Your questions answered
Below we will answer a genuine question from a client about how to obtain Bulgarian citizenship by origin. All personal data has been removed or altered, to comply with EU privacy regulations.
I am interested in acquiring Bulgarian citizenship for myself and my wife and would like to get your help.
I am of Bulgarian origin, as attested by my birth certificate: my father is Bulgarian, although his family has emigrated from Bulgaria and lived in Bessarabia / Southern Ukraine since 1830’s. My birth certificate states that my father is Bulgarian, and my father’s old USSR passport states the same.
Would appreciate if we could connect to discuss the process in more detail – e.g., timeline for me and my wife, at what point our travel to Bulgaria may be necessary (given the current pandemics and travel restrictions), how we will work with your office during the process, etc.
Based on the information provided, our client’s father is seemingly of Bulgarian origin. This is objectivated in the client’s birth certificate, which he has provided. In the certificate, the nationality of the client’s parents are mentioned as: Father – Bulgarian; Mother – Russian.
The Bulgarian Constitution
The right of citizenship based on “origin” is enforced in art.25 (1) of the Bulgarian Constitution. The Constitution states that:
A Bulgarian citizen is anyone whose at least one parent is a Bulgarian citizen or who was born in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, if he / she does not acquire another citizenship by origin. Bulgarian citizenship can also be acquired by naturalization.
Additionally, art.25 (2) of the Constitution states that:
Persons of Bulgarian origin acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a simplified procedure.
So far, so good. Broadly speaking, if one of the client’s parents is Bulgarian citizen, then the client is also Bulgarian citizen. On top of that, the procedure for acquiring citizenship should be simplified. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the “devil is in the details”.
Before analyzing the “details”, let’s first see what the Bulgarian citizenship law states. Please note that no law can override the Constitutional norms. The laws can only clarify the procedures, without contradicting them, not in the slightest.
The Law on the Bulgarian Citizenship
The relevant texts are found in art.15 (1) of the citizenship law. It states that a person who is either:
- of Bulgarian origin (p.1), or
- one of his parents is a Bulgarian citizen or has died as a Bulgarian citizen (p.3).
can obtain Bulgarian citizenship if the following conditions are met (art.12(1)):
- is an adult (p.1), and
- has not been convicted of an intentional crime of a general nature by a Bulgarian court and no criminal proceedings have been instituted against him for such a crime, unless he has been rehabilitated (p.3).
Practical implementations of the norms of the Constitution and the Citizenship Law
Let’s now analyze how can our client proceed to obtain Bulgarian citizenship of origin. He is obviously of legal age (adult, as per the definition of art. 12(1), p.1 of the citizenship law). We will also conjecture, that he has not been convicted of any crimes (art. 12(1), p.3 of the citizenship law).
Therefore, the only condition that he needs to meet is to be of either Bulgarian origin (art. 15(1), p.1 of the citizenship law) or to have one parent Bulgarian citizen (art. 15(1), p.3 of the citizenship law).
From the information provided by our client, his father is not Bulgarian citizen, although in his passport is mentioned that he is of Bulgarian nationality. This leaves us with the following options:
- Apply for Bulgarian citizenship based on being of Bulgarian origin, or
- Check whether his grandparents are Bulgarian citizens.
If the grandparents are Bulgarian citizens (at least one of them), then the father of our client could apply for Bulgarian citizenship. This check can go back in time and at one point, if at least one of the predecessors is proven to be Bulgarian citizen (not the same as of Bulgarian nationality), then it could lead to a legal chain reaction so our client can ultimately obtain citizenship as well. If however, the first descendant of the first discovered Bulgarian citizen in the genealogy tree is deceased, this may cause serious legal problems.
As the above is most probably not an option for our client, we are left with the second option, namely:
Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship on basis of being of Bulgarian origin
The decision of whether one is considered to be of Bulgarian origin is in the competency of the State Agency for Bulgarians abroad (SABA). The law on the Bulgarian Citizenship (art.15 (2)) states that:
In the procedure for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization, the application for acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship is accompanied by a certificate of Bulgarian origin issued by the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad. The certificate shall indicate the data on the basis of which the Bulgarian origin has been established.
The decision whether to issue the certificate or not is the most important step from the whole process. Our role in this part is essential, as the SABA needs to have full confidence that the applicant is indeed of Bulgarian origin. Such confidence is not achieved by “assurances”, rather than by collecting documents and evidences to legally support the application. Often, we need to go to the Bulgarian court in order to defend the client status and rights.
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“Bulgarian citizenship by origin in 3 months. Everyone can qualify. 100% legal. Prices from 1500 EUR.” <— SCAM!!!
We also have to mention the very controversial decision of the Bulgarian Supreme Court on the interpretation of the citizenship law. This decision has basically turned the whole legal framework upside down. After this decision, the procedure for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship by origin became much more complicated. Unfortunately, the future doesn’t look bright either. The political sentiment in Bulgaria is very much against liberalizing the citizenship framework, so we expect the regulations to become even more difficult from 2021 onwards.
The required procedures for our client in his particular situation
As our client is obviously of Bulgarian origin (albeit not for the authorities, yet), the procedure is straightforward for him. First, we need to collect a large number of documents and evidences. Then we will have to draft supporting report that will give peace of mind to SABA so the certificate of Bulgarian origin can be issued.
Luckily, especially in the current covid-era, the client can perform all actions without the need to visit Bulgaria. Once the whole procedure is completed, the client will need to attend an interview before his citizenship application is logged with the Ministry of Justice and the Citizenship Council. This interview can be held at the Bulgarian embassy in the country where the client is currently residing. Ultimately, the vice-President of Bulgaria will issue citizenship certificate and the client will officially become Bulgarian citizen.
The length of the procedure depends on many factors, but can currently be estimated to take about one year. This is very rough estimate and can take much longer if there are serious obstacles during the procedure.
What about the spouse of our client
The spouse of Bulgarian citizen doesn’t have any immediate preferences in obtaining citizenship. What the spouse of our client can do, after he obtains Bulgarian citizenship, is to apply for and obtain Bulgarian residence permit. Provided some conditions are met, the spouse can be eligible for Bulgarian citizenship not earlier than six years after legal residence has been obtained.
And is there a faster route towards citizenship?
For our client there is no faster option to obtain Bulgarian citizenship.
For his spouse however, Bulgarian citizenship by investment may be an option.