Bulgarian Citizenship by Merit: Procedure and Recent Cases

9 June 2023

Private Clients, Citizenship and Immigration

Here at NBLO, we regularly advise individuals and families to navigate a broad spectrum of Bulgarian immigration processes, including visas, residence and citizenship, to meet their personal circumstances. In this article, we summarise the procedure for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship by merit. 

As outlined in Section 16 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act (“Act”), individuals may obtain Bulgarian citizenship through exceptional contributions. The merit-based acquisition facilitates an expedited naturalisation process by exempting applicants from certain standard requirements.

Procedure for Bulgarian Citizenship by Merit

Under Section 16 of the Act, individuals can qualify for Bulgarian citizenship based on special merits and contributions to Bulgaria in areas such as public and economic affairs, science, technology, culture, or sports. The procedure involves the following steps:

  • Proposal: The minister responsible for the relevant area submits a proposal for naturalisation, stating the specific interest of the Republic of Bulgaria or the significant contributions made by the individual. The proposal includes supporting documents and the applicant’s consent.
  • Background checks: The Ministry of Interior and the National Agency for State Security provide opinions on the case; this feedback is vital to the evaluation overall.
  • Expert check: The Ministry of Justice conducts a final expert check on the application to ensure a thorough review.
  • Citizenship Council: The case is presented for review at a session of the Citizenship Council; the Council members provide an opinion on the matter.
  • Minister’s recommendation: Based on the opinion of the Citizenship Council, the Minister of Justice makes a recommendation to the Vice President of Bulgaria regarding the naturalisation or refusal of citizenship.
  • Vice President’s decree: The Vice President issues a decree to grant or refuses the grant of Bulgarian citizenship.

Timeline for Citizenship by Merit

The merit-based acquisition process has a significantly shorter timeline than the standard naturalisation route. The Minister of Justice is expected to make a recommendation within three months, compared to the usual twelve months.

Cases of Citizenship by Merit

Recent cases of merit-based naturalisation have predominantly involved individuals in sports, such as basketball, classical wrestling, kickboxing, and football. These individuals obtained Bulgarian citizenship due to the Republic of Bulgaria’s interest in their naturalisation for developing Bulgarian sports.

Between 2012 and 2022, approximately 31 individuals were naturalised based on Section 16 of the Act for contributions in various other sectors. Notably, 12 individuals were granted Bulgarian citizenship solely for their economic contributions. These economic contributions often involved long-term residence in Bulgaria, holding managerial positions in Bulgarian enterprises, and demonstrating responsible employer practices and corporate social responsibility efforts.

Individuals with achievements in science or technology may also apply for citizenship via special merit- ideal candidates include engineers, radiologists, nuclear technologists, inventors, etc.

Individuals may also petition to obtain Bulgarian citizenship based on their Bulgarian origin. In fact, individuals with Bulgarians in their family tree over the last three generations are eligible for Bulgarian nationality. If you are interested in learning more about obtaining citizenship through your Bulgarian descent, please check out our article here

If you are interested in pursuing Bulgarian citizenship by merit or other routes leading to Bulgarian citizenship, please contact us at [email protected].

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The Bulgarian and dual-qualified lawyers of New Balkans Law Office are regulated by the respective Bar of their registration. New Balkans Law Office is a brand name of Legal Services EOOD, a company registered under Bulgarian law. Reg’d No. 202331677. Further details are available here.

© New Balkans Law Office 2024