How can foreigners get married in Bulgaria

Valentin Dobrev

Bulgarian citizenship is regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Citizenship Act (BSG) and the international conventions that apply when the facts or events related to citizenship occur.

In principle, Bulgarian citizenship can be acquired through origin, place of birth and naturalization. A child is considered a Bulgarian national if one of the parents is a Bulgarian national or was born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. If none of the above cases apply, the foreigner can acquire Bulgarian citizenship through naturalization.

I. Basic principle

Article 12 (1) BSG lists the requirements that must be met at the time of filing the application for naturalization so that a foreigner can apply for Bulgarian citizenship. The most important requirement is the issued permit for long-term or permanent residence in the Republic of Bulgaria for the last 5 years. There are also exceptions to this rule and these are discussed in more detail below.

Further essential prerequisites listed in the BSG relate to the fact that the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship is not convicted of an intentional crime by the Bulgarian court and that no criminal proceedings are pending against him for such a crime unless he has been rehabilitated; has an income from gainful employment or employment, with which his livelihood in the Republic of Bulgaria is secured speak the Bulgarian language; has given up his previous citizenship or will be exempted from it until the date on which he is granted Bulgarian citizenship. The requirement that becomes the biggest hurdle for most foreigners is a command of the Bulgarian language. This is proven by submitting an official certificate of the examination successfully passed in the Center for Quality Control and Assessment of School Education. People who have completed their school education (secondary, secondary or higher education) at a Bulgarian school in the country or abroad can prove their command of the Bulgarian language by means of a photocopy of their diploma issued by the relevant school.

Multiple citizenship (dual citizenship) is not tolerated in Bulgaria and for this reason the applicant must provide evidence that he has either given up foreign citizenship or that such a procedure is currently in progress for him. Nevertheless, the option to have both citizenships exists for: the spouse of a Bulgarian citizen; Citizens of an EU member state, a signatory state to the EEA Agreement, the Swiss Confederation or states with which the Republic of Bulgaria has concluded international agreements.

II. Exceptions

1. Marriage to a Bulgarian national.
The requirement for staying in Bulgaria for at least 5 years with a proper permit for long-term or permanent residence is reduced to 3 years in the following hypotheses if the foreigner should:

  • entered into a civil marriage with a Bulgarian national at least 3 years ago and are continuing it;
  • be born in the Republic of Bulgaria but acquired another nationality based on the principle of descent;
  • have received permission for long-term or permanent residence before reaching the age of majority.

Candidates for whom these hypotheses apply must also meet all of the conditions listed above, including a command of the Bulgarian language.

2. Descent
The requirements for foreigners are largely more favorable:

  • are of Bulgarian descent - the ancestry is proven by means of a certificate issued by the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad. In order to issue such a certificate, the agency needs proof of your Bulgarian origin (birth certificate, passport or another private / public document). The voting certificate is issued after an examination within a period of 2 months and this must be attached to the application;
  • who have been adopted by a Bulgarian national under the conditions of full adoption;
  • whose parent is a Bulgarian national or who died as a Bulgarian national.

Persons who justify their application to acquire Bulgarian citizenship on the basis of one of the above facts do not have to prove their residence on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, an income to secure their livelihood in the country, the abandonment of another nationality and the command of the Bulgarian language .

3. Investment
Lastly, we will only briefly mention the option of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship from a foreigner by investing in the country. In this context, we would like to point out that in early 2019 the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice submitted a proposal to the Council of Ministers to remove the option of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship through short-term investments. In March of this year, the amendment to the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship, in which this option was omitted, was published on the official website of the Ministry. The only option for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship through investment is a project certified under the Investment Promotion Act.

III. Procedure for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship

The application to acquire Bulgarian citizenship, including all attachments, must be submitted in person to the Ministry of Justice or the Bulgarian diplomatic and consular missions abroad. Please note that an authorization to submit the documents, even with a notarized signature, is not permitted.

After the application has been submitted, the ministry's electronic system generates an appointment for the interview. The law does not provide for a processing or settlement period for applications. Each assessment is individual and the ministry carries out several ex officio examinations of the person, which is why the process can take more than a year.

The acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship through naturalization as well as the restoration of citizenship, discharge from Bulgarian citizenship or expatriation takes place by decree of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. The decree comes into force on the day it is issued.

The Ministry of Justice issues a certificate for the change of nationality. After the issuance of the decree, the Ministry of Justice will notify:

  • the municipalities or city councils according to the person's permanent residence in order to make the necessary changes to nationality in the civil registers of the population;
  • the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue or withdraw Bulgarian ID cards.

IV. Rejection and Avoidance

The legislation of the Republic of Bulgaria does not provide options for contesting rejected applications for a decree to acquire Bulgarian citizenship through naturalization.

V. Withdrawal of naturalization

Withdrawal of the naturalization through which Bulgarian citizenship was granted is possible in the following cases, provided that the person:

  • has made use of information or facts on the basis of which Bulgarian citizenship was granted, which the court has finally determined to be false;
  • Has withheld information and facts, the disclosure of which would have justified the rejection of the application for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship.

Withdrawal of naturalization is only possible for 10 years after acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.

The revocation of the naturalization of one spouse does not revoke the naturalization of the other spouse and the children, unless they obtained Bulgarian citizenship on the basis of the same false or deceived conditions.

VI. expatriation

The expatriation of naturalized persons takes place if a final judgment has been imposed on them for a serious crime against the republic, provided they are abroad and do not remain without citizenship. The expatriation of a spouse does not change the nationality of the other spouse or the children.