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The rights of Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria - an overview

The EU Council of Ministers recently decided to activate the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD). See the text of the proposal for Implementing Decision on introducing temporary protection and its core details here. However, the Implementing Decision has not been passed yet in the EU Official Journal.

The Bulgarian Asylum and Refugees Act transposed in 2007 the provisions of the TPD. Thus, temporary protection is a locally regulated mechanism. This mechanism allows for a mass influx of third-country nationals who are forced to leave their country of origin due to an armed conflict, civil war, foreign aggression, violation of human rights or indiscriminate violence on its territory or a part of it, and who for these reasons are unable to return there, to receive immigration, labour, and human rights protection in another (host) EU country.

A. Temporary Protection Mechanism (TPM)

What is the TPM about? Activating the TPD will allow EU jurisdictions to face the mass of Ukraine individuals displaced from their country, fleeing from the war actions. It will also allow the Member States to deal with those Ukrainians who, benefitting from visa-free travel, will be looking for another form of status once the 90 days of legal stay in the Union has expired.

Holders of Ukrainian biometric passports can enter and stay visa-free in Bulgaria for up to 90 days in a 6-months rolling period (see the Immigration requirements in Ukrainian). However, this free immigration entry does not give them the right to lawful work in Bulgaria. The right to access the Bulgarian labour market will be provided under the TPM (see the differences with IPM in section B).

Thus, the temporary protection mechanism aims to provide Ukrainians, in the first EU country it is applied for:

  • Access to enter and stay in the country /residence permit (if no visa-free zone is entered)
  • Access to accommodation
  • Access to education
  • Access to health services
  • Access to the labour market

Who will be eligible to get the Temporary Protection?

The temporary protection will be granted for those who resided in Ukraine before or on the 24th of February 2022 and are:

(a) Ukrainian nationals residing in Ukraine; Third-country nationals who were legally residing in Ukraine on a long-term basis
(b) Third-country nationals or stateless persons residing legally in Ukraine and who are unable to return in safe and durable conditions to their country or region of origin;
(c) family members of the persons referred to in points (a) and (b), regardless of whether the family member could return in safe and durable conditions to his or her country or region of origin.

How will the TPM work for Ukrainian asylum seekers in Bulgaria?

  • Temporary protection will be granted by a decision of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers after the Implementing Decision on introducing temporary protection has turned into a law.
  • Bulgaria will grant such a period of temporary protection equal to the one determined by the EU Council of Ministers. According to the Implementing Decision on introducing temporary protection, the protection scheme 1+1 year will be activated; this is in line with the TPD, which allows the duration of temporary protection to be for one year. Unless terminated otherwise, it may be extended automatically by six months for a maximum of 1 year. The EU Council can make a decisive call to end the temporary protection or extend it due to objective developments.
  • Bulgaria will designate a national liaison office (most probably it will be the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees) and inform the other EU Member States and the EU Commission about it; our country will adopt an action plan for temporary protection in Bulgaria.

B. International Protection Mechanism (IPM)

What is the IPM about?

The IPM can be used by the Ukrainians, fleeing the war, for obtaining refugee status or humanitarian status. The IPM is applied for before the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees (the application form is also available in English and Ukrainian languages). The IPM does not equal the TPM.

The IPM gives the right to the Ukraine asylum applicants to:

  • Enter and stay in Bulgaria;
  • Access health care services, shelter, and food;
  • Certain social benefits and support.

However, according to the IPM, the Ukrainian asylum seekers in Bulgaria can work in the country only (i) after obtaining the international protection (e.g., humanitarian status is granted) or (ii) after 3 months of no outcome (if the procedure for granting international protection is not completed within 3 months after being lodged for reasons beyond the applicant's control).

The local employer must declare the labour engagement of the individual applying for the IPM before the Employment Agency of Bulgaria; for details, see here.

It remains to be seen if the local authorities will be allowed to change from IPM (if already applied for) to TPM since the TPM will give easier access to the EU/Bulgarian labour market.

C. Ukrainians can also explore the following options for lawfully working in Bulgaria (aside from the labour access being pursued with the TPM/IPM):

  • Third-country nationals posted or sent to the Republic of Bulgaria by a foreign employer for up to 3 months within 12 months can perform certain tasks without a work permit based on a one-time registration with the Bulgarian Employment Agency (a service contract must be in place between the receiving company and the sending employer). See the details for the Registration of short-term employment/posted third-country workers in Bulgaria.
  • Third-country nationals who perform Seasonal work in Bulgaria (only in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, hospitality, and catering) can work for up to 90 days without interruption within 12 months following registration with the Bulgarian Employment Agency. See the details for the Registration of Seasonal Workers in Bulgaria.

The above article aims to inform you and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at

Published on Mar 07, 2022

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About the author

Stanimira Hristova

I have been practising law since 2008. My kickoff start was in energy sector where I gained solid knowledge of renewables (with focus on interconnecting procedures, offtake, energy supply and consumption agreements), being involved in every step of the investment process.

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