The Government adopted changes to the procedure of obtaining an EU Blue Card, helping employers in Bulgaria to attract highly qualified specialists from non-EU countries. Under the new terms, the cards will have a longer period of validity and will be issued under a simplified procedure and lower fees.
The main changes include:
- The initial period of validity of the permit has been extended from 1 to 4 years. If the contract is concluded for a shorter period, the card will be issued for the relevant period plus three additional months. The foreigner is no longer required to reside outside the territory of the country at the time of application (initial or extension).
- The amount to issue or extend an EU Blue Card has been reduced fourfold – from USD 400 to USD 100.
- Seasonal employment cards may also be issued for a period of 90 days without interruption. Until now, short-stay visas in the country have not allowed access to the labor market.
- The list of specific professions for which high-qualified specialists are allowed has been removed. Blue cards will be issued for all sectors and employers will no longer be required to prove the impossibility to find suitable Bulgarian specialists. Until now, IT professionals have been mostly imported. The amendments aim at including other sectors such as machine building, tourism, etc., which also show shortage of specialists.
- The number of third-country nationals employed in a Bulgarian company must not exceed 10% of the total number of employees in the organization. Therefore, only companies employing more than 10 people can benefit from the opportunity to import personnel.
The amendments are part of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act and the Labor Migration and Labor Mobility Act and concern employers who want to hire employees with a higher education diploma, who are specialists in a certain area. In 2016, a total of 195 EU blue cards were issued, mainly for positions in the IT sector, engineers and managers. Most of the cards were issued to citizens of Ukraine, Russia, Macedonia, India, China and the USA.