Revocation of Bulgarian citizenship after fraudulent marriage

Crime doesn’t pay! You may get in serious trouble in Bulgaria if you are not abiding by the laws. Citizenship loss will also come as a “bonus”

Are the Bulgarian laws too severe? Is the Bulgarian penal code fair? Are the conditions for revocation of Bulgarian citizenship too harsh? How easy is for the government to revoke the Bulgarian citizenship of a naturalized foreigner?

The answer to these questions is definitely subjective. For the majority of the Bulgarians, the laws should be much stricter than they are now. We don’t really share this view, but again, our opinion is also subjective.

Fraudulent marriage – criminal charges & cancellation of Bulgarian citizenship

Today we will analyze a real-life situation, reported by one of our website readers. We have to say that we receive many similar reports about foreigners who marry in Bulgaria, while married already elsewhere. Some of them have indeed also obtained Bulgarian citizenship on basis of these “marriages”. Here is the particular question that we have received:

What’s the rule if a non EU member marries a Bulgarian women, but he is already married? The lady knows everything but still goes for the wedding?

comment on our website by Ck

Sham (fake) marriages

It is very important to comprehend that such “marriage” is fundamentally different from the sham marriages that many foreigners are concluding with EU citizens in order to get visa. Such fake marriages remain valid and legal even if the authorities deny the visa of the foreigner, due to serious doubts (or even proof) that the marriage is fake.

Fraudulent marriages

The scenario of our today’s article is for a marriage that directly contradicts the Bulgarian law. This is when one of the couple has been already married, irrespectively whether his/her partner knows about that. This basically constitute polygamy and is something very different than a fake marriage, concluded to circumvent the legislation and obtain visa.

The consequences after a fraudulent marriage in Bulgaria

The consequences are dire. So dire in fact that we don’t understand why would anyone go for a fraudulent marriage and apply for Bulgarian citizenship.

Criminal responsibility for polygamy

The first direct consequence is that marrying more than one person is not allowed in Bulgaria. Circumventing this regulation constitutes crime. It is important to know that even the spouse of the perpetrator will be punished with the same jail sentence. This is if he/she knowns about the existing marriage, something that is not very easy to prove though. According to the Bulgarian penal code:

Whoever, in the presence of a lawful marriage, concludes another marriage, shall be punished for polygamy by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years. The same penalty shall be imposed on one who marries a person whom he knows to be in a lawful marriage.

Art. 179, par. 1 & 2 of the Bulgarian Penal Code

This is pretty straightforward. Jail term for up-to 3 years for polygamy. The bad thing is that if the perpetrator doesn’t somehow get away with suspended sentence, his life in Bulgarian prison with this particular crime in his file, may teach him the real meaning of “polygamy”.

On top of that the perpetrator may be charged for additional crimes, such as false declaration, presenting fake documents (foreigners need to submit certificate about their family status before marrying in Bulgaria), etc. While some of these crimes may be “covered” by the main crime, it will be a real challenge to get away with one sentence only. And if there is another sentence, the jail term may go way beyond the 3-year maximum for polygamy.

Cancellation of Bulgarian citizenship after polygamy

Marrying Bulgarian citizen is often an easy pathway to Bulgarian citizenship. But if the marriage is fraudulent, such as with polygamy, the Bulgarian citizenship will be cancelled. According to the Bulgarian Citizenship Law:

Naturalization, on the basis of which Bulgarian citizenship was acquired may be revoked if the person:

  1. has relied on data or facts which have become the basis for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship and which have been established in a court of law to be false, and/or
  2. has concealed data or facts which, if known, would have been grounds for refusal to acquire Bulgarian citizenship
Art. 22, par. 1, p. 1 & 2

Complicated legal matter

Now, here it becomes really complicated. The fraudulent marriage has definitely been a basis for the foreigner to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. Without it, the applicant should have waited longer in order become eligible for Bulgarian citizenship. Additionally, marriage with Bulgarian citizen makes it possible for the applicant to keep his existing citizenship when obtaining Bulgarian passport.

False/concealed data or fact?

But is the fraudulent marriage a “false data or fact”? Or alternatively, is the “fraudulent marriage a concealed data or fact”? This is extremely difficult questions to answer. As per the family code (art. 48, par. 1), the fraudulent marriage’s cancellation has effect for the future. And that’s a good news for the perpetrator. But not good enough.

End of naturalization anyways

Unfortunately for the perpetrator, the authorities will make all the effort to find legal reason to revoke the citizenship. And this is understandable, isn’t it? After all, the new Bulgarian has committed crime by performing one of the most hated by the Bulgarian society crime (polygamy). And the authorities will find a legal way to revoke the citizenship.

Why will the citizenship be revoked

The most obvious chain of events that will lead to legal revocation of the citizenship is the following. At the moment of the citizenship application, the candidate has filled in a declaration stating his/her family status. He/she has definitely checked “married”, which is at that moment a true statement, as even though the marriage is fraudulent, it has not been annulled at that moment. But here comes the tricky part. The citizenship applicant, in this declaration, has indicated the Bulgarian citizen as his/her spouse. And that’s false. Because no matter how ridiculous this may sound, for the declaration to be true, both spouses should have been mentioned. And that of course would have triggered an immediate investigation that would mean an end to the citizenship application as per art. 12, par. 1, p. 3 of the Citizenship Law. And that’s it, game over.


Polygamy is bad, It is illegal and is punishable by jail sentence in Bulgaria. For naturalized foreigners, spouses of Bulgarian citizens, polygamy will be the end of their naturalization. And all that will mean the end of their European journey, for good.

Limitation periods

Crimes expire. And for a polygamy the expiration is set at 5 years. But is polygamy in every particular case a one-off crime or continued crime? Only the penal court will have the final say. And that means that the expiry time may set the clock to 5 years only after a divorce with the Bulgarian citizen. But even if it starts at the date of the marriage, it’s still a lot of time. Apart from that, the crime of polygamy is often related to a bunch of other criminal acts, such as falsifying documents, etc, that have much longer expiry period. So in a nutshell, only a few may eventually escape the criminal prosecution.

The naturalization on the other hand can be revoked only within 10 years (art. 22, par. 2 of the Citizenship Law). Here are no interpretation that can be done, for as far as polygamy goes. But 10 years is a long time, very long time to fear that the authorities will knock on your door and take your Bulgarian passport away.

For assistance, please contact us at once!

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