Bulgarian Residence for EU Citizens: 'Apartheid', Double Standards and Utter Confusion
2007 marked the start of Bulgaria's EU adventure and also the end of EU citizens having to apply for Bulgarian visas. You would have thought this might have made the lives of EU citizens residing in Bulgaria easier. On the contrary - laughter, annoyance and anger have met their every step as identifying themselves has become a daily trial.
After receiving complaints from many EU citizens regarding problems with the current Bulgarian regulations regarding the certificate for long-term residence in Bulgaria and applying for permanent Bulgarian residence, Novinite.com has launched an ongoing investigation into the issue.
The lichna karta (Bulgarian identity card) is an important part of everyday life in Bulgaria as it is requested by most banks, government institutions and the police.
Before Bulgaria joined the EU, foreign citizens who had applied for a Bulgarian visa were rewarded with a card that had the same format as the lichna karta - including a full LNCh identity number and a photo. However since 2007 when Brussels welcomed Bulgaria with open arms into the EU family, EU citizens have been met with confusion, annoyance and sometimes anger by the Bulgarian authorities after being issued with new long-term residence cards that resemble something made by a school child and that do not include either a recognized identity number or photo.
The reason for this change is unclear but the only law regarding the issue is the following:
‘Art. 57. (1) The Bulgarian identification document for a foreigner shall be valid on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria together with his national identification document.'
Therefore, now EU citizens officially have to carry both their national passport or identity card and the Bulgarian certificate for long-term residence.
Confused Bulgarian Authorities
Now the above may seem fair enough for some people and similar long-term residence cards are issued in other EU countries but here in Bulgaria some issues have come to light that smack of illegal double standards and poor organization:
a) Currently all non-EU citizens are issued with the easy to use old lichna karta style documents that make it easy for them to deal with the Bulgarian authorities, banks etc...while EU citizens do not get this easy option.
b) The EU-wide law of having to spend 5 years in a country before being able to apply for permanent residence has been flouted by the Bulgarian authorities. Only some local migration departments recognize that people who lived in Bulgaria for a certain period before the country joined the EU can apply for residence before 2012. Meaning that some EU citizens will have to wait for up to 10 years from when they arrived in the country before they can apply to become permanent residents.
c) Banks and local authorities were not made aware of the new long-term residence cards by the previous socialist Bulgarian government, and in some cases laughed at them when they were produced as a form of identification.
d) Bulgarian authorities still ask for the European Health Insurance Card when an EU citizen is applying for the certificate of long-term residence, even when the card is only valid for 6 months after the EU citizen has left the country where it was issued.
The Voice of EU Citizens
"The insistence that we apply for residency cards as 'self-supporting' individuals is illegal - according to Bg law such individuals appear to be exempted from the right of permanent residence even though EU law is pretty specific that the only requirement is 5 years......" Fredrico, Italy
"How about double standards ie...arriving in Bg with a visa d....5 yrs later one should have received a permanent Lichna Card, after paying out yearly for the annual renewal of such....to be refused and issued a this white card which is now issued for another 5 yrs ...yet people in the same situation attending the same passport office ...Varna ..was issued with the permanent L/C" Sandra, England
"I for one think that the comic book resident cards issued to Foreigners who reside here in Bulgaria are an insult.. It borders on segregation and is an affront to the whole concept of a integrated Europe. I can see of no valid reason why we are not issued with standard ID cards like our Bulgarian counterparts ?
For many of us this is the country that we chose to call home..so why are we subjected to this discrimination ?
It begs the question is' Bulgaria just for Bulgarians' or is it a country for any nationality that feels this is 'where they want to hang their hat' ?..Does the Bulgarian Government really think that a type of 'Apartheid' is really the way forward ?" Mandy, England
Questions from Novinite.com to the Bulgarian Interior Ministry
What is the reason for EU citizens who move to Bulgaria only being given a certificate of long term residence without a picture or EGN, as they had before Bulgaria joined the EU. Will this be changed?
Why do people who received temporary Lichna Kartas after applying for visas before Bulgaria joined the EU now have to wait another 5 years with a long term residence certificate before being allowed to apply for permanent residence in Bulgaria?.
Why is it necessary to produce the European Health Insurance Card when applying for a certificate of long term residence in Bulgaria, as they do not apply to citizens who are no longer residents of their former country?
If a foreigner is self-supporting, i.e. living in Bulgaria and has not formed a company in Bulgaria, how long does it take to become a resident. Some foreigners have complained that the EU wide law of ‘5 years' of living in an EU country before being allowed to apply for permanent residence is not backed up by Bulgarian law?
Bulgarian Interior Ministry Reply
The Bulgarian Interior Ministry replied to the questions by saying that it is aware of the problems and that a new bill on the issue is currently being discussed by parliament. They also said that they would reply in detail when the new bill has been passed or rejected.
Making Life Easier
Bulgaria has had a number of serious problems since joining the EU, many of which are simple to solve. This problem with identity documents is yet another example of a lack of thought and too much bureaucracy hampering the integration of Bulgaria into the EU. Hopefully, the new Bulgarian government decides to act quickly to make the lives of both Bulgarians and Europeans residing in the country easier and less stressful.
