The article is updated according to the legal changes of January 2023
Hiring high-skilled employees in Bulgaria is both easier and more rewarding
Working in Bulgaria is a dream come true for many non-EU citizens. This is quite logical as the wages in Bulgaria started to rise significantly in recent years. In order to obtain Bulgarian work permit however, a number of important legal conditions need to be met first. In this article, we will explain how a foreigner can qualify for EU Blue Card in Bulgaria. We will also show the advantages of the Blue Card, compared to the “plain Jane” Bulgarian work permit.
Work permit for high-skilled vs unskilled workers
In the last 3-4 years, the rise in the demand of highly qualified foreigners willing to obtain EU Blue Card is mind-blowing. Worth noting is that the conditions to get this sort of work permit differ significantly from the conditions that apply to low-skilled workers.
The main differences
The main difference is that for employees with European Blue Card, there is no quota in Bulgaria. In other words, a Bulgarian company can hire as many non-EU foreigners (with European Blue Card) as it wishes to. For standard work permit, the Bulgarian employer can only hire maximum 20% foreign staff (35% for small/medium companies). To get Blue Card however, there are certain important conditions that need to be met. The most important ones being the salary and the education of the employee. These, along with the advantages of the Blue Card, we will be explaining below.
The EU Blue Card in Bulgaria explained
The EU Blue Card is an EU legal arrangement that is utilized in all EU member states with exception of Ireland and Denmark. The Blue Card gives the right to non-EU foreigners to work in the EU countries. This is if they meet certain professional criteria and are receiving higher salary than the average for the particular country. Each country sets its own particular rules, but these need to fit the EU general directives.
The conditions to obtain EU Blue Card in Bulgaria
In Bulgaria, the legal conditions for obtaining work permit and EU Blue Card are set in the Law on the labor migration and labor mobility and the Foreigners’ Law. In order to obtain EU Blue Card, both the specific conditions for highly-skilled employees and some of the general conditions for obtaining Bulgarian work permit need to be met.
Specific conditions, required to obtain EU Blue Card
- The foreign employee must be (highly) qualified – to have university degree for higher education. This degree must have been obtained through a university study longer than three years. The diploma must be issued by an accredited university in the particular foreign country. After the amendments from 2023, the employee’s qualification can be certified in another way too, namely with an official document for professional experience at a level comparable to an university degree;
- The gross annual salary of the employee must be at least 1,5 times higher than the average salary in Bulgaria (measured for the last 12 months);
- The labor contract between the employer and the employee must be signed for a period not shorter than 6 months.
General conditions to obtain work permit in Bulgaria1
- The salary of the employee and the working conditions should be not worse than those that are offered to Bulgarian citizens for the same work category. This conditions is complementing the condition for 50% higher salary than the average salary in Bulgaria. This is, because the salary for the particular job may be much higher (with more than 50%) than the average salary in Bulgaria;
- The foreign employee must have the required professional experience and education for the particular job position. This condition also complements the EU Blue Card requirement for university education (or professional experience, according to the 2023 amendments). This is so as the law requires specific education, rather than mere higher education (or professional experience, after the 2023 amendments).
1 apply only in the case of EU Blue Card
Other conditions in order to obtain visa D and residence permit (EU Blue Card)
The candidates for EU Blue Card in Bulgaria need to apply for visa D first. The immigration visa is issued within 20 calendar days after confirmation from the State Agency for National Security. This confirmation is absolutely essential and a very important step in the process. After the visa is approved, the foreigner needs to visit Bulgaria and apply for long-term residence permit – EU Blue Card.
The candidate must provide the following in order to qualify for EU Blue Card residence permit:
- Proof of address in Bulgaria;
- Clean criminal record;
- Justification by the employer as to why is he hiring a foreigner (and not Bulgarian);
- Explanation by the employer as to why is he declining to hire Bulgarian citizen or other EU citizen for the specific position;
- The diploma of the employee as well as any other documents proving his qualification, dully legalized. The right legalization here is extremely important;
- Declaration by the employer that the working conditions are observed and these are not worse than for a Bulgarian national;
- Labor contract, drafted as per the Bulgarian legislation;
- Medical insurance, etc.
The advantages of the EU Blue Card
The advantages of the EU Blue Card, when compared to regular work permit, are manifold. We will list below the most important ones.
No quota for foreign workers
For many companies in Bulgaria, the legally set quota of 35% (20% for large companies), is often a serious issue. Many internationally oriented companies (IT companies, call centers, etc.) reach the quota almost immediately and can’t employ more foreign citizens. The option to hire non-EU citizens and obtaining for them EU Blue Cards is a life saver in such cases. This is especially true for small foreign start-ups that start hiring from scratch. In these cases, they have no Bulgarian employees at all and therefore can’t employ foreigners.
The EU Blue Card is issued for a period of maximum 5 years, within the validity of the work contract. This is very long timeframe, in comparison with the standard work permit. During this period the foreigner has no administrative issues to worry about.
No need to leave the country
If the Blue Card candidate is in Bulgaria with long-term residence (obtained under other legal ground), he is not obliged to leave the country in order to apply for EU Blue Card.
Change of employer – possible
The EU Blue Card gives another important freedom to its holder. Namely, changing the employer is possible if certain conditions are met.
Free travel within the EU
One of the most important advantage of the EU Blue Card is that it enables its holder to travel freely within the whole EU when the legal prerequisites are met.
Right to work in another EU country after two years
The EU Blue Card holder has to work in Bulgaria for the first two years. From the third year it is possible to have a high-skilled job in another EU member state.
Path to Bulgarian citizenship and EU passport
As the EU card can be issued for a period of up to five years, it becomes the ideal path to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. According to Art.25, par.1, p.5 of the Foreigners’ Law, one can obtain permanent residency in Bulgaria after five years residence in the country. And of course, according to the Bulgarian citizenship act, permanent residence is the prerequisite to obtain citizenship.
How we can help you obtain EU Blue Card for Bulgaria
We provide service to a great number of non-EU highly-qualified workers and their employers in Bulgaria. Assistance to obtain EU Blue Card is our expertise and we believe there is no other company in Bulgaria, capable to achieve results, even close to what we can. Please contact us for further details if you want to start your EU journey through the many options that the EU Blue Card offers its holders.