This post serves two purposes: share my visa experiences thus far as well as offer some advice and information on how to go about obtaining a type-D long-stay Bulgarian visa (based on marriage to a Bulgarian citizen), for those who may need it.
The process of applying for a Bulgarian type-D visa is a long, complicated and expensive one, to say the least.
But if I want to stay in Bulgaria for longer than 3 months (the length of a tourist visa), I have to endure it.
You’d think that after a couple of years worth of research, phone calls and emails to two Bulgarian Consulates and advice from fellow Americans (Lauren, you are a life saver!), I would have been better prepared. Alas, it’s looking more and more like I’m not.
The current policies in place require that American citizens apply for the D-visa in the United States at one of three Bulgarian Consulates–Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. You may also be able to apply at the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington D.C or the “Honorary Consul” in Carson City, Nevada (although