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It is easy to become Bulgarian

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Statistics of those who have obtained Bulgarian citizenship shows that every year the number of candidates who claim to have Bulgarian roots is drastically increasing. At the same time, the number of real foreigners (those who do not have any Bulgarian origin) is constantly the same – even one hundred per year.





Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova (Macedonia)

Stanimir Vaglenov  (Bulgaria)



I, the undersigned M.K., state that I have Bulgarian national awareness and I am of Bulgarian origin because my parents…This is one of the statements that opens doors for obtaining the much desired Bulgarian citizenship, at the moment owned by 42,372 Macedonian citizens.  Some take it for studying, but most of them, as they say, to find a piece of bread in Europe, as the advantages of the Bulgarian passports are numerous – they can study with less money than in our country, facilitations for truck drivers, to the opportunities to earn money by forming mixed Macedonian-Bulgarian companies to which European doors are opened.

Macedonians are recorders by the hunt of Bulgarian passport. They obtain the citizenship within a year at most. It differs them from the citizens of other countries that also apply for Bulgarian citizenship. There are not any strict conditions. Only a few documents, most of them statements about Bulgarian national awareness – their own and their relatives’, mother’s  and even grand- grandfather’s. No concrete evidence is required for authentic Bulgarian origin, as is the case with other citizenships.

Unlike before, when mediators applied in the name of others, now candidates are taken as organized, by buses or vans. Main applicants are inhabitants from East Macedonia and they make good friends, they themselves arrange the address to register in Bulgaria. So it happens that some hundreds of Macedonians to be registered living in the same house.

Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship is particularly characteristic of East Macedonia. Velin M. from Makedonska Kamenica is father of a son who went to earn money with a Bulgarian passport. He explains that Makedonska Kamenica a few years ago was a dead town, after the mine Sasa had closed and a lot of young people went to Italy and Slovenia.

“It is no secret that a lot of young people, among them my son, have gone to Italy with a Bulgarian passport. A motive to obtain a Bulgarian passport is poverty, not that he really felt as a Bulgarian. He is Macedonian, but with the Bulgarian passport he is a European citizen. He can obtain work visa and work in any country without a problem”, says Velin’s father.

He explains that his son submitted a birth certificate and in front of an officer in Blagoevgrad he submitted a statement that he wanted a Bulgarian passport as his father and grandfather were Bulgarian. As an address he used the one of their cousin in Blagoevgrad.

“The whole thing is done by the mediator. A Bulgarian passport costs from 200 to 1,000 Euros, depending on the time you want to obtain it.

In our area a lot of people have obtained identity cards and passports so that they could more easily and cheaply buy a vehicle and the car registration and the green card in Bulgaria cost only 60 Euros. Now the problem with cheap cars is solved, but our young people are still interested in foreign passports”, this inhabitant of Makedonska Kamenica told us.

Pavle S. from Radovis told us it was very easy to obtain Bulgarian passport. He is waiting for one to obtain.

“My passport is in procedure. I am waiting to be called and get it from Bulgaria. I think it is easy to obtain a Bulgarian passport. You just need a birth certificate. On the internet I learned something about their history and public holidays. In front of the officer you have to say you are Bulgarian and that your grandfathers were Bulgarian. They do not make any problems if you say that your wife is Macedonian”, says Pavle. His procedure about obtaining a passport is run by a man from Radovish, for whom he says is well-known in the town.

“I was in Bulgaria a month ago and from what I could see I can say that we, Macedonians, have advantage in obtaining a Bulgarian passport”, he says. To the question why he wants a Bulgarian passport he says that he needs to go abroad and it is easier to find a job with it. “With our Macedonian passport you can only visit someone in another country, you cannot earn money and the doors are not open to European countries”, says Pavle.

The procedure for obtaining a Bulgarian passport is very easy and it can also be done with mediators. In the newspapers there are plenty of advertisements for mediation for Bulgarian citizenship and in some of them it is mentioned that only orthodox can apply. For the beginning, candidates have to provide two documents: a birth certificate and a court certificate of no conviction.

With these two documents one goes to Bulgaria, where statements are filled out, in which candidates most often state that they want a Bulgarian citizenship for studying or some other reasons, but they have to state they feel like Bulgarians. They also say it at the interview at the Ministry of Justice. On average, the whole procedure for obtaining a passport is complete within a year, after previously a temporary identity card is obtained, for which they have to state they have an address in Bulgaria.