Novinite.com is going to remain committed to following the development of this issue, and will keep in touch with the relevant Bulgarian institutions.
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nice that you feel good in Bulgaria except for the bureaucracy. Same for me, although for myself I didn't face any serious problems with bureaucracy after Bulgaria's EU accession.
As a UK citizen, you are legally no foreigner in Bulgaria and entitled to equal treatment. When someone is discriminating you, you should let the European Ombudsman know about it. You will not go to court because of 10 leva, but he can in many cases interfere on a working level successfully. You can find the link easily.
As for properties: since 2005 non-Bulgarians are allowed to buy land when they live permanently in the country, and after 2012 also foreigners living abroad can do so. No need to create a company any more for this.
As Tsunami explained in an earlier post, if you have a Residents Permit you are able to get a number (similar to a NI number in UK) from your local Immigration Office; the total cost of this (I believe) was 17 Leva. This will enable you to register a car, etc and stands in place of the Lichna card number for non-Bulargarian EU residents.
Although I am blissfully happy living in Bulgaria and would not voluntarily go back to the UK and will accept whatever irritating beaurocratic things that are part of the package, I do agree that there is a racial discrimination element to the current system. It is not only with the non Lichna Card style residence permits which affect applications for many things including satelite TV. It also affects minor things like for example I was sent a letter by Vivacom to invite me as a btk subscriber into a competition but when I tried to enter I was refused on the grounds that I did not have an EGN number. We have had Bulsat try to charge us more to have a satelite system installed than a national and not a small amount extra - the offer at the time was for 4.90 leva for nationals but they wanted 149.90 leva from us.
The situation that as a non-national we are not allowed to own land or our own vehicles but have to have them in a company name ( although we can own an apartment ). We do not want a company as we are retired and it is an extra burden to have to pay an accountant every year to put through company accounts for anil tax return but it is the only way we can conduct our lives here.
We accept the system as a neccesary evil that is part of the package to stay here but it would be nice to see it change to a more equal system. We get on very well with our Bulgarian neighbours and have found no prejudism from any nationals that we have encountered so find it very strange that the beaurocracy is so set on this paper discrimination.
Although the practical handling of getting long term or permanent residence in Bulgaria as an EU citizen may create some problems in individual cases, I find the term 'Apartheid' here a bit exaggerated.
I got my long term residence within two hours and nobody was asking for a bribe or was there any problem with red tape. I had just to provide a very few documents and the whole process was surprisingly efficient and smooth.
It should be noted that in order to stay permanently in a country as an EU citizen, you still need to prove that you have either work or another recognized reason to stay longer than 3 months. So I don't see that Bulgaria, which is certainly to blame in many other respects, is not correctly applying European Law here.
It should be noted that for EU citizens from 'non-Schengen' countries it is more difficult to get a permanent or long term residence than for someone from, let's say Germany or France. But this is a natural consequence of the political decision of e.g. the UK to stay outside Schengen. So the journalist should maybe address his complaint to the government which is responsible for what he calls 'Apartheid', which is his own government, not the Bulgarian.
And a last word regarding 'Apartheid': still Bulgarians can't work in all EU countries despite the fact that freedom of movement is one of the main pillars of the European Integration and of course no one from other EU countries is denied to work in Bulgaria. This asymetric discrimination can be in fact called 'Apartheid'.
" All this insipid comparison says is that the source has no clue what apartheid really is."
Bulgaria did have apartheid during communist times. I will never forget when I went to visit relatives there in the early 70ies and my Bulgarian relatives had to stay in a different hotel from me and my English friend. Now if that's not apartheid, I don't know what is. But at least we could sit at the same table in restaurants. Thank the Lord for small mercies!
You know what's like apartheid? Apartheid.
No one is persecuting you, stop with the theatrics. Bulgaria is crap for everyone, Bulgarians and foreigners. I'm not saying people shouldn't complain and work to change things but, for f%ck's sake, apartheid? All this insipid comparison says is that the source has no clue what apartheid really is.
Usually, I agree with you, however, in this case I believe you have your facts mixed up.
In Bulgaria, the "Notarius" does process all documents for ownership, real estate, wills...etc, unlike in the US where I can get a Notary Public certificate after I attend, I believe, an 8 hour seminar and pay my license fees.
I was there 3 months ago and indeed inquired into the process for I needed some property transferred; by the way, my first cousin is an attorney so no room for tricks.
The same is in MEXICO, where the Notary is indeed processing all documents for ownership, inheritance, wills, real estate...etc. And they charge, I believer a nice commission, 5%, or so. That's why lots of Mexicans get taken for a ride here in California by some crooks with Notary Public shingle
Viking old boy, don't get your knickers in a twist. Notary is not the exact translation, then. It may be a notary in Bulgarian, but it is not a notary in English. Bulgarian notary is a public servant of some sort who is a PUBLIC SERVANT and has not authority to apply red tape to the process. And yet they do.