BULGARIA – New Labour Act Establishes Simplified EU Blue Card for Highly-Qualified IT Specialists, and Sets New Rules for Intra-corporate Transfers
On 21 May 2016, the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act entered into force.
The new Act consolidates existing rules and supersedes previous legislation, and brings Bulgarian laws in this field in line with existing European Union (EU) law.
The Act establishes a simplified procedure and further benefits for highly-skilled non-EU national IT specialists applying for an EU Blue Card, and new rules for intra-corporate transfers.
EU Blue Card for Highly Skilled Shortage Occupations
The new Act clarifies an amendment introduced in October 2015 to the work permit regulations, establishing special rules for EU Blue Card applicants in certain shortage occupations. The official list of highly-skilled shortage occupations, which will be updated annually in January, includes the following occupations:
- Sales professionals in the field of information and communication technologies
- System analysts;
- Software developers;
- Web content and multimedia developers;
- Applications programmers;
- Software developers and software applications analysts;
- Designers and database administrators;
- System administrators;
- Computer network specialists;
- Database and network specialists.
The background to this is a shortage of highly qualified specialists in the Bulgarian labour market – mainly in the Information Technology (IT) sector.
Labour Market Test Exemption
Highly-skilled non-EU nationals in qualifying shortage occupations can now obtain an EU Blue Card without the usual labour market testing, and therefore with expedited processing. The labour market test exemption saves two weeks, and also reduces both EU Blue Card and consular D visa application processing by two weeks each.
Extended Validity of EU Blue Card
Highly-qualified non-EU specialists on the official list can now obtain an EU Blue Card valid for a stay of up to three years, in line with the employment contract. Normally, the EU Blue Card is only issued for one year at a time, and the renewal process is administratively burdensome.
Minimum Salary Requirement
According to the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act, the simplified EU Blue Card for high qualified employees in the officially listed shortage occupations can only be issued when the gross salary of the employee is at least two times higher than the average salary in Bulgaria, according to the official data available for the 12 months preceding the signing of the employment contract.
The previous regulations, from October 2015 to May 2016, required the salary for these listed professions to be three times higher than the national average. For other employees of non-EU countries (not included in the shortage list), the gross salary must be at least 1.5 times higher than the average salary in Bulgaria, (no change under the new law). For context, the average salary for IT professionals in Bulgaria is well above 2 times the average national salary.
The Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act also implements the 2014 EU Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer (2014/66/EU). The principal changes to the law in Bulgaria are as follows:
- The required ratio of foreign national to Bulgarian national employees of 1:10 is no longer applicable to intra-corporate transfers (ICT) (this ratio is also not applicable to foreign nationals hired under the EU Blue Card scheme). This makes it easier for smaller Bulgarian companies to employ foreign specialists from companies from within the same group.
- The maximum total stay for ICT purposes has been set at three years (if renewed annually) for managers and specialists and one year for trainees. Previously, senior managers could apply to renew their ICT work permit indefinitely.
- Employers considering hiring highly qualified non-EU nationals to work in one of the officially listed IT sector occupations can take advantage of expedited EU Blue Card application processing and extended validity, provided the salary offered is at least 2 times the national average.
- Smaller companies in Bulgaria intending to employ assignees from within the same group of companies can take advantage of the lifting of the 1:10 foreign national to Bulgarian national ratio requirement, but must take into account the new maximum stay of three years for intra-company assignees.