Legal analysis of the norm of Art. 1(6) of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act (“BCA”)

Is it necessary for a non-EU citizen to renounce his/her citizenship before he/she can be naturalized (obtain Bulgarian citizenship)? After reading the BCA, the answer to this question seems obvious. However, let us see whether the norm of the law is feasible.

A person who is not a Bulgarian citizen may acquire Bulgarian citizenship if on the date of the application for naturalization: … has been released from his former citizenship or will be released from it at the time of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.1

Art. 12, para. 1, item 6 of the BCA

1 It should be noted that the requirement to be exempted from one’s previous citizenship does not apply to EU citizens, spouses of Bulgarian citizens, as well as citizens of countries with which Bulgaria has concluded reciprocity agreements (Article 12, paragraph 2 of the BCA).

Alexander Dobrinov
author: Alexander Dobrinov

A contradiction between the Law and the way it is applied?

The idea of the legislator is very clear. A foreigner applying for Bulgarian citizenship should not hold any other citizenship at the time of application or at the latest at the date of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.

But is this even possible?

According to the cited provision of the law, even stateless persons may apply for naturalization. In all cases, however, the alien being naturalized must not hold another citizenship at the time of naturalization. That is, any naturalized Bulgarian should have been stateless at some point prior to becoming a Bulgarian citizen. However, this requirement raises a number of serious legal problems, such as how the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship will be identified if he does not even possess an identity document from another country.

Attempt to solve the problems by means of the Ordinance for the Implementation of the Citizenship Law

Let us also see what the Ordinance on the Implementation of Chapter Five of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act requires from persons applying for Bulgarian citizenship:

A document from the relevant foreign authorities stating that the applicant has renounced his or her former citizenship; if no such document is available, it must be produced within three years of receipt of notification that the Citizenship Council of the Ministry of Justice has approved the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship;

Art. 4, para. 1, item 12 of the Ordinance for the implementation of Chapter Five of the Citizenship Law

In other words, the Ordinance no longer requires the citizenship applicant to renounce his/her previous citizenship at the latest until the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship. The Ordinance, instead, imposes an obligation on the applicant to renounce his citizenship within 3 years from the time of his approval by the Citizenship Council. And this is now a very, very different requirement. And there is no penalty for failure to comply with it!

Back to the provisions of the BCA

But let’s see what happens after the candidate is approved by the Citizenship Council.

First of all, the Minister of Justice, based on the opinion of the Citizenship Council, shall make a proposal to the President of the Republic of Bulgaria for issuing a decree on the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship. This proposal shall be made within 12 months (Article 35(1)(1) of the Citizenship Law). Thereafter, the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by naturalisation shall be effected by a decree of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. The decree comes into force on the day of its issue (Art. 36 of the BCA). There is no time limit for the Presidential Decree.

Conclusion – there is no control mechanism for naturalized Bulgarians

The average time for the President to issue a decree is about one year (pessimistically speaking). The maximum time allowed for the Minister’s proposal to the President is 12 months. This makes a total of 24 months, and the Ordinance gives the candidate 36 months to renounce his or her current citizenship.

This means that a candidate for Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization may not renounce his/her previous citizenship and be naturalized quite legally!

Revocation of naturalization in the case of NOT being released from your current citizenship?

But is it possible to revoke the naturalization of a Bulgarian citizen if he has not renounced his former citizenship within 3 years? The answer is NO. According to Art. 22, par. (1) of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law, naturalization on the basis of which Bulgarian citizenship was acquired may be revoked if the person:

  1. has made use of data or facts which became the basis for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship and which have been judicially established to be false, and/or;
  2. has concealed data or facts which, if known, would be grounds for refusal to acquire Bulgarian citizenship, and/or;
  3. has not notified a change under Article 32a.

Obviously, none of the above assumptions is relevant to a naturalized person’s failure to renounce his former citizenship.

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