In the beginning of March 2022, for the first time ever, the EU decided to activate the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD). The historic decision was adopted as an act of solidarity with Ukraine and with the aim of addressing the mass influx of displaced persons a result of the war on Ukrainian territory. The Directive allows for Ukrainian refugees to be granted with a temporary protection status, which entitles them to various rights.
Following the activation of the Directive and in accordance with the Bulgarian Shelter and Refugees Act, on 10 March, the Council of Ministers of Republic of Bulgaria passed a resolution giving Ukrainian citizens a temporary protection status for an initial period of one year.
Throughout this one-year period, Ukrainian citizens would be entitled to various rights, including:
✓ Residence on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria
✓ Right to work and vocational training
✓ Social assistance
✓ Medical care in emergencies
A temporary protection status is granted after a registration procedure has been carried out. It ends with the issuance of a document called ‘Registration card of a foreigner granted temporary protection’ . The official rules for this registration, however, are still pending.
According to a message published on the website of the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees with the Council of Ministers on 17 March 2022, the following categories of persons are entitled to temporary protection:
✓ Ukrainian citizens who have been residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022
✓ Stateless persons or citizens of third-countries other than Ukraine who have been granted international protection or other equivalent protection in Ukraine before 24 February 2022
✓ Family members of the above categories
✓ Stateless persons or citizens of third countries other than Ukraine who can prove that they have legally resided in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 with a valid permanent residence permit issued in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and that they cannot return permanently to their country or region of origin under safe conditions
A work permit is not necessary for Ukrainian citizens, who have been granted a temporary protection status in Bulgaria. Moreover, they can freely register as jobseekers with the Labour Office at their respective address and benefit from the right to employment services and vocational training.
If the circumstances allow for Ukrainian citizens to return to their country after the initial one-year temporary protection period, but they do wish to stay in Bulgaria, there are several options to consider:
Ukrainian citizens of Bulgarian origin are entitled to obtain permanent residence permit and are also allowed to enter the country and work, while waiting for completion of their residence permit procedure, which can be initiated even without applying for a long-term visa “D”. As per the Foreigners in Republic of Bulgaria Act, a person of Bulgarian origin is any person who has at least one ascendent who is a Bulgarian citizen.
Currently, a commonly used legal tool for relocation of employees is the EU blue card. It can be granted to an employee who holds a university degree and has sufficient experience at the respective job position. One of the reasons that this option is sought by local employers is that the EU blue card may be granted for up to four years, which would optimise the efforts and would remove the need for annual renewals. On the other hand, employees seek the blue card as it would guarantee a simplified process for their further relocation in another EU member state.
The term non-qualified employees means employees who have experience on the respective position but do not hold a university degree. Hiring such employees has some significant differences compared to the EU Blue card. Firstly, the employer must conduct a market search through internet or other means to confirm that there are no suitable Bulgarian or EU candidates. Another requirement is that the employer must keep a certain ratio between EU/Bulgarian and non-EU employees.
Ukrainian citizens will also be entitled to seasonal work based on a simple registration at the Employment Agency. Seasonal work may be conducted for a 90-day uninterrupted period within 12 months. Not every work is be considered a seasonal one – the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act gives a legal definition of the term seasonal work, namely - work dependent on the change of seasons and associated with a particular season through a repetitive event or series of events due to seasonal conditions whereby demand for manpower is significantly higher than for other routine work (e.g. summer season work at the seaside, at ski resorts throughout the winter etc.).