Citizens of non-EU countries, citizens of EU countries and members of their families. Who needs visa D?

This article deals with the legal status of foreigners who are not citizens of EU countries (we emphasize on the conditions for obtaining visa D by a foreigner). EU citizens and their family members do not need visa D (even if they are non-EU nationals). Unfortunately, family members of Bulgarian citizens do not have such privileges. Sounds discriminatory? Certainly yes. Please read our article on discrimination against spouses of Bulgarian citizens (in Bulgarian).

Nationals of third countries, family members of EU citizens

Citizens of non-EU countries who are family members of EU citizens are advised to read our article – can a citizen of a non-EU country, a family member of an EU citizen enter Bulgaria without a visa?

Long-term (stay) visa – definition

чужденец виза D

In the legal literature it is usually referred to as visa D, visa “D”, visa type “D”, visa-D, visa under Article 15 of the Foreigner’s Law, visa for long-term residence, immigrant visa, etc. Its correct name is:

Visa for long-term residence under Article 15 of the Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria

Visa D is issued by the diplomatic missions of Bulgaria abroad (embassies, consulates). It is valid for up to 6 months and provides right of residence for up to 180 days. It is difficult to obtain it and the cases of refusals are increasing dramatically. In case of refusal to issue a D visa, the foreigner does not have a legal opportunity to apply for residence permit in Bulgaria. This often leads to the impossibility to reunite families in Bulgaria (most often when a Bulgarian woman is married to a foreigner). In some cases this also means that the foreigners can not live with their children (Bulgarian citizens) in Bulgaria.

Everything you need to know about the (in)famous visa under Article 15 of the Foreigner’s Law

In the past few years, more and more foreigners have been trying to settle permanently in Bulgaria. At the same time, the conditions for obtaining the right of residence are tightened by the day. The immigration authorities subject all applications to a thorough and very critical analysis. That is why the cases of refusals to issue visas are extremely common.

Long-term residence in Bulgaria – not without visa D?

In Bulgaria there are 3 main residence regimes for foreigners from third countries (non-EU members). These are:

  1. Long-term residence;
  2. Prolonged residence;
  3. Permanent residence.

In this article we will be discussing the particularities of the long-term residence and the relevant legal procedures and conditions for applying.

Visa D and the Law on the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria

The Law on the Foreigners is the main legal act that determines the conditions and the order under which foreigners can enter, reside and leave Bulgaria.

Visa D – absolutely required to obtain long-term resident status?

The Foreigner’s Law practically stipulates that in order to obtain a long-term residence permit, a foreigner must be in possession of visa D.

Exceptions to the rule

There are some legal mechanisms for obtaining a residence permit without a D visa, but they are extremely complex and ambiguous.

Some time ago, our team won an unprecedented case, when the administrative court ruled to issue a residence permit without visa D. Unfortunately, the Dobrich Regional Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior, engaging the administrative and financial resources of the state in order to prevent the legalization of the residence of a parent of a child – a Bulgarian citizen, appealed the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court. The decision of the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the administrative court, with arguments that, in our opinion, violate the rights of the foreign citizen, his family and especially the Bulgarian child. Our team is fully determined to defend the rights of the family before other institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The legislative idea about the need for a visa D

Article 15 of the Foreigner’s Law states that “Long-term residence visa (visa D) …. may be issued to a foreigner who wishes to obtain a permit for long-term, prolonged or permanent residence in the Republic of Bulgaria on one of the grounds specified in this law. “.


So far so good. The legislator’s idea seems logical. If the foreigner wants to settle in Bulgaria, he must apply for it. For this purpose, he must first arrive in the country and submit the relevant documents. In order to enter Bulgaria, a foreigner can (has the right) to obtain visa D. It would be logical for a foreigner who does not need an entry visa for our country (for example, citizens of the USA, Canada, Ukraine, Brazil, etc. ) not to be obliged to obtain a visa D. The visa under Article 15 of the Foreigner’s Law will only duplicate his rights to enter Bulgaria according to the visa-free agreement that his country has with Bulgaria. The same applies to foreign citizens who can visit Bulgaria with a Bulgarian tourist or other visa, such as a Schengen visa.


