Joint Submission to the Human Rights Council at the 36th Session of the Universal Periodic Review - Bulgaria

The European Network on Statelessness, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) and the Foundation for Access to Rights have prepared a joint submission to the 36th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in relation to statelessness in Bulgaria.

3 Oct 2019 / Bulgaria / Detention / Prevention and reduction / Statelessness determination and status

Bulgaria urged to stop locking up stateless people by detained heart doctor

While Bulgaria has a statelessness determination procedure that should serve to identify and protect stateless people, crucially the system doesn't offer full protection from detention, and it fails to guarantee stateless people all their rights under the 1954 Convention.

19 Feb 2019 / Bulgaria / Detention / Statelessness determination and status


The legal and policy framework in Bulgaria has some positive aspects and some significant gaps. Bulgaria is state party to most relevant international and regional instruments, including three of the four core statelessness conventions. However, its definition of a stateless person does not align with international standards. De-facto exclusion provisions in law are not in line with the 1954 Convention as they require lawful residence. There is limited data on the stateless population in the country.

  • According to the law, every person born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria who does not acquire another citizenship by origin, is a Bulgarian citizen by birth.
  • The provision is automatic ex lege so no application process is required and there are no conditions relating to the status of the parents or residency.
  • However, the child may need to prove that they cannot acquire another nationality and jurisprudence has established that notarised statements from the parents is not sufficient evidence.
  • Foundlings are granted Bulgarian citizenship automatically by law.
  • Bulgarian citizenship can only be withdrawn if acquired through naturalisation and not by birth as in the case of foundlings.
  • There is no provision in law relating to an age limit for foundlings.
  • Adoption does not change the nationality of the child.
  • A foreign child can apply for Bulgarian citizenship up to the age of 14 with the consent of the adoptive parents in the case of full adoption and will be exempted from the general requirements for naturalisation. The child can apply on their own behalf if aged 14-18 years. 
  • There is a risk of statelessness in the procedure if the child or parents do not apply or consent to apply for naturalisation, or there is a delay on the part of the authorities, and the child loses their former nationality or is stateless on adoption.
  • A child is Bulgarian if one of its parents is Bulgarian. There are no further conditions on acquisition of nationality by ius sanguinis (descent).
  • According to the law, a birth certificate must be issued by the authorities within seven days of the birth recording the names, dates of birth, personal identification number and citizenship of the parents.
  • In practice, if parents do not have a personal identification number, birth registration still takes place and the certificate is issued without the personal ID number.
  • There is no legal requirement on health authorities to report undocumented migrants, but there are cases of this happening in practice, which can constitute a barrier to civil registration.
  • Late birth registration is provided for by law and happens in practice even after the seven-day deadline.
  • If more than one year has passed since birth, the certificate can only be issued based on a court ruling upon request of the child or person in question, parents or public prosecutor.
  • The Government does not have any programmes in place to promote birth registration, though there is little evidence of high-risk groups.
  • Undocumented migrants in an irregular situation may be at risk of not accessing birth registration due to fear of contact with the authorities.
  • There is a provision in law providing a route to regularisation for long-term residents of Bulgaria who are former USSR citizens.
  • Provisions for loss, revocation of naturalisation and deprivation of citizenship are provided for in law and are not permitted where it would result in statelessness.
  • The President has competency for the withdrawal of nationality and has delegated these powers to the Vice President. Presidential decrees cannot be appealed in court.
  • Withdrawal provisions are applied in practice with 1062 cases of 'release from Bulgarian citizenship' and 103 cases of revocation of naturalisation issued between January 2012 to January 2017.

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