Bulgarian firms, facing a skills shortage in areas like IT, engineering and even sport, hired 645 foreigners from 45 countries outside the European Union in 2014, according to National Employment Agency statistics.
About 300 employers were given authorisation by the employment agency to do so, most of the firms being in Sofia, Varna and Bourgas.
Through the EU’s “Blue Card” scheme, initiated to bring in highly-skilled foreigners to EU countries, 60 foreigners have been hired in Bulgaria since the beginning of 2015.
Issuing of a “Blue Card” to a non-EU employee is dealt with the Interior Ministry’s migration directorate.
The system was introduced in 2011, and between that year and the end of 2014, Bulgaria granted permission for the employment of 80 people.
According to the Employment Agency, most of those brought in through the Blue Card system were nationals of Ukraine, Russia, the United States, India, Macedonia and Turkey.
A survey by the Manpower consulting company, quoted by daily Trud, said that every second company in Bulgaria had difficulty in finding the staff it needed.
The most significant shortages were of IT personnel, engineers, specialist staff and managers. Also in increasingly short supply, according to the survey, were accountants, doctors and sales representatives.
The 300 companies that brought in non-EU citizens applied mainly for permission to hire foreign IT specialists, engineers, technical staff, teachers at universities and secondary schools, football players, professional athletes and coaches. Most of those who came to Bulgaria were from the US, China, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, Serbia and Macedonia.
To obtain permission from the Employment Agency to recruit a highly-qualified foreigner from outside the EU, an employer must undertake a pay a salary of at least 50 per cent above the average salary.
Going by the most recent National Statistical Institute data, this means a salary of a minimum 1200 leva (about 600 euro) a month.
Other requirements under EU directives are that the employer must first seek, through the employment agency and media advertising, a Bulgarian who could do the job required.
The employer has to prove that a foreign specialist is being brought in because a local one could not be recruited.
The foreigner also must be able to show the appropriate qualifications, such as a university degree, according to EU rules.