The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 1 February 2020 triggered the entry into force of amendments in both the UK and the Bulgarian immigration legislation. Below you can find the key immigration implications for the UK and Bulgarian nationals arising from Brexit.
I. UK nationals in Bulgaria
The newly adopted legislative rules set out a regime for UK nationals and their family members to enter, reside and work in Bulgaria within and after the transition period from 1 February to 31 December 2020.
UK nationals legally residing in Bulgaria prior to Brexit
If you do not have a residence document, your current one is expiring within the transition period or within one year of its ending, you will need to apply for a new temporary Bulgarian residence permit before 31 December 2020.
If you already have a Bulgarian residence certificate issued pre-Brexit, it will be valid for the transition period, but you will need to apply for reissue of the card. The validity of the reissued ID card will coincide with the validity of the old document.
The statutory term for review of the application is one month starting from the application filing date. The review procedure also includes a check performed by the State Agency for National Security, so as to confirm that the applicants are not engaged in any activities that endanger national security.
If you became a family member of a UK citizen – holder of a temporary Bulgarian residence permit and were not residing in Bulgaria before Brexit, you are eligible to apply for a temporary Bulgarian residence permit not later than 29 March 2022.
If you become a family member of UK nationals during the transition period, you can apply for a temporary Bulgarian residence permit before 31 January 2020.
UK nationals planning to travel or stay in the country after Brexit
If you or your family members plan to stay in Bulgaria for longer than 3 months, you need to apply for an initial temporary Bulgarian permit within 3 months of entry.
If you want to travel to Bulgaria and stay for less than three months, you can do so with your valid passport without a visa for the transition period.
II. Bulgarian nationals in the UK
Bulgarian nationals legally residing in the UK prior to Brexit
All Bulgarian nationals residing in the UK need to apply either for a “pre-settled status” or for a “settled status” under the EU Settlement Scheme in order to be entitled to stay in the UK for more than 3 months.
You can apply for a pre-settled status in case you moved to the UK before 31 December 2020 and resided in the country for less than five years. This temporary status allows the individual to live and work in the UK for a period of up to five years.
You can apply for a settled status in case you moved to the UK before 31 December 2020 and resided in the country for more than five consecutive years. Bulgarian nationals with a settled status are eligible to apply for British citizenship within one year as of the grant date.
The deadline for the application to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.
Bulgarian nationals planning to travel or stay in the UK after Brexit
Reciprocally, during the transition period, Bulgarian nationals can still travel to and from the UK based on a valid Bulgarian passport and without a specific visa regime.
III. After the transition period – what is next?
Work and travel
UK nationals will enjoy a visa-free regime for up to 90 days within every a 180-day period. In case they intend to stay in Bulgaria for a period longer than 90 days, a Bulgarian long-term (type “D”) visa and/ or a Bulgarian residence permit will be required. The Bulgarian Employment Agency has not provided any guidance yet as to whether the UK nationals will be able to commence work in Bulgaria under the same conditions applicable for EU citizens or they will need to obtain a Bulgarian work permit.
Bulgarian nationals will enjoy a visa-free regime as well. In case they intend to stay in the UK for a period longer than 90 days, they will need to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme not later than 30 June 2021. It is anticipated that a new immigration system for the EU citizens who do not fall under the EU Settlement Scheme will be implemented by the UK government effective 1 January 2021.
The rules under the EU Regulation on Coordination of the Social Security Systems of the Member States will continue to apply within the transition period. Upon its ending, new social security coordination arrangements between the UK and the respective EU Member States are expected to be negotiated.