1. Bulgaria (Mariya Stoilova)
1.8. Immigration and Intimate Relationships
1.8.1. Is there a right to “family reunion”?
There are new regulations concerning entering, staying and leaving the country that came into power since Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007. The Law on Entrance,
Residence and Leaving the Republic of Bulgaria of European Union Citizens and Members of Their Families gives a definition of family member as ‘a person who has contracted marriage or is in a de facto union with a EU citizen, a relative of descending line of the EU citizen who is not a Bulgarian citizen and has not turned 21 years or is a dependent person, or a successor of the spouse; a relative of ascending line who is dependent on the EU citizen or the spouse’ (Additional Provisions, Art 1). According to this law the ‘family members’ of a EU citizen mentioned above are allowed to enter and reside in the country even if they are not EU citizens. In addition to ‘family members’ (as defined by this law), other non-EU citizens who can enter and reside in Bulgaria are: ‘other non-EU family members’ who, in the country where s/he is coming from, are dependent on the EU citizen, or belong to the same household, or in cases where serious health problems require personal care for the family member of the EU citizen.
A different law is in power for ‘foreigners’, defined as non-EU citizens and non-EU spouses of Bulgarian citizens. The right to ‘family reunion’ is regulated by the Law for Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria (SG 153/23.12.1998, last amendment SG
63/3.08.2007). This law gives a narrower definition of a family, which excludes couples in de facto unions in some of cases. According to the provisions family members of Bulgarian citizens can enter and stay in the country, these are: a spouse, unmarried relatives of descending line under the age of 21; relatives of descending line over 21 when they do not have their own income and are dependent on the Bulgarian citizen because they are not able to provide for themselves, or because of health problems; a relative of ascending line who is dependent on the Bulgarian citizen; other people who were members of the household of the Bulgarian citizen in the country of their origin or
residence who have health problems and are under the care of the Bulgarian citizen. A non-EU citizen can receive a residence permit if they are the family member of a person with residence permit, or a de facto union partner, or a parent. The law defines a ‘de facto non-marital cohabitation’ as circumstances when the people live in the same household on a matrimonial [spouse-based] basis.
Law for Amendment and Supplement of the Law on Asylum and Refugees (SG 54/2002, last amendment 14.06.2007) gives the same rights to refugees and asylum seekers and their sourses and underage non-married children (Art.8; 9 and 22). In this law ‘family members’ are explicitly defined as the spouse and under-age unmarried children, or parents of the spouses when they are dependent on their children due to age or illness (Additional Decree, 54:1: 3). In this sense unmarried couples do not have the right to family reunion on the basis that one of them is given asylum seeker or refugee status. The regulations are the same in case where one of the spouses has Indefinite Leave to Remain. The other spouse can claim the same status, but not an unmarried partner (Regulations for the Implementation of the Law for Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria, 2000, last amendment SG 49/19.06.2007, Art.27)
1.8.2. What is the law/ policy about immigration for the purposes of marriage?
A new article of the Law for Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria that came into power in 2001 regulates immigration in relation to marriage. According to this the application for permanent residence can be rejected, or a given residence permit can be revoked if there is evidence that the marriage was contracted only for the purposes of avoiding the regulations concerning the entrance and residence of foreign citizens in the country. Such evidence includes: the spouses not living together; a lack of contribution to the
obligations linked to marriage; the spouses not knowing each other before the marriage; providing contradictory information about the personal data on the other spouse (name,
address, nationality, profession), or about the circumstances of the acquaintance; if the spouses do not speak a common language; payment of money on entering marriage besides the traditional marriage dowery. Immigration for the purposes of marriage cannot be grounds for an application for a visa for Bulgaria. Visas are issued for private visits, business trips, cultural exchange, sport events, health treatments, and tourism (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007).
1.8.3. Do unmarried and same-sex couples have the right for the non- national partner to immigrate?
According to the regulations there is no distinction between heterosexual and same-sex couples. Unmarried partners have the right to immigrate if their partner is a EU-national or non-EU national who holds a residence permit. Marriage is also necessary for joining a partner with a refugee/ asylum seeker status.