Can a foreigner, who has a temporary protection status in Bulgaria, obtain EU Blue Card?
Here is our problem for today: Oleg, a non-EU foreigner, is living in Bulgaria with temporary protection status. This is the legal status that is granted to many Ukrainians and other foreigners, who are trying to escape the horrors of the war in Ukraine.
As Oleg is highly qualified and is meting the requirements to obtain EU Blue Card, he decides to give it a try. After all, he realizes that the very nature of the temporary protection status is… temporary. Getting hold of an EU Blue Card however is something much more desirable, as Oleg would rather not be at the mercy of the authorities, as he is now. To Oleg’s surprise however, after he tries to submit an application, his document are not accepted by the authorities with the following explanation:
You can not apply for EU Blue Card. Foreigners can not obtain EU Blue Card while they are under temporary protection in Bulgaria.
So are the Bulgarian authorities right in rejecting the application with the above reasoning? Let’s find out.
Who is eligible for EU Blue Card after the 2023 amendments?
The Bulgarian Law on the Foreigners is quite clear:
EU Blue Card can be obtained by foreigners who meet the conditions for exercising highly qualified employment according to Bulgarian legislation and:
- possess a visa D or any type of long-term residence in the Republic of Bulgaria, which is replaced by the EU Blue Card permit, or;
- who have been granted international protection in Bulgaria or in the EU.
So in order for Oleg to qualify for EU Blue Card, apart from him being highly qualified, he must also be in possession of one of the following:
- visa D;
- Bulgarian long-term residence permit (any kind will suffice);
- international protection status.
The legal status of the foreigners with temporary protection status
So let’s see what does Oleg have at the moment?
Visa D is not required for foreigners who have been granted temporary protection status. Therefore, logically, Oleg doesn’t have one.
Long-term residence permit?
The status of international protection is NOT a long-term residence permit as per the Law on the Foreigners. It should be noted that a family member of a foreigner with temporary protection status could obtain long-term residence permit, according to art. 24, par. 1, p. 22 of the Law on the Foreigners.
International protection status?
The international protection status is fundamentally different from temporary protection. The difference is objectified in art. 1a, par. 2 and par. 3 of the Asylum and Refugees Law.
With all that being made clear now, Oleg can not apply for EU Blue Card straight away. He should either apply for international protection or for visa D. He can also try to obtain long-term residence permit, but this is futile as he will again need to apply for visa D first. The catch with the visa D is however that Oleg will need to leave Bulgaria and apply from abroad.
But are the authorities right in saying that EU Blue Card is incompatible with temporary protection status?
The main requirement from the foreigner is to present visa D or any type of Bulgarian residence permit. This is of course in the event that he is not under international protection in Bulgaria. There is an exception foreseen in the Law on labor migration and labor mobility. In art. 23, p. 6 of the Law (in the edition of 2023) is mentioned that the Chapter for the EU Blue Card is not applicable for foreigners who are under temporary protection in certain country.
The attitude of the immigration authorities
Dealing with the immigration authorities in Bulgaria is not an easy thing to do. The most frequent problems that many foreigners encounter is when their applications are not being accepted at all. While in some rare occasions, this may be justified, the general rule is that:
The lady at the counter is not the one who should judge about the legality of the submitted application. Her job is to take the documents and file them for processing. If there are any irregularities found, the administrative body should officially, in writing, either reject the application or require additional actions or documents from the applicant. Rejection to accept the documents is, in most cases (not always), illegal!
Why is the EU Blue Card better option than temporary protection?
One may ask, why would Oleg go for EU Blue Card if he has temporary protection status in Bulgaria? With temporary protection, he can live and work in the country, so why bother?
Right vs mercy
Well, the reasons are manifold. First of all, not everybody wants to be at the mercy of the government. Temporary protection is a mercy, EU Blue Card is a right. And that makes a whole of a difference. And, as is often in life, mercy doesn’t last for long. At any moment in time, the status of Oleg may be withdrawn / not prolonged. And then what? Bearing in mind that Oleg is already working and building career in Bulgaria, such an event would have dire consequences for him.
Freedom to travel
Temporary protection card is good for staying in Bulgaria, but not for travel. A person with an EU Blue Card however is free to travel abroad and return to Bulgaria at any time. Let’s also not forget that there are also many Russians who have obtained temporary protection in Bulgaria after the war started in Ukraine. Unlike Ukrainians, Russian citizens do need visa for the EU countries, so for them the option to travel freely may be even more important.
Path to Bulgarian citizenship
One very common misconception is that “refugees” with temporary protection status from Ukraine will become eligible for Bulgarian citizenship in 3 years only. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, the “refugees” from the war in Ukraine are not really “refugees” as per the legislation. You can read why Ukrainians with temporary protection status will not become eligible for Bulgarian citizenship.