Recently, the Bulgarian Parliament passed the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act (the "Act"). The Act aims to ensure equal treatment of employees regardless of their citizenship (EU citizens, Bulgarian citizens and citizens from outside the EU) and synchronise the Bulgarian legislation on free movement of employees with EU law. The Act is expected to enter into force on 21 May 2016.
The most significant developments introduced in the Act include:
- New measures for equal treatment of employees, regardless of citizenship, in relation to fundamental rights concerning their professional realisation and economic status in Bulgaria;
- Stronger protection of Bulgarian citizens who work outside of the EU;
- Access for non-EU citizens to the Bulgarian labour market, if the person: has an employment contract with a local employer; is here on a business trip; was transferred to provide certain services; relocated under an intracompany transfer; or is a freelancer;
- Mandatory payment, in advance, of at least two average salaries to employees from non-EU countries who are hired in Bulgaria and practice certain professions listed by the Labour Ministry;
- Relaxed hiring procedures, including the issuance of a "blue card", for highly qualified professionals in certain sectors (predominantly IT);
- The requirement that employers submit an application and pay a fixed fee (approx. EUR 205) in order to extend foreign employees’ work/residence permits for over three months if the employee was hired due to expert knowledge, skills and professional experience necessary for the relevant position;
- Simplification of procedures for hiring foreigners and abolishment of the labour market test, which was required in the past to prove the lack of proper local employees; and
- Fines of between approx. EUR 1,280 and EUR 2,550 for employers who hire illegal immigrants.