Visa D for the spouse of a foreigner who is residing legally in Bulgaria
Is it possible for a foreigner, who is planning to relocate to Bulgaria, to obtain visa D together with his spouse? What if a pensioner wants to settle in Bulgaria, but his spouse is not entitled to a pension yet1. We are being asked this question over and over again. And it is understandable why people ask us that. Relocating to a new country by a family is best done together. It is extremely inconvenient for the husband to come first and only when he gets his residence permit, his wife to eventually become eligible for visa D too. So let’s try to shed some light on the topic and see what is possible and what is not.
1 The same situation applies in many other similar cases, such as for the spouse of a future EU Blue Card holder.
Eligibility for visa D for a spouse of a foreigner in Bulgaria
First thing first. Is it at all possible for a family member (ie spouse) to obtain visa D only because his other half has residency permit in Bulgaria? The short answer is yes, but some caveats come down the road, so keep on reading.
Let’s first see what the Foreigners’ Law has to say:
Long-term residence permit can be obtained by foreigners who hold visa D and are members of the family of a foreigner who has received a long term or permanent residence permit…Art. 24, par. 1, p. 13 of the Foreigners Law (shortened)
By member of the family of a foreigner is to be understood the spouse, all unmarried children below 18, etc. Additionally, the family members must be living in one household in order to be considered as such.
So in short, it is a YES. A foreigner is eligible to obtain long term residence permit and visa D on basis of being a spouse of another foreigner, who has long term residence permit in Bulgaria.
Is it possible to obtain visa D together?
Here is where the problems come. First of all, it is important to understand who is formally eligible for visa D. The Foreigners Law states that:
A long-term residence visa (AKA visa D) with a validity period of up to 6 months and a right of residence of up to 180 days can be issued to a foreigner who wishes to obtain long-term or permanent residence permit on one of the grounds specified in this law.Art. 15 of the Foreigners Law (shortened)
In other words, simply put, visa D can be obtained by someone who has legal right to obtain residence permit in Bulgaria. The pensioner-foreigner has such right (Art. 24, par. 1, p. 10). So does his spouse (Art. 24, par. 1, p. 13). But can they apply for visa D at the same time? This would be convenient, as both spouses could obtain visa D, then come to Bulgaria and get their residence permits – together. The problem is that to become eligible as a spouse of legal foreigner in Bulgaria, the first applicant should have already obtained his residence permit. Or not?
So can both foreigners apply for visa D together, at the same time, prior to arriving in Bulgaria?
Our answer is YES (or is it?)
One can argue that before the first foreigner has obtained his residence permit, his spouse has no legal ground to obtain residence permit. And we will agree with this. This is because the first foreigner has not yet received his residence permit in Bulgaria, which is required by the law (p.13 of the law). But what about getting visa D? Visa D can be obtained by those who wish to obtain residence permit on one of the legal grounds in the law. Here, the Foreigners’ Law doesn’t require the first person to have already obtained his residence permit, rather to only have valid legal reason (and desire) to obtain it. So our answer is yes, it should be possible to apply simultaneously for visa D by both foreigners.
Other things to consider
The Visa Ordinance and the regulations to the Foreigners” Law
The other two legal documents that should be considered are the Regulation on the conditions and procedure for issuing visas and determining the visa regime and the Regulations for the application of the law on foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria. None of these two give more definite information about the discussed problem.
Art. 9 of the Visa Regulations is virtually the same as the text in the Foreigners’ Law. Then in Art. 19, the Visa Regulations refers to the Foreigners’ Law and the Regulations for its application.
Case law and the immigration authorities’ way of working
It should be noted that there is no sufficient caselaw on the topic. It is not yet possible to clearly determine how the Bulgarian courts decide on similar cases. Another caveat is that the immigration authorities often reject any application, when there is even a slight doubt about the candidate’s eligibility. And such hypothesis of simultaneous applications for visa D by spouses may look quite questionable for the authorities, who may understand the law differently.