The Bulgarian Law for the foreigners
The law for the foreigners is the main legal act that regulates the status of the foreign citizens in Bulgaria. The law is also very important, because it correlates with the Law on the Bulgarian citizenship. Hence, some of articles of the law for the foreigners have direct impact on the procedures for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship.
The controversial Art.25, par.1, p.2 of the Law for the foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria
The said legal article is of great importance for the procedure by which the spouse of an applicant for Bulgarian citizenship by investment will obtain Bulgarian citizenship.
So what is the law saying:
Foreigners can obtain permanent residence permit five years after the conclusion of a civil marriage with a foreigner permanently residing in the country and after residing legally and continuously for a period of 5 years on the territory of the country, as in case of marriage with a foreigner with permanent residence permitted under p. 6, 7 or 8, the residency condition doesn’t apply;p. 6, 7 or 8 are relevant to residency/citizenship by investment (see the remarks for p.8 below)
This legal text was brought to its current shape through the State Gazette nr.108 in 2013. And ever since, it is a source of controversy and confusion in the legal system in Bulgaria.
The meaning of the article
What the article stipulates seems obvious. A foreigner can obtain permanent residence in Bulgaria after 5 years spent in the country. And as additional cumulative condition, 5 years after marriage with a foreigner with permanent residence in Bulgaria.
The controversy – for those applying for residency and citizenship by investment
Here is where the legal uncertainty begins. The spouses of those who have obtained their residency status by investment (p. 6, 7 or 8) are exempt from meeting the 5 years residency criteria. This is obvious and straightforward.
However, the following 2 important questions arise:
- Art.25, par.1, p.8 of the Law for the foreigners indeed allows the applicant to obtain permanent residence by investing an amount of 6 000 000 BGN in a non-public Bulgarian company. This however doesn’t allow the applicant to obtain fast-track Bulgarian citizenship under Art.12a and Art.14a from the Bulgarian citizenship law. Only Art.25, par.1, p.6 and p.7 provide such option, namely after a total investment of 2 000 000 BGN in Bulgarian shares, Eurobonds, etc.
- The only condition of Art.25, par.1, p.2 that applies to the spouses of investment citizenship candidates is to have a “5 years civil marriage with a foreigner permanently residing in the country“. But this is by itself contradictory and unclear. The wording is causing great confusion among the authorities. How about couples who are married long before their application for residency/citizenship by investment. Formally speaking they do not fulfill the condition as at the time of their marriage, none of them has been permanent resident in Bulgaria. And how about those who marry during the first year of permanent residency. And then, after one year, the main candidate for citizenship by investment is applying for Bulgarian citizenship and is obviously losing his permanent residency status. So how can this 5 years “marriage with permanent resident” condition be met, even theoretically?
What we are doing to legally solve the problem at its roots
Legal-wise, there are two options to have this controversy resolved. The first option is to have an Interpretative decision by the Supreme Court that will stipulate how the norm should be applied. The second option is to have an amendment of the law, in particular the discussed text, by the Parliament.
Both options are unfortunately, time consuming. We are therefore working actively in both fields and are hoping to have a breakthrough soon. We would prefer to have an interpretative decision rather than legal amendment. This is due to the fact that the Supreme Court’s decision will be drafted by a team of highly professional judges, who will certainly take care for the right and clear wording of the act. Alternatively, a legal amendment may eventually give birth to another new mambo-jambo, that may be even less clear than is the current norm.
What you should do as an applicant for Bulgarian citizenship by investment
Simplicity is the word here. If you already have legal marriage with your partner, you should neither worry nor do anything (and you can’t). If you are still unmarried however, please act fast and arrange your marriage formalities with your partner. In all cases, no matter what the outcome of the controversial legal article will be, it (the legal marriage) will save you a lot of hassle in Bulgaria.
If you need any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.