We said already that getting visa D is not a bad idea. Yes, but not quite. In fact not at all. Obviously, the idea of the legislator is completely different. Because Article 24, paragraph 1 of the Foreigner’s Law stipulates that “Long-term residence permit may receive foreigners who hold a visa under Article 15, paragraph 1 (D visa) and: … (what follows are the conditions for obtaining the right of residence)“.

In other words, the law stipulates that obtaining visa D is a mandatory condition for applying for a residence permit. Thus, it turns out that the legislator in practice puts an additional barrier before obtaining the right of residence in Bulgaria. The foreigner must first apply for and obtain visa D and only then can he travel to Bulgaria to apply for long-term residence.

Convenience or a problem?

In many cases, this is not a problem. Take, for example, a foreigner, an Indian citizen, who is admitted to a Bulgarian university. In this case, in order for him to reside in Bulgaria, he must obtain a long-term residence permit. This happens in Bulgaria, which is why the Indian citizen will need a Bulgarian visa to be able to visit Bulgaria. In this case, obtaining a D visa from our embassy in New Delhi is convenient and legally logical.

In another hypothesis, however, let us assume that a US citizen marries a Bulgarian woman while in Bulgaria under the US visa-free agreement with the EU and Bulgaria. In this case, he will have to leave Bulgaria to travel back to the United States to apply and wait for D visa. This process will, at best, take him 2 months, during which time he will be separated with his wife.

Even more unpleasant is the case of an Australian citizen who is married to a Bulgarian woman with whom they have a child. Until now they have lived together in Dubai (UAE), but after traveling to Europe they have decided to settle permanently in Bulgaria. In this case, the Australian citizen will first have to return to Australia (paying all travel expenses) and wait there for visa D. The procedure can take months, during which time he will be separated not only from his wife, but also from his child.

Visa D duplicates the procedure for applying for residence permit and creates administrative hurdles

In fact, the provisions of the Foreigner’s Law create additional difficulties for the foreign nationals. Most importantly, the visa D application process forces the foreigner to submit the application from outside of Bulgaria (in his / her own country). Thus, the foreigner is not allowed to enter the territory of Bulgaria at all, and the procedure can last months. In case of refusal and appeal, the waiting term can take years. During this time, the Bulgarian state is achieving two contradictory goals:

  1. does not allow foreigners on its territory, for whom there are suspicions that they have no legal grounds for residence;
  2. the rights of the foreigners are violated, but also of the Bulgarian citizens, with whom they have established lasting ties and / or family relations.

Applying for visa D – where?

In the applicant’s own country

The foreigner must apply for a D visa at the Bulgarian embassy (consulate) in the country of which he is a citizen. A citizen of Ukraine, for example, should apply at the Bulgarian embassy in Kiev or Odessa. US citizen – in any of our US diplomatic missions.

In a neighboring country, if Bulgaria does not have an embassy in the applicant’s country

If there is no Bulgarian diplomatic mission in the foreigners country, the application should be made at the Bulgarian embassy, which is authorized for the respective country. For example, a Thai citizen must apply for visa D at the Bulgarian embassy in Vietnam.

In another country (legally permissible but difficult)

There is another legal possibility, namely to apply in the Bulgarian embassy in a third country. This option is used by foreigners who do not live in the country of which they are citizens of. It is usually necessary for the foreigner to have a residence permit in the “other” country where he wants to apply for visa D. Exceptions are possible in certain circumstances. We recommend that you contact us in advance if you want to apply for visa D in a third country.

In Bulgaria

It is not possible to apply for visa D in Bulgaria!

Conditions for obtaining long-term residence permit in Bulgaria

The main hypotheses under which a foreigner, a third-country national, can obtain a long-term residence permit are listed in Art. 24, Art. 24a, Art. 24b, Art. 24c, Art. 24f, Art. 24h and Art. 24i. Below we will list the most common hypotheses referred to in Article 24 of the Foreigner’s Law. Generally speaking, foreigners who can obtain a long-term residence permit are those who hold visa D, and:

