaining his Bulgarian immigration visa type “D” and then applying for his annual residence permit. It is often the case, when the residence in Bulgaria is chosen not only because of the country’s beautiful countryside and golden beaches, but also because of the fact that certain term of legal residence in Bulgaria provides the opportunity to apply for full citizenship and Bulgarian (EU) passport. This allows visa free travel to most countries worldwide alongside with free movement and working within the European Union.
The Bulgarian law
According Art.15 of the “Law for the Foreigners of Republic of Bulgaria”, a long term visa with a validity of up to 6 months and allowed stay of up to 180 days can be granted to foreigners who intend to stay long term or permanently in Bulgaria. This visa is to be applied for and received from the Bulgarian Embassy in the country of residence of the foreigner. This process, although quite bureaucratic, is only the first hurdle into achieving the final goal – the EU residency. You will be required to present “certificate for good conduct”, official marriage certificate, legalized as appropriate as well as other documents and declarations. We always recommend using legal support at this stage as failure to meet the requirements of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in your country of residence may result in very serious consequences, preventing you to obtain legal residence. This visa is to be received from the Bulgarian embassy in your country of residence.
The second step
The second step is applying and receiving the residence permit itself from the Bulgarian immigration authorities. According to Art.24, par.1, p.18 of the “Law for the Foreigners of Republic of Bulgaria”, a permit for long term residence can be obtained by foreigners, holders of visa (as explained above) who are family members of Bulgarian citizen as per Art.2, par.6. It is worth mentioning that as “family members” are considered the spouses who are living together in one household. In other words, if you don’t intend to live together with your spouse in Bulgaria, you are not eligible for residence permit. You will have to present a lot of paperwork, such as, your marriage certificate, police record for lack of criminal convictions, declarations, etc. The most important part of the process is that the immigration authorities, together with the police and the “State Agency for National Security” will carry out a thorough check (including an interview with the spouses) in order to verify that:
1) You do not present any thread to the national security. You have to understand, that bearing in mind the current situation in EU (and elsewhere), these checks will be done with utmost scrutiny and there will be a policy of zero tolerance. Even minor convictions or “irregularities” in the past history of the applicant, or any documentary discrepancies, will be deemed as serious breach and the application can be refused.
2) That the marriage is real and is not made with the sole purpose to provide the possibility to the foreigner to obtain residence permit. Art.26, par.3 from the “Law for the Foreigners of Republic of Bulgaria” clearly stipulates this. Moreover in the same Article, par.4, p.1 states that the spouses must be living together and if not, the residence permit can be refused. There are also many other reasons when the permission for residency will not be granted or can be even withdrawn. Please be advised that the spouses will be simultaneously interviewed and their statements compared. Even the slightest doubt of the immigration officer about their honesty can result in immediate refusal and consequential deportation. Therefore we strongly advise all of you, who are facing application for legal residency trough marriage, to consult immigration lawyer before applying yourself.
Attention! Fake marriages!
The statistics show that in recent years, especially after Bulgaria joined the EU and its citizens enjoy the visa free travel as EU members, the amount of fake marriages has skyrocketed. Please be advised, that unless you can prove your marriage to be legitimate, you are not only risking refusal and deportation, but are also subject to criminal convictions, including jail terms. We urge you to employ a licensed Bulgarian lawyer in order to prevent any such possibilities!