Can you obtain Bulgarian visa, residence permit and citizenship if you don’t have clean criminal record?

Many potential clients are asking us whether they can obtain Bulgarian visa D if they don’t have clean criminal record. Or whether it is possible to have residence permit and even citizenship if they have been convicted in the past. Well, these are a very tricky questions. It really depends on way too many factors, such as the severity of the crime committed, the date of the sentence and whether the crime is also considered as such in Bulgaria. Still, even without this additional information, the following can be said:

Obtaining Bulgarian visa D with unclean criminal record

In order to apply for and obtain Bulgarian visa D and any type of residence permit, the applicant has to provide:

Criminal record certificate issued by the country of which the foreigner is a citizen, or by the country of his habitual residence.

The law does not specifically require that the criminal record must be clean. While an unclean criminal record will most likely trigger a negative statement by the national security authorities, this is definitely not certain. The severity of the crime and the time it has been committed are important. But for these to be considered by the authorities, the application must be done with utmost care. Of great importance is how the application is submitted and how the criminal sentence is communicated to the authorities. In some cases, a legal report may be helpful, where the crime is explained, in relation to the Bulgarian penal code. It is quite possible that the crime abroad is not a crime in Bulgaria. Or that the crime would have expired, if by Bulgarian law. Our lawyers can help in the majority of such cases.

Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship with unclean criminal record

Bulgarian citizenship is a different beast. Unlike the application for visa D and residence permit, in order to obtain Bulgarian citizenship:

A person who is not a Bulgarian citizen may acquire Bulgarian citizenship if on the date of submission of the application for naturalization he or she has not been convicted of an intentional crime of a general nature by a Bulgarian court and no criminal proceedings have been instituted against him or her for such a crime, unless he or she has been rehabilitated;

Art. 12, par. 1, p. 3 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Law

In other words, the person applying for Bulgarian citizenship must not have been convicted by a Bulgarian court only. And this norm is imperative.

Theoretically, the applicant could be convicted by a foreign court, but we are almost 100% confident that such an application will be rejected. This is because there is an additional requirement foreseen in the Ordinance for the Bulgarian citizenship. According to it, the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship has to provide:

Criminal record certificate from the country of which the applicant is a citizen. If he/she resides permanently or on a long-term basis in the Republic of Bulgaria or in a third country, he/she shall also submit a criminal record certificate from the local competent authorities.

In other words, although this additional norm is non-imperative, when combined with the imperative requirement by the Citizenship Law, it is highly likely that anyone with criminal past will be rejected for Bulgarian citizenship. Still, there are some exceptions of this rule, such as the citizenship for special merits. For this, the applicant doesn’t have to provide any sort of criminal record, neither from Bulgaria nor from abroad.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions or if you need assistance with your application.

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