  • wish to perform work as employees with the permission of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy;
  • carry out commercial activity in Bulgaria, as a result of which at least 10 full-time jobs have been created for Bulgarian citizens;
  • are foreign specialists commissioned in Bulgaria under international agreements;
  • are representatives of a foreign trade company (through registration of a trade representative office);
  • are financially secured parents of a Bulgarian citizen or of a foreigner with permanent residence status;
  • are in hospital for long-term treatment;
  • are correspondents of foreign mass media and are accredited in Bulgaria;
  • have received the right to a pension according to the legislation of Bulgaria or another country;
  • are family members of a foreigner who has received a long-term or permanent residence permit;
  • are members of the household of a foreigner under Art. 23a, para. 3 (administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission or consular post) or his private domestic assistants;
  • wish to carry out freelance activities after permission from the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy;
  • wish to carry out a non-profit activities (eg through a foundation) with the permission of the Ministry of Justice;
  • have a positive opinion from the “Religions” Directorate of the Council of Ministers – in their capacity of foreign religious officials;
  • have received the status of special protection under the Human Anti-Trafficking Act;
  • are members of the family of a Bulgarian citizen;
  • have acquired properties in Bulgaria for an amount of not less than BGN 600 000;
  • have made an investment of not less than BGN 250 000 in economically disadvantaged regions and have created at least 5 jobs for Bulgarian citizens;
  • wish to volunteer within the European Voluntary Service;
  • are family members of a foreigner with asylum, temporary protection or humanitarian status.

Applying for visa D – how can we help?

Applying for a D visa is the first and most important stage of the procedure for obtaining a residence permit in Bulgaria. Any refusal to issue visa D usually has fatal consequences. After a refusal, it is very likely that the foreigner will be not able to visit Bulgaria anymore. And in some cases even the other EU member states. Therefore, the applicant should make all possible effort to minimize the risk of rejection.

Our team can provide you with the following basic services (to start with) in order to obtain visa D as easily, quickly and conveniently as possible:

  • preparation of all necessary documents;
  • preparation of the candidate for the interview at the Bulgarian Embassy;
  • assistance in submitting the documents in a third country;
  • appeal against the refusal to issue visa D.

We have the opportunity to assist you in highly complicated cases in relation with obtaining a visa D. Please contact us for more information.

In certain cases, we will also be able to assist you in applying for a residence permit without the need to first obtain visa D.


  1. I am deaf person I live at varna. my brother want visit visa residence visa in Bulgara. how many pay you immigration lawyer ? please help me

    1. Author

      What is your and your brother’s citizenship?

  2. I’m an italian citizen but my wife is from outside the EU (Argentina). We have the documents that state we’re married. We’re moving to Varna and I have a work contract. Does she need a visa to enter Varna with me? can she get the residence permit after we arrive?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Author

      Hello Pablo,
      Argentina has visa-free regime for short visits with Bulgaria. Therefore, only to enter Bulgaria, your wife doesn’t need Bulgarian visa.
      As to staying longer in Bulgaria as your wife, she will need to obtain long-term residence permit. For this to happen, you must be registered in Bulgaria as resident too.
      Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assistance.

  3. Hello I have a conviction for theft when I was 19 I’m now 65yrs old no more convictions since iv had apartment in bulgaria for 7yrs and love it but need d visa what are my chances

    1. Author

      Hello Susan,
      As it has been 46 years since the conviction, normally there should be no problem. However, you should have very solid legal ground to obtain visa D as the authorities may consider your conviction as an an obstacle, albeit already spent.

  4. Hi,
    I’m a Swedish citizen (EU member), currently resident in the US where I’ve lived together with my fiance for 8 years (he’s a US citizen). We have

    The company he works for has a branch in Bulgaria that he would like to transfer to.

    Can we get married after we settle down and buy a house there, and can he then get permanent residency so we can both stay forever?

    Or do we have to get married before we leave the US? (we didn’t want to get married during the pandemic, and also we thought it would be wise to wait until we are in Bulgaria to make sure that we both like to live in the same place before we get married.)

    Thank you!

    1. Author

      It is not so easy unfortunately. You should be able to prove that you have registered relation with your partner (although not legally married) in order to arrange for him Bulgarian residence permit. Please note that it will be not sufficient to declare to the authorities that you are living together and are a couple. We recommend you reading Family member of EU citizen
      If you need additional information or assistance to obtain residence permit, please let us know.

  5. Hi my name is Keith Dempsey and I am a house/non trade business owner in Bulgaria. i intend to retire in Bulgaria in two years time and I wish to apply for a Bulgarian extended/long term residence permit. Can you help me? Keep well KD.

    1. Author

      Yes, we can assist you with that. Please contact us when the time comes.

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