Alexander Dobrinov
author: Alexander Dobrinov

Renouncing citizenship to get Bulgarian passport. Legally required, but does it work in real life?

Legal analysis of the norm of Art. 12, para. 1, item 6 of the Law on the Bulgarian Citizenship

Is it necessary for a non-EU foreigner to renounce his citizenship before being naturalized in Bulgaria? After reading the Bulgarian citizenship law, the answer to this question seems obvious. But let’s see if the norm of the law can be applied in real life.

A person who is not a Bulgarian citizen can acquire Bulgarian citizenship if, on the date of submission of the application for naturalization: … he is released from his previous citizenship or will be released from it at the time of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.1

Art. 12, para. 1, item 6 of the Citizenship Law

1 It should be noted that the requirement to be renounce the previous citizenship does not apply to EU citizens, spouses of Bulgarians, as well as to citizens of countries with which Bulgaria has signed agreements on reciprocity (Art. 12, para. 2 of the Citizenship Law).

Contradiction between the Law and the way it is implemented

The legislator’s idea is extremely clear. The foreigner, a candidate for Bulgarian citizenship, should not hold any other citizenship at the time of submitting the application or at the latest at the date of acquisition of his Bulgarian citizenship.

But is this possible?

According to the cited norm of the law, even stateless persons can apply for naturalization. In all cases however, the foreigner who is naturalized should not hold any other citizenship at the time of naturalization. I.e. every naturalized Bulgarian must have been apatride (person without citizenship) at some point before becoming a Bulgarian citizen. However, this requirement poses a series of serious legal problems. For example, how the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship will be identified, since he does not even possess an identity document from another country.

An attempt to solve the problems in the Ordinance on the implementation of the Citizenship Law

Let’s also see what the Ordinance for the implementation of chapter five of the Citizenship Law requires from persons applying for Bulgarian citizenship:

A document from the relevant foreign authorities that the applicant has relinquished his previous citizenship; if there is no such document, it should be presented within three years after receiving the notification that the Citizenship Council at the Ministry of Justice has approved the applicant for granting Bulgarian citizenship;

Art. 4, para. 1, item 12 of the Ordinance

In other words, the Ordinance no longer requires the citizenship applicant to renounce his previous citizenship until the acquisition of his Bulgarian citizenship. The Ordinance, instead, imposes an obligation on the applicant to surrender his citizenship within a 3-year period from the moment of his approval by the Citizenship Council. And this is already a completely different requirement, as there is no sanction for its non-fulfillment!

Back to the regulations of the Citizenship Law

Let’s see what happens after the applicant is approved by the Citizenship Council.

First, the Minister of Justice, based on the opinion of the Citizenship Council, makes a proposal to the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to issue a decree for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship . This proposal is made within a period of 12 months (Article 35, Paragraph 1, Item 1 of the Citizenship Law). After that, the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization is carried out by decree of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. The decree enters into force from the day of its issuance (Art. 36 of the Citizenship Law). There is no deadline for the President’s decree.

Conclusion – there is no control mechanism for naturalized Bulgarians

The average statistical time for issuing the President’s decree is about one year (pessimistically speaking). The maximum allowed term for the Minister’s proposal to the President is 12 months. This makes a total of 24 months. At the same time the Ordinance gives the applicant a 36-month period to renounce his previous citizenship.

This means that the applicant for Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization can hold on to his previous citizenship and can still be naturalized, in full conformity with the Citizenship Law!

Cancellation of the naturalization in the case of NOT being released from your previous citizenship?

But is it possible to cancel the naturalization of the Bulgarian citizen, in case he has not renounced his previous citizenship within a 3-year period? The answer is “NO”. According to Art. 22, para. 1 of the Citizenship Law, naturalization, on the basis of which Bulgarian citizenship was acquired, can be canceled if the person :

  1. has used data or facts that became the basis for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship, which were found to be false by court order, and/or
  2. has concealed data or facts which, if they were known, would be grounds for refusal to acquire Bulgarian citizenship, and/or;
  3. did not notify of a change under Art. 32a.

It is obvious that none of the above hypotheses is consistent with the naturalized person’s failure to renounce his previous citizenship.


  1. For clearity, may I ask if the person who acquired Bulgarian citizenship by descent can keep their previous two (2) citizenships?

    1. Author

      Yes, persons of Bulgarian origin are not required to surrender their existing citizenships.

  2. While having permanent residency for those 5 years, do you need to spend a minimum amount of days in Bulgaria per year to be eligible? And if you have multiple residencies, do you need to pay your taxes in Bulgaria during those 5 years to be eligible?

    1. Author

      First of all, what are you asking about? To qualify for what exactly?
      Secondly, its important to know on what basis your PR has been issued?

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