Your question

I am Bulgarian citizen. My husband is a citizens of non-EU country. He has just received his permanent residence permit. We plan on living outside of Bulgaria for some time. He wants to apply for Bulgarian citizenship in 3 years. For how long can he stay out of Bulgaria?

The answer

The Law on the Foreigners in Bulgaria

We are unaware of how your husband has obtained his permanent residence status. Most probably it is under Art.25 (1), more precisely:

  • p.4 – as parent of Bulgarian child (with 3 years requirement);
  • p.5 – applies if your husband has been living for 5 years in Bulgaria and hasn’t been absent from the country for more than 30 months in total;
  • p.11 – as spouse of Bulgarian citizen (your husband) after a residency period of 5 years.

The Law for the Bulgarian citizenship

Art.13 of the Citizenship Law stipulates that a person who has been married with Bulgarian citizen for the last 3 years may obtain Bulgarian citizenship if he has been permanent resident in Bulgaria for at least 3 years. There are also other conditions attached, which are out of the scope of this article.

With all being said, your husband will be indeed eligible for Bulgarian citizenship in 3 years from now.

Loosing permanent residency privileges

Art.40 (1) from the Law on the Foreigners, states that the permanent residence status will be revoked, if:

  • p.5 – the person hasn’t settled and is not living in Bulgaria within 12 months after the residence permit has been obtained (controversial);
  • p.6 – the person has been absent from the territory of the European Union for a period of 12 months on a row.

The controversy of p.6

The law doesn’t clearly stipulate after which residence permit the 12 months period applies. Is it after the initial long-term residence permit of your husband or after the permanent residency.

From one side these 2 permits are indeed different by nature, so formally it should be after receipt of the permanent residence. Seen from another angle however, the human logic suggests that the condition should apply after the initial (long-term) permit.

The non-imperative legal institute of the Bulgarian citizenship

Bulgarian citizenship through standard naturalization is not imperative. Even if your husband has fulfilled all conditions of the law, he is not guaranteed Bulgarian citizenship. The interpretation of the controversial legal article is just the top of the iceberg. If the citizenship council decides not to advise the vice-President to issue citizenship decree for your husband, there will be little options left for you. Such an advise may be subjectively influenced by a long absence of your husband from Bulgaria, although this may not be backed legally.

Things in life are almost never white or black. Laws should be though. But granting citizenship goes beyond the binary nature of the legal framework.

We are sorry if our answer may sound confusing. Please do not consider it as legal advice in any way. It is not. If you need any additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


  1. Hello,

    My husband, who is a Cuban citizen, has just been granted permanent residence in Bulgaria. We would like to go to live in Spain, since I am a Spanish citizen. How long could he stay outside Bulgaria without losing his permanent residence? If he applies for a community residence by marriage in Spain, could he lose his permanent residence in Bulgaria?

    Thank you!

    1. Author

      We think that your husband may have been granted long-term residence rather than a permanent one? Also it is important to know on what legal ground has it been obtained? You can contact our offices for further assistance.

  2. Hello,
    I have dual citizenship from Turkey and Bulgaria.
    I live in Turkey mostly. My husband has residence permit in Bulgaria for 10 years. (We have been married since 2006 and have two kids)
    This summer residence permit expires and we want to apply for a new one. My question is “ is there any difference between residence permit types?” On our residence permit it is not mentioned as family member. It is only written “residence permit”. Does Family member expression helps for citizenship application?
    Thanks in advance for your answer

    1. Author

      There are different types of residence permits indeed. The most important is whether the permit is LONG TERM or PERMANANT.
      Best regards,

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