The  Bulgarian National Assembly has recently passed an amendment to the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act. Its aim is to ease the procedure for Bulgarian companies to hire citizens of countries outside the EU and EEA. This is in line with the government’s commitment to continuously improve the business environment, particularly for IT and BPO companies in Bulgaria.

The amendment also bring national legislation in line with Directive № 2016/801 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing (the “Directive”).

The amendment will come into force on 23 May 2018.

Relaxed regime for the issuance of EU Blue Cards

The amendment introduces a relaxed regime for the issuance of EU Blue Cards (i.e., work permits for non-EU nationals). Until now, a lengthy and complex procedure required employers wanting to employ foreign nationals to undertake, among other requirements, market research to determine if a Bulgarian citizen could be hired for the vacant position. A fast-track route was available only for the hiring of foreign nationals who qualify as highly-skilled professionals, provided that their profession is included in the list of professions that lack highly-skilled professionals approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Politics. The requirement for market research has been fully revoked under the amendment. The list of professions lacking highly-skilled professionals has also been eliminated.

The amendment, however, applies only to the issuance of EU Blue Cards and does not relieve employers from conducting market research in all other cases.

Local companies can now hire more foreign employees

Another change that will facilitate the hiring of foreign nationals in Bulgaria is the increase of the ratio between foreign and local employees that local companies have to comply with. Third-country nationals can now comprise up to 20 per cent of a company’s total staff, as opposed to 10 per cent provided under the previous law.

Bulgarian specifics in the implementation of Directive 2016/801

The Directive’s main goal is to address the demand of the EU market for highly skilled professionals by streamlining the procedures and conditions under which third-country nationals, and more specifically – researchers, students, trainees, etc. – can access the EU employment market. The main changes introduced by the Directive include:

  • The possibility for foreign students and researchers to stay in the EU at least nine months after finishing their studies in order to look for a job;
  • Free movement and employment throughout the EU by revoking visa requirements;
  • Substituting some of the existing authorisation procedures with approval or notification procedures;
  • Ensuring equal treatment to third-country nationals as compared to locals.

In pursuance to the Directive, Bulgarian law shifts from approval to notification procedures in many instances. Thus, instead of obtaining a visa, students or researchers will only have to notify the Bulgarian Employment Agency whenever they want to go to another EU member state. Researchers and students will also be able to remain in Bulgaria and look for a job for up to nine months after the completion of their studies or research. In order to take advantage of this possibility, they will be subject to registration with the Bulgarian Employment Agency. Third-country nationals who have been admitted as researchers in another EU member state will also have free access to the Bulgarian job market.