EU Blue Card
The preferential regime for highly qualified workers envisaged to improve the EU employment competitiveness is now fully implemented in Bulgaria
Council Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment (the “Directive”) regulates the conditions of entry applicable to highly qualified non-EU nationals. It creates the “European Blue Card” and sets out the conditions and rights of residence of such individuals in the issuing state as well as in other Member States. The object of the Directive is to improve the European Union’s ability to attract highly qualified workers from third countries by harmonising entry and residence conditions throughout the EU, by simplifying the admission procedures and by improving the legal status of those already residing in the EU.
The implementation of the Directive into the Bulgarian legislation is outline below.
General overview of the Bulgarian legislation
The procedure under the Directive applies to highly qualified third-country nationals seeking to be admitted to the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria for the purpose of employment (their family members included). The definition of “highly qualified employment” is given in the Bulgarian Encouragement of Employment Act (Закон за насърчаване на заетостта): according to it this is “employment of a person who has the necessary competence for the respective work – acquired post-secondary higher education, certified by diploma, certificate or other document issued by a competent authority, on condition that the studies lasted at least three years and have been provided by an educational establishment recognised as a higher education institution by the State in which it is situated”.
EU blue card
In case of highly qualified employment the two main documents – the work permit and residence permit usually required for the third-country nationals, are combined in one, the so called “EU Blue Card”. According to the Bulgarian law this is an authorisation entitling third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State for the purposes of highly qualified employment.
Even though this is a single document, the procedure still shall be carried out before two separate institutions – the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. However, the procedure is much more simplified than the ordinary one applied to third-country nationals outside the scope of the highly qualified employment.
To be allowed into the EU for the purposes of the highly qualified employment, the applicant must present:
- a valid travel document, as determined by national law, and visa “D” (long-stay visa) for the Republic of Bulgaria;
- a proof of health insurance, valid for the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria;
- an employment agreement with a gross salary at least 1,5 times the average gross salary in the Republic of Bulgaria for the last 12 months before the conclusion of the contract;
- For regulated professions, documents establishing that the applicant meets the legal requirements.
There are several other conditions as well:
- the employment shall not be reserved by law for Bulgarian citizens;
- the offered work conditions and remuneration shall not be less favourable than the conditions for the Bulgarian citizens for the respective work;
- the applicant shall meet the requirements for highly qualified employment as already defined;
- the employer shall provide evidence that despite their efforts they could not find someone pertaining to the priority employment pool (i.e. Bulgarian citizen, EU-national, citizen of EEA state, of the Confederation of Switzerland, foreigner with permitted permanent and long-term residence in Republic of Bulgaria or having the same rights), who is suitable for the positon;
Exemption to the benefit of the employers
As an exception to the general rule, here the employer is exempt from the requirement to provide evidence that the employed third-country nationals do not to exceed 10% of the number of the employed people within the priority employment pool during the preceding 12 months.
Favourable treatment of IT employment
For certain positions, included in a list approved by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, the employers do not need to provide evidence that they have searched without success for a suitable non-third-country national when hiring for such position (since the legislative amendments from October 2015). The positions benefiting from this favourable treatment are predominantly in the IT sector – system analysts, software developers, database administrators, systems administrators etc.
However, there are other requirements that shall be met:
- The agreed gross salary shall be at least 3 times (not 1,5 times) the average gross salary in the Republic of Bulgaria for the last 12 months before the conclusion of the contract;
- The employment agreement shall be for a period of at least 1 year.
The admission procedure consists of 2 stages: (i) issuance of a permission for highly qualified employment by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and (ii) issuance of the ‘EU Blue Card’ by the Ministry of Interior.
The permission for highly qualified employment is granted with a resolution by the executive director of the Employment Agency to the Ministry of Labour and Social policy. The procedure is to be initiated by the employer by an application together with the necessary documents. The permission is issued for the term of the employment agreement; a renewal can be requested prior to its expiry. The issuance of the permission is communicated officially to the Ministry of Interior.
The procedure before the Ministry of Interior is initiated by the employee by application for EU Blue Card. The latter is issued for a period of one year. If the employment agreement covers a period less of than one year, the EU Blue Card is issued for the duration of the employment agreement plus three months. It could be renewed before the expiry of its term.
The application for an EU Blue Card can be rejected if it is based on false or fraudulently acquired documents or if, given the state of the labour market, the Minister of Labour and Social Policy decides to impose limitations to the employment of third-country nationals.
Rights and residence in other EU Member States
The family members of EU Blue Card holders are granted a long-term residence permit with the same validity as the EU Blue Card.
Due to the EU Blue Card, third-country nationals and their families can:
- Enter, re-enter and stay in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and transit pass through other Member States;
- Work in the sector concerned;
- Enjoy equal treatment with nationals as regards, for example, working conditions, social security, pensions, recognition of diplomas, education and vocational training;
- After 18 months of legal residence, they may move to another Member State to take up highly qualified employment (subject to the limits set by the Member State on the number of non-nationals accepted);
- After two years of legal employment, they are entitled to receive equal treatment with nationals as regards to access to any highly qualified employment.
In conclusion, we could say that the Directive has been fully implemented into the Bulgarian legislation. The places where it left some discretion to the Member States to regulate, the Bulgarian legislator has been protective providing for the shortest possible terms of the admissions and for the most of the requirements for the applicants from the Directive to be met.