Information updated on 26.02.2023.

As a rule, you can only apply for international protection in one European Union member state. This is usually the first European Union country you entered and where your fingerprints were taken.

For this reason, if you decide to go to another country (e.g. Germany) after you have given your fingerprints in Bulgaria and applied for international protection, then that other country would have to return you back to Bulgaria.

Depending on what stage your asylum procedure was at in Bulgaria before you left, there are several possible scenarios that could take place if you are returned from another European Union Member State to Bulgaria.

1. If you left Bulgaria before a decision on your application for international protection was made

It is likely that during your absence from Bulgaria, your asylum procedure was discontinued.

The decision to discontinue the international protection procedure is subject to an appeal before the Administrative Court within 7 days of it being served to you. However, if you are not in Bulgaria and SAR cannot find you to serve you the discontinuation decision, it is very often considered to have been  served to you. The decision will become final if you miss the deadline for appeal. Therefore, the following options would be applicable to you.

In cases where another European Union member state returns you back to Bulgaria, if you want the State Agency for Refugees to complete the processing of your application for international protection, you must explicitly request SAR to do so. Your asylum procedure will be resumed from the stage at which it was discontinued.

We strongly advise you to seek the assistance of a lawyer to resume your international protection procedure as soon as you are returned to Bulgaria:

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Until your application for protection is resumed, you risk being detained in a detention centre. During this period, you will not have access to accommodation in open reception centres for refugees, food, social welfare, healthcare and free medical assistance. You should therefore consult a lawyer who will help you to resume the procedure and thus regain access to these rights.

It is also important to know that according to the law, if you are invited for an interview at SAR and you do not attend or if you have changed your address without notifying SAR, and do not provide any objective reasons for your failure to appear or for the change of your address within 30 days, your asylum procedure will also be discontinued.

If your procedure is discontinued on any of these grounds, it will be considered as resumed if you appear before SAR within 9 months of the termination and expressly request that your application for asylum be processed.

The procedure can only be resumed once.

What can you do if SAR does not resume your procedure?

If the procedure is terminated and SAR does not resume it at your request, you can file an appeal with the court within 14 days of receiving the refusal to resume. FAR advises you to contact an attorney for help filing an appeal. Your appeal will be heard before the local Administrative Court. If the local court gives you a negative decision, you have the right to appeal before the Supreme Administrative Court.

If your international protection procedure is resumed

If your procedure is resumed, SAR will treat you as an asylum seeker. You will not be detained at an irregular immigrants' detention centre, but rather placed in an open refugee centre.

You can read more about SAR centres here:

Staying in Bulgaria

Once you return to Bulgaria, you have access to the following rights during the asylum procedure:

  • To remain on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria
  • To move within a certain zone, depending on which SAR reception centre you are allocated to
  • To receive free food and accommodation from SAR
  • To receive social assistance. If you have trouble accessing this right, you can consult with an attorney.

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  • Have health insurance, access to medical assistance and free healthcare under the same conditions as Bulgarian nationals
  • Get psychological assistance
  • Be provided with a foreign language interpreter or sign language interpreter
  • Receive a registration card
  • To work in Bulgaria 3 months after the date you submit your application for asylum.

2. If your asylum application has been rejected

There are two options:

Option 1: If your asylum application has been rejected while you were still in Bulgaria. The decision to reject your asylum application becomes final if you do not appeal before the court or if the court rejects your appeal.

Option 2: If your application has been rejected after you left Bulgaria. In some cases, if SAR considers that your application was unfounded, it may, while you are outside the country, issue a decision refusing you asylum. Usually, since you are not in Bulgaria and SAR cannot locate you to serve you with the rejection, the decision is considered as served and becomes final because you miss the deadline for appeal.

Either way, you become an illegally residing migrant and when you are returned to Bulgaria you will be transferred to one of the detention centres for irregular migrants - either in Busmantsi (near Sofia) or in Lyubimets (near the border with Turkey). The purpose of this detention is to forcibly return you to your country of origin or to another safe third country to where you can return and be accepted.

What can be done in this case?

  • You can appeal the detention order within 14 days of the day you were detained. If the court rules that the detention is unlawful, you will be released.

The maximum detention period is a total of 18 months. After the first 6 months a new order can be issued to extend your detention for a further 6 months and a third order for a final 6 months. You have 14 days to appeal each new order before the Administrative Court. The Court will decide whether to release you or prolong your detention. If you had already been detained for a certain period of time before leaving Bulgaria, this period must be counted towards your total detention period of 18 months.

You can read more on the topic here:

Detention in Bulgaria

  • You can also request an alternative to your detention. Consult an attorney. Find out more here:

Alternatives to detention in Bulgaria

This, however, does not guarantee that you will be released soon. The authorities might see your subsequent asylum application simply as an attempt to avoid your forced return to your country of origin. They will not give you a registration card as an asylum-seeker immediately. You should present written evidence about new facts related to your personal situation or the situation in your country of origin. If you fail to do so, SAR may not admit your asylum application to examination in a new asylum procedure.

If SAR issues a decision that you are not admitted to a new asylum procedure, you can submit an appeal before the Administrative Court within 7 days of receiving the notification of the decision.


If you are released from detention and you are admitted to a new asylum procedure, you are entitled:

  • To remain in Bulgaria
  • To move within a certain designated zone
  • To get healthcare insurance, access to medical assistance and free healthcare and medical aid
  • To get psychological assistance
  • To get a foreign language or sign interpreter
  • To get a registration card
  • To have the right to work in Bulgaria 3 months after the date on which you applied for asylum.

You are not entitled:

  • To get food
  • To get accommodation and social assistance unless you belong to a vulnerable group

Vulnerable groups

In case you are released from detention, and your subsequent asylum application is NOT admitted to a new asylum procedure, you will not have the rights that asylum seekers have.

For example:

  • You will not get a registration card
  • You will not get food and be placed in accommodation at a SAR centre
  • You will not have the right to work or to receive social assistance in Bulgaria

3. If you got asylum in Bulgaria before you left the country

In that case:

  • You will not be accommodated in SAR reception centres
  • You will not be detained upon your return to Bulgaria
  • You will be able to remain legally on the territory of Bulgaria
  • You will have access to all the rights that people with a refugee or humanitarian status have in Bulgaria.

You can read more about these rights here:

Asylum in Bulgaria

You may be banned from entering the country that deported you back to Bulgaria and barred from entering European Union member states for a specific time. If that happens, you will not be allowed to travel to that country and within the European Union for a certain time period.

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