“Now one has to go personally, it used to be with mediators. When you apply for Bulgarian citizenship they give you a number and you wait for the certificate that you can be a Bulgarian citizen. First you get the certificate within a month to three months and a temporary identity card. With it you can go around Europe, but you cannot work”, says one of the mediators for Bulgarian citizenship.

His colleague, a mediator, who has a newspaper advertisement that he mediates for Bulgarian citizenship, told us that the pleasure of obtaining a Bulgarian passport costs 270 Euros. This price includes going to Bulgaria twice so that the candidate personally submits documents, then you are given an address to which you can register. Only two documents are required: a birth certificate and a court certificate of no conviction.

“We organize a group and we take it to Sofia. Within 45 days we go twice. The whole procedure of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship lasts 6-8 months. It is 100 percent positive. The price includes an address, too”, the mediator told us.

On the website of Agency for Bulgarians Abroad the necessary documents for application and obtaining Bulgarian citizenship are stated. For application it is enough to submit a passport copy and a notarized statement for Bulgarian national awareness by form. It is also pointed out that documents are to be submitted personally. Additionally, the candidate can also submit evidence from different state institutions or Bulgarian organizations in another country that he/she is of Bulgarian origin.

Cheaper studies if you declare Bulgarian


Macedonian students who want to enroll PhD studies claim they have been offered to declare Bulgarian in order to study for less money. I wanted to enroll PhD studies at the state university in Blagoevgrad. One year is 3,000 Euros and the PhD studies are three years. That is 9,000 Euros. First I gave up as I did not have that money. However, they encouraged me that there was a possibility to study for only 1,500 Euros according to some law articles”, told us a young girl from Skopje, who wanted to continue specialization after she had become a master.

In the beginning she was told it was enough to bring a birth certificate and to submit a document stating she had 1,500 Euros on her account. However, when she appeared at the University with the documents, they asked her to sign a statement that she had “Bulgarian national awareness and was of Bulgarian origin”, as well as her mother and father. From the University they explained to her that the statement would be used only for internal use. However, she gave up the idea as she thought it hurt her national feelings towards Macedonia.


Macedonians quickly obtain Bulgarian passport


“I have been waiting for Bulgarian citizenship for three years. Every time I call them, they say that my request will be considered in the following six months”, says the Ukrainian Oksana (the name has been changed) with a nervous voice. She has been living in Bulgaria for 10 years – since she married a Bulgarian. They have two children and a successful business.

But obviously it is not enough. At the same time, especially in the last years, the Ministry of Justice “has been producing” new Bulgarians with a record tempo – 22,241 applications for Bulgarian citizenship were considered by the Citizenship Council from 1st January to 18th November this year. 13,607 were approved after receiving a decree from the vice president of the country and became Bulgarian citizens. Others are still waiting and the rest were turned down.

By chance or not, Macedonians, unlike others, are luckier so it takes a year for them to obtain Bulgarian passport. Most candidates are from East Macedonia, from the places near the Bulgarian border, but it is not a rule.

One of them is a person from Stip, Ane Arsov. “I was waiting for 12 months and here it is, on 13th it is my turn for the decree by the vice president Angel Marin, and I will be officially announced to be a Bulgarian citizen”. 34-year old Arsov, who works in a hairdresser’s studio in Stip, is happy. He is ready to work the same in Sofia or “something better”. Together with him in the queue in front of the Ministry of Justice in Sofia is his co-citizen from Stip, 30-year old Pero Nestorov, a waiter. Pero has already worked in Bulgaria, by the sea, in the resort Zlatni Pesoci. Now he wants to work in Sofia or in cafes and restaurants by the sea as a Bulgarian citizen.

“For us Europe is Bulgaria, we do not want to go to other EU countries, we like it here. It is important to have a job”, Ane and Pero say. According to them, it was not difficult to prepare the necessary documents for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship nor they had problems with the Bulgarian authorities. The both say they have Bulgarian roots – that is how they presented themselves in the appropriate documents in the Ministry of Justice. According to them, many other citizens from Stip would like to have Bulgarian citizenship.


Foreigners with Bulgarian roots multiply every year

Statistics of those who have obtained Bulgarian citizenship shows that every year the number of candidates who claim to have Bulgarian roots is drastically increasing. At the same time, the number of real foreigners (those who do not have any Bulgarian origin) is constantly the same – even one hundred per year.

“I want legally to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. I collected the required documents quickly and easily – that I am married, I got documents for no conviction both from the Ukrainian and Bulgarian court, health certificate, including psychic, that I work in Bulgaria...I obtained all the documents without any problems. I have also passed the test for knowledge of Bulgarian language…I simply can not understand why I have to wait so long and why no one gives me a normal answer or a date”, says Oksana.

While we were talking, she phoned the Ministry of Justice to ask what was going on with her application. They told her that they had just started with the 2008 applications and told her to wait for a letter of reply.

“Great, but a year ago they told me exactly the same”, the woman smiled sadly. “I feel sorry that some Ukrainian bandits who escape from prison buy documents they need for Bulgarian origin and they quickly become Bulgarian citizens and then they leave wherever they want in Europe and all around the world”, says Oksana.


Every day 300 people wait in queue

The Decrees for Bulgarian citizenship signed by the vice president are given every week from Monday to Wednesday and the working hours are from 9.30 to 12 am. On each of these days about 300 people queue and wait for hours, even when the temperature is minus 7-8 degrees. The people complain about the bureaucratic chaos and bad organization until they wait for the wanted document. Every Monday a list is made according to which candidates for citizenship are called. Officers manage to meet not more than 130 people per day. The others remain for the following day, a new list is made and the order is mixed. Due to the bad organization, a lot of people have to come for a few times. “Why are not there any machines with numbers as in the banks? Or via internet to notify us when to go”, ask the candidates for Bulgarian citizenship. While waiting, they either sleep in their cars or in cheap hotels or at someone they know.

Most massive is the presence of citizens from Macedonia, from towns and villages near the Bulgarian border. Lately there has been an epidemic over there – everyone wanted to become Bulgarian, they officially say. Even an organized transport has been offered to Sofia for such cases, candidates for Bulgarian passport say.

For the people who do not have Bulgarian roots and apply regularly, the procedure for obtaining citizenship is complex and long. In spite of the fact that the official position of the Bulgarian state institutions is that the conditions are equal for all candidates, they say it is not like that. Those who queue for obtaining citizenship, especially Ukrainian, Moldovan, say that although they have Bulgarian roots, they cannot easily obtain Bulgarian citizenship, as Macedonians can.

The procedure is the same for everyone. Candidates have to submit at least 12 necessary documents. If the documents do not meet the conditions, they are returned. Each database is reviewed by the Citizenship Council. It covers representatives of six ministries and three state agencies. This organ gives an opinion whether the person meets the criteria. On the basis of that opinion, the Minister of Justice gives a proposal to the vice president of the Republic, who issues a decree or turns down the application.


Even 5,300 addresses registered in Kjustendil by Macedonians and Serbs

Macedonians and Serbs who want to obtain Bulgarian citizenship have submitted a total of 500 applications for temporary registration in the municipality of Kjustendil from March to 1st December 2011, it was announced from the municipality. In the past few years in the municipality 5.300 addresses have been registered of citizens who live on the other side of the western border of Bulgaria. “The influx is increasing, candidates present addresses in the villages around Kjustendill. For example, in the village Dragovishtica within a week eight candidates from Belgrade, Nish and western provinces have been registered for Bulgarian citizenship”, says Dragoljub Stojanov, mayor of the village. According to the legal regulations, addresses can be registered according to the house’s capacity, that is, the number of beds multiplied by three. And the village houses are almost empty, although at the addresses of some of them 15-20 people are registered.

Ten percent of the inhabitants of Petric were born in Macedonia. More precisely, 5,359 of the total of 54,006 inhabitants of Petric have accepted Bulgarian citizenship, according to the municipality data. According to Article 17 of the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship, when a person becomes a Bulgarian citizen, the children are automatically registered as Bulgarian. If both parents are foreigners and they obtain Bulgarian citizenship, their children under 14 automatically become Bulgarian.

In order to obtain citizenship, in a memorandum, that the future Bulgarian fills out, a permanent address is to be stated. A few years ago it was important for the address to be real and candidates – Bulgarians to write addresses of their relatives, friends, acquaintances who live in Bulgaria or through other methods (as fictional marriages with a Bulgarian or a business with a Bulgarian, and they registered on their address). Therefore, on some addresses there are hundreds of citizens. For example, the house on Hristo Cernopeev Street 44 in Petric is stated as an address in identity cards of 279 new Bulgarian.  The hotel “Las Vegas” in the southern town is also a permanent address of more than 100 Macedonians who have applied for Bulgarian citizenship.


According to the adopted new Law on Bulgarian Citizenship a year ago applicants have to legally prove their address by presenting a notarized copy. Since then, registration of candidates for citizenship has been reduced up to ten times. If the applications for registration at an address in the municipality Petric were more than 100 a week, now they are not more than 10.


How to stop the demand for Bulgarian passport


Within incomplete month, the number of Macedonians with Bulgarian citizenship has increased from 35,808 to 42,372. At the moment that is the number of registered ones on the official site of the president of Bulgaria. However, unlike Bulgaria which regularly keeps records of the number and nationality of those who have obtained Bulgarian citizenship, we neither keep statistics of Macedonians who have declared Bulgarian, nor have a strategy how to prevent the mass demand for Bulgarian passports

In the Ministry of Interior they say they have no legal basis for registration of these persons and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs just ascertains that it is true that Bulgarian passports are massively obtained, but they explain that there is no one to stop these people as the Constitution and the laws allow it. So far there have been no estimations whether Bulgarian passports will further be in high demand, as from 2014 there will be no restrictions for those with Bulgarian passports, so they will be able to work and study where they want, in any EU country.


Only ten people have required renunciation of Macedonian citizenship in order to obtain Bulgarian one, it is said in the statistics of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the Ministry of Interior they explain that they are competent only for implementation of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonia and Bulgaria, they say in the Ministry of Interior, do not have a signed bilateral agreement on this subject and that is why they cannot have statistics for citizens who have other citizenships. “Different approaches to dual citizenship, ways of obtaining citizenship and for the protection of personal data in the legislation of different countries, as well as the fact that Macedonia has not any bilateral agreements signed regarding this issue, do not enable existence of a legal mechanism for collecting data about other citizenships of Macedonian citizens”, they say in the Ministry of Interior.

We asked the competent institutions from Bulgaria about the influx of Macedonian citizens for Bulgarian passports, but we have not received any reply yet. However, there has been a reply from the Bulgarian Embassy in Skopje.

“Each candidate for Bulgarian citizenship is free on basis of his personal beliefs to point out one of the basis for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship, stated in the law”, it is said in the official reaction of the Bulgarian Embassy in Skopje. In the written correspondence we received it is pointed out that the Bulgarian citizenship is regulated with the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship and international agreements.

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they assure they are following the situation, but they cannot stop the big interest for obtaining Bulgarian passport. “The motives for massive demand of citizens of other countries have been analyzed. Concretely, for the Bulgarian citizenship the motives are of economic-social character, but we do not have a mechanism to assess the exact number of people who have obtained or submitted a request for dual citizenship. It is a decision of each citizen, if allowed by the Constitution and the laws, and our allow it, we cannot forbid our citizens to apply”, states Borce Stamov, spokesperson of the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.



The biggest demand for Bulgarian citizenship was in the period 2003-2008, in the years before the entry of Bulgaria into the European Union, according to the data by the Ministry of Justice. In the past years candidates for citizenship have been reduced, but those who have obtained citizenship have doubled.

According to the data by the Ministry of Justice, over 95% of the candidates claim that they have Bulgarian roots – even 80-100 of the people are “real” foreigners (those who do not have Bulgarian origin). That is the reason why some of the candidates wait for more than 5 years, others 2-3 years and the rest (mainly Macedonians of Bulgarian origin) – not more than a year.

Three quarters of those who in the course of 2011 declared Bulgarians are from Macedonia - total 8,291, according to the data by the Ministry of Justice. Other 2,373 are from Moldavia and 989 – from Serbia. In the last three years Bulgaria has given citizenship to a total of 37,748 foreigners. Here the ratio is also three fourths Macedonians in comparison with the others – 23,188 have become Bulgarian.

Within the period 2002-2011, 42,372 Macedonians have become Bulgarian, 20,291 from Moldavia, 3,974 from Serbia...Experts from the Ministry explain that this is logical – in Macedonia, Serbia and Moldavia there are the biggest groups of ethnic Bulgarians. And they, after they prove their Bulgarian origin, obtain citizenship with advantage. Just like the Macedonian Dalibor from Delcevo, who submitted a request to the Ministry of Justice in October 2010. Just a year later the Bulgarian newspaper “Trud” interviewed him while queuing to get the decree for Bulgarian citizenship, signed by the vice president Angel Marin.

Dalibor, who has become Bulgarian within a year, neither studies nor works, he used to be a builder in Torino, Italy. He impulsively decided to apply for Bulgarian citizenship after his three cousins had done the same – for a very short period of time. In Delcevo and the surroundings in the past few years some thousands of Macedonians have obtained Bulgarian passports, explains Dalibor.

“I told the Commission for Bulgarian Citizenship our family history. My grandfather is Bulgarian, he took part in the World War II. He lived in Pleven (not sure about the name), yes, it was Pleven. In 1943 he left the Bulgarian army and went to the Serbian. Then he bought a land near Delcevo”, says Dalibor for the newspaper “Trud”.


Some become Bulgarians quickly, others wait for long – without any explanation.

“I do not understand why things are prolonged that much with my application”, wonders Ukrainian Oksana, who has not had any results for three years.
“Only two years after I came to Bulgaria I obtained a document for permanent residence – it is easy, if you have a child of Bulgarian nationality and you come to live in Bulgaria permanently. However, I have been waiting for citizenship for that long and the reasons are not clear”, she told us.
Oksana has completed Technical University in Kiev, her husband from Bulgaria has a successful business and she works with internet-projects and looks after their two children.

“From my friends from Ukraine and Kazakhstan, who are also waiting for citizenship, I realized that some people obtain citizenship within just a few months, depending on how much they pay and where necessary, including the issue of a false document that they have Bulgarian ancestors”, Oksana is upset.
She says that Bessarabian Bulgarians (citizens of Moldavia or Ukraine who live in the area of Bessarabia, out of whom most are of Bulgarian origin as moved from Bulgaria) obtain citizenship with advantage – they are issued a document that they have Bulgarian roots from Moldavia or Ukraine. “Acquaintances told me I could obtain a false document for Bulgarian origin”, explains Oksana.

From 2014 to work anywhere in EU

Those who have a Bulgarian passport can work in almost all EU countries at the moment, but there are also restrictions. At the moment there are restrictions in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Holland, France, Great Britain and Ireland. To work in these countries it is not enough only to have a Bulgarian passport, but also you have to apply for a work visa. In some of them restrictions will be abolished in 2012 and in other not later than 2014. From 2014 for Bulgarians there will not be any restrictions for work in all EU countries. It is assumed to be the reason why Macedonians are so interested in obtaining Bulgarian passports especially after it has been announced that visas might be returned again.


Measures against corruption

In January 2010 the Bulgarian government took measures to stop the trade with Bulgarian passports. At the session the Cabinet adopted amendments in the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship in order to stop the corruption in this field and to facilitate obtaining citizenship for people of Bulgarian origin. With the amendments a one year period was introduced in which those who apply for Bulgarian citizenship are to be sent a reply by the institutions whether they will be given a Bulgarian passport or not. Another anticorruption measure taken in the new law in 2010 is the requests for Bulgarian passports to be submitted personally only, stopping the role of mediators who make money with citizenships. Such companies used to ask for 500 Euros to submit candidates’ applications.

Apparently, the new measures have not been efficient enough, as just a few months later the Agency of Bulgarians Abroad was shaken by a corruption scandal. In March 2010 it became clear that foreigners of suspicious origin paid huge amounts in order to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. The main secretary of the Agency of Bulgarians abroad, Stefan Nikolov, was arrested. Main “clients” were Moldavian citizens, explained the Sofia prosecutor, Nikolaj Kokinov. The whole “service” reached even 15,000 Euros, policemen say.

The price of false documents depends on whether they want Bulgarian citizenship but they were persecuted or used to have some problems in the past. The prosecutor Nikolaj Kokinov declared that the arrest of the main secretary of the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Stefan Nikolov, is last in the concrete case. Stefan Hristov was arrested before Nikolov and he was dismissed from his post of head of the office “Migration”. Three more participants in the group have been arrested, the investigation continues.


 The research has been supported by the Danish SCOOP


Македонска верзија: Prv del

                                         Vtor del

                                         Tret del


Comments (3 posted):

Aidan Neale on 29 January, 2013 06:34:53
ayayay! having a great time reading your blog post. you know what your readers want. Keep posting.

Aidan Neale
anila kurodo on 16 February, 2014 05:40:02
Let me asure you thats not easy and so free to get bulgarian nationality.i have been through the procedure and I had to show a lot of documents,my father birth certificate (he is bulgarian) and many other proofs.I dont see the point of making this kind of non real information.I am really sorry to read this.
buckyballs on 26 May, 2014 02:39:12
Thanks for explaining the process to become a Bulgarian. I did not know that it was not that much difficult to obtain a Bulgarian passport. From the read, I see that it is very easy to acquire a Bulgarian passport and this should be quite interesting for me.

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