Bulgaria: Bulgaria Relaxes Rules For Highly-Skilled Non-EU Workers

Responding to an increased demand for highly-skilled labour - particularly in the software development industry - Bulgaria is simplifying rules and procedures around the hiring of non-EU citizens.

Responding to an increased demand for highly-skilled labour in some sectors – particularly the software development industry - Bulgaria is looking to simplify rules and procedures around the hiring of non-EU citizens.

Recent changes

The first simplification step took place at the end of last year when Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Ivaylo Kalfin (the Minister), was allowed to introduce a list of professions for which a relaxed EU Blue Card issuance procedure would apply. The list was approved and published in January 2016 and covers several professions/positions from the IT sector:

  • Sales specialists in the field of information and telecommunication technologies
  • Systems analysts
  • Software developers
  • Developers of web content and multimedia
  • Developers and database administrators
  • Systems administrators
  • Computer networks specialists
  • Database specialists

EU Blue Cards are issued to highly qualified professionals from non-EU countries where professionals qualify for fewer issuance conditions, compared to personnel who must meet Bulgaria's strict Work Permit requirements.

  • the terms for review of applications and final decisions are shorter
  • work permit and residence certificate procedures are combined.

Since the introduction of the Minister's aforementioned professions list, the three-to-four month Blue Card issuance procedure has sped up by as much as two months for those professionals, and no market test is required for them to join the Bulgarian workforce.

Expected developments

Along with the aforementioned changes which are now in force, the Bulgarian government will soon introduce a general legislation change concerning labour force mobility and migration. A bill currently before the parliament is generally accepted by most of the parties, and it will likely be adopted without major amendments during the forthcoming plenaries.

The rules in the new bill are expected to:

  • implement the EU directives on labour force migration and mobility
  • codify the scattered legislation that currently applies to these matters in Bulgaria
  • clarify certain vague aspects of current legislation
  • make some of procedures faster. 

The biggest changes to be introduced under the new bill are as follows:

  • A new general rule combining all work permits with a residence certificate; currently these are separate procedures, and combining them will reduce the completion time, and subsequent time to compliance.
  • Important relief related to temporary secondments to Bulgaria; a foreign employee entering the country for up to three months (within a 12-month period) to complete a task will no longer need a work permit. Registration of the foreigner with the Employment Agency will suffice instead.
  • The Blue Card issuance procedure is set to be further developed and to a certain extent relaxed; issuance terms are expected to decrease and the list of professions for which relief was introduced at the start of the year is preserved (ie. there will be no market test for these positions).
  • Employees transferred to Bulgaria as part of an inter-company project will be allowed to work and stay in the country under a document incorporating a work permit and a residence certificate. The hosting entity would be exempt from some of the requirements necessary under a local labour agreement. To date, inter-company transfers have been very limited in Bulgaria and the expected change will create better conditions for temporary transfers of personnel within a group of companies.

Final parliamentary hearings are still to come, but the bill is expected to be passed shortly, along with a regulation on implementation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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