The EU Blue Card facilitates employing highly qualified citizens outside the Union
At the end of January, important legal changes were adopted governing the conditions and procedure for issuing a long-term residence and work permit of the “EU Blue Card” type. The changes are aimed at facilitating access to the Bulgarian labour market for highly qualified citizens outside the European Union (EU) which could have a positive impact on labour shortages in a number of sectors of the Bulgarian economy.
The “EU Blue Card” can be applied for by foreigners who are eligible to pursue highly qualified employment and at the same time:
hold a type “D” visa or a permit for all types of long-term residence in Bulgaria which is replaced by the “EU Blue Card” permit, or
are eligible to pursue highly qualified employment under the Bulgarian legislation and have been granted international protection in the Republic of Bulgaria or an EU Member State within the meaning of the Asylum and Refugees Act.
The conditions to be fulfilled by the foreigner for the pursue of highly qualified employment are the following:
An employee who is a citizen of countries outside the EU, must have high professional qualification, defined as a qualification which is attested by evidence of higher education or a high degree of professional skills.
For a person to be considered to have a high degree of professional skills, he/she should possess knowledge, skills and competences, attested by an official document issued by a competent authority, indicating professional experience at a level comparable to higher education, as the knowledge, skills and competences of the employee must be relevant to the position or sector specified in the employment contract. In regard to the establishment of the level of professional experience, the Minister of Labour and Social Policy is to approve a list of positions and the length of experience required for them. A different approach has been established regarding the positions included in the said list and those outside of it. For the first group, it will be necessary to certify that the experience has been acquired within the term specified in the list and for the second group – at least 5 years of professional experience at a level comparable to higher education.
A substantial amendment occurs in the minimum period for which a Bulgarian employer may conclude an employment contract with a highly qualified employee, as it has been reduced from 12 months to 6 months.
There is also an important change in the duration of the long-term residence and work permit of the “EU Blue Card” type pursuant to the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. It can be issued for a period of up to 5 years, but not shorter than 24 months. When the duration of the employment contract is shorter than 24 months, the permit is issued for the duration of the contract extended by 3 months but for a maximum period of 24 months. The permit can be renewed if relevant grounds are present.
It is evident that the regulations have been substantially amended and the new provisions will pose new challenges for employers and employees, especially concerning the administrative burden and the need to certify the high degree of professional skills of the candidates. At the same time, expanding the hypotheses under which one can apply for an “EU Blue Card” can make the procedure more attractive for many employers for whom it has been inaccessible for one reason or another. It remains to be seen how the practice of implementing the new legislation will develop and the extent to which the legislative amendments under consideration will contribute to overcoming the problems highlighted in the explanatory memorandum to the bill.