What happens with the Bulgarian residence permit upon dismissal of the foreigner?

More and more non-EU citizens are working in Bulgaria nowadays. But what happens if the Bulgarian employer terminates the labor contract of the foreigner. Or if the foreigner terminates the employment contract himself?

To answer this question, we will analyze the following real-life situation:

A Thai woman is working in Bulgaria, for which she holds a three-year long-term residence permit. More precisely, the residence permit is of the type “Unified Residence and Work Permit“. At certain point however, the employer decides to terminate her employment contract. What are the possibilities for Thai woman to stay legally in Bulgaria and what are the applicable terms?

Termination of the labor contract – cancellation of the residence permit?

Upon termination of the employment contract, the legal basis on which the Unified Residence and Work Permit is issued, ceases to exist. According to Art. 40, par. 1 of the Bulgarian Foreigners Law:

Withdrawal of the right of residence of a foreigner in Bulgaria is required when the grounds under Art. 24i (the applicable article for the Unified Residence and Work Permit) are not existing anymore.

art. 40, par. 1, p. 1 from the Foreigners Law

Deadline for leaving the country

Termination of residence permit is a coercive administrative measure, imposed on the foreigner, according to Art. 39a, par. 1, p. 1 of the Foreigners Law. This coercive measure is imposed by an Order, in which the foreigner is granted a period of 7 to 30 days. During this timeframe, the foreigner must voluntarily leave the country. It should be noted that the term starts from the date of the Order, and not from the date of termination of the labor contract. And this difference in time can be significant.

Possibility of extending the deadline for leaving Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Foreigners Law also provides for the possibility of extending the deadline for leaving the country. This legal procedure is foreseen if the foreigner wishes to stay for more than 30 days in Bulgaria, counted from the issuance of the administrative Order.

To grant a period for voluntary departure for more than 30 days, the foreigner submits an application to the relevant competent authority that issued the Order under par. 1, which is pronounced and notified to the foreigner within three days. In these cases, the specific circumstances of each individual case are taken into account, such as: length of stay, state of health, needs of vulnerable groups, presence of school children and other family and social ties. The term for voluntary departure can be extended for no more than one year.

art. 39b, par. 2 from the Foreigners Law

In other words, the foreigner can obtain permission for voluntary departure – for up to one year from the date of the issuance of the Order. As we wrote above, there should also be added the time between the termination of the employment contract and the date of issuance of the Order.

The employer cannot tell the foreigner when and how to leave the country

It should be also noted that the Bulgarian employer cannot tell the foreigner when and how to leave Bulgaria. Neither whether to leave the country at all. These conditions are regulated in the Bulgarian Foreigners Law and are beyond the authority of the employer.

What are the legal options for the foreigner to stay in Bulgaria

If a foreigner, who has terminated labor contract with a Bulgarian employer wishes to continue his stay in Bulgaria, he has the opportunity to do so. For this purpose, he must have another basis on which he can obtain Bulgarian residence permit. Such grounds are, for example, working for another employer, studying at a university, marrying a Bulgarian citizen, etc. In our specific situation, if the Thai lady finds another job in Bulgaria and obtains work permit, she can also get a residence permit and stay in the country.

Should the foreigner leave Bulgaria first and then return on the new legal basis?

This is perhaps the most controversial issue in the discussed situation. In the Foreigners Law it is stipulated that in order to obtain a long-term residence permit, the foreigner must have a visa D. But the foreigner already has obtained visa D upon his first arrival in Bulgaria, on basis of his employment contract with his former employer. Then should he get visa D again? In our opinion, no. Although his old visa D has already expired, he has already received a go-ahead from the National Security Agency and the Ministry of the Interior, which approval is the main purpose of the condition for holding visa D. Unfortunately, however, the immigration authorities often have different opinion.

Obtaining visa D from a neighboring country, as an alternative

If it is still necessary to obtain a new visa D, the foreigner may, if there are humanitarian or urgent reasons, apply from a country third country. Usually the foreigners wish to apply from a neighboring country, such as Serbia, Turkey, Romania, etc. In the discussed scenario, this could be extremely convenient for the Thai lady. This is so as otherwise she has to submit an application for visa D at the Bulgarian embassy in Vietnam and travel the world around.

Currently, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has introduced, in our view, an illegal requirement for prior authorization for such an application. Unfortunately, for the time being it is still necessary for citizens to comply with this condition. And it leads to unjustified discrimination against some citizens.

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