Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine’s impact on the immigration to Bulgaria

When the covid19 hit the world, many foreigners needed to apply for Bulgarian visa D in a country, different than the country they were citizens of. This was quite logical as these people were living in different countries and travelling back to their homeland was risky or impossible. Now that the covid is over, or so it seems, the problem arises again. This time because of the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians are the most affected now

After the war started and especially after Russia started mobilizing its men for the trenches, our offices were stormed by clients from Ukraine, Russia and Belorussia. All they wanted the same thing – to apply for visa D in a third country. Although the reasoning is different, they all want to escape the war. Ukrainians are fleeing abroad from the Russian invasion. The Russians and Belarusians are trying to escape mobilization and being sent to the frontlines in Ukraine. Who can blame them.

Where can you apply for visa D

Note: This article contains quite a lot of legal information that you may not wish to read all through. If you only want to find out the answer of the question (where you can apply for Bulgarian visa D), you can scroll down to the bottom of the article.

Visa D, as per the Bulgarian legislation, is the prerequisite to obtain long-term residence permit. There are some comprehensive exceptions (see also Love wins over bureaucracy /in Bulgarian/), but the general rule is:

No visa D – no residence permit!

So where should you apply for visa D? According to the Visa Ordinance:

The application for the issuance of a long-term residence visa (visa D) is submitted only at the diplomatic and consular missions of the applicant’s permanent residence or at those missions that are accredited for the country of the applicant’s permanent residence.

Art. 11, par. 4 of the Visa Ordinance

It is clear that the visa should be applied for in the country of the permanent residence of the applicant. What is meant by permanent residence will be explained below. To make things more complicated, the following paragraph of the visa ordinance states that:

Applicants for a visa under par. 4, who reside legally in a third country other than the country of their permanent residence, may exceptionally submit an application in this third country after justifying the reasons for this and if their return to the country of permanent residence is guaranteed.

Art. 11, par. 5 of the Visa Ordinance

So here the legislation refers to legal residence in addition to permanent residence. So let’s try to find out what these two terms mean – legal residence and permanent residence. But before analyzing these terms, it’s worth mentioning yet another possibility, foreseen by the Visa Ordinance. Namely, the law allows the applicant to apply from any country, provided his request is humanitarian or urgent:

In humanitarian and urgent cases, an application for the issuance of a visa can also be submitted in countries other than those provided for in par. 3 – 5.

Art. 11, par. 6 of the Visa Ordinance

Legal residence

There is no legal definition of the term “reside legally” (legal residence) neither in the Visa Ordinance nor in the Foreigner’s Law. Therefore we will need to analytically derive its meaning from the legal texts.

It is quite obvious that anyone with any sort of residence permit in a country will fit in the definition of “legally residing”. The question is whether someone with tourist visa or with visa-free regime will also be “legally residing” in the country for the purposes of the visa ordinance. For example, with regard to the Bulgarian legislation:

  • Is a Russian citizen considered to be legally residing in Turkey if he is staying there visa-free?
  • What about an Ukrainian with an US visitor visa, is he also considered to be legally residing in the USA?

Obviously all countries in the world have different interpretation of that is legal residence according to their laws. This will be however irrelevant to the Bulgarian legislation, as there needs to be an unified interpretation of the legal status of the foreigner who applies for Bulgarian visa D. In order to find out what is deemed to be “residing legally”, we need to find out what the Bulgarian Law on the Foreigners states. It namely stipulates that the types of visas are:

  1. for airport transit (visa type “A”);
  2. for short-term residence (visa type “C”);
  3. for long-term residence (visa type “D”).

So it becomes clear that someone on tourist visa should be considered to be legally residing. In the Foreigners Law, the term “visa-free regime for short-term residence” is also used. With all that being said, we conclude that:

Someone on a tourist visa or visa-free regime should be considered as legally residing in the relevant country for the purposes of the Bulgarian Visa Ordinance.

Permanent residence

When it comes to the term “permanent residence”, things are a bit easier. There is no legal definition in the Visa Ordinance nor in the Foreigners Law though. The Foreigners Law however defines that the foreigners may reside in Bulgaria:

permanently – with an indefinite term allowed.

Art. 23, par. 1, p. 4 of the Foreigners Law

Based on that we can conclude that permanent means exactly what the word says – permanently. So one has to hold a permit that allows him to reside indefinitely in the country in order to be considered to be permanent resident. No long-term residence permit, of any kind, will count.

So with all that being said, we can make the conclusion as to in what country can you apply for Bulgarian visa D.

Conclusion – the country where you can apply for and obtain visa D

Your home country – the country of which you are citizen of

First and foremost, you can apply for visa D in the country of which you are citizen of. Although the Bulgarian legislation doesn’t even refer to “the country of your citizenship”, the authorities will deem that by default you are allowed to live permanently in the country of your citizenship.

A country where you are residing permanently

If you are living in a foreign (to you) country and are having permanent residence permit, you can apply for visa D at the Bulgarian embassy in this particular country. Please note that it is necessary to hold residence permit that allows you to indefinitely reside in this country.

A country where you are legally residing – conditions apply

You can apply in a country where you reside legally. This is not only if you hold residence permit (any type), but even if you are on tourist visa or are having visa-free regime with this country. However, this option is applied only on exceptional cases, which you must be able to justify (more on that below). Additionally you must be able to demonstrate that you are guaranteed the right to return to your country of permanent residence. This is somewhat ridiculous requirement as it is unclear how can one prove such “guarantee”?

Any third country – conditions apply

In humanitarian and urgent cases one can apply in any country. According to the Foreigners Law:

“Humanitarian reasons” are present when the non-admission or departure of a foreigner from Bulgaria will create a serious danger to his health or life due to the existence of objective circumstances, or to the integrity of his family, or the best interests of the family or the child require his admission or stay on the territory of the country.

§ 1, p. 16 of the Law on the Foreigners

So is the war in Ukraine a humanitarian reason? It’s a big YES from us. The Bulgarian authorities however often have different opinion. Is it worth trying? Definitely yes, but only if you know what you are doing and how to do it!

Requirement to get preliminary permission from the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a controversial issue. The thing is that in order to apply for visa D in a third country, other than the country of your permanent residency, you must obtain permission from the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. This requirement is imposed by the Bulgarian embassies as they are otherwise unable to verify whether any of the following applies to your case:

  • your case is exceptional;
  • you are guaranteed the right to return to your country of permanent residence;
  • your desire to apply for visa D in third country is of humanitarian nature;
  • your case is urgent.

Is this requirement to have pre-approval from the Foreign Ministry legally justified? Try asking them or the Bulgarian embassy near you. Then you can share their response. Good luck!

Please contact us if you have any questions or if you want to apply for Bulgarian visa D in a third country.


  1. hello myself gurvinder Singh I am from India I am living Cyprus my wife from Bulgaria I am leaving with my wife from last 4 year I am married I have married certificate also can I get visa for Bulgaria

    1. Author

      Yes, you are eligible for long-term visa D. Please note however that Cyprus is seen by many in Bulgaria as hub for fake marriages, so your marriage may be examined thoroughly by the authorities in Bulgaria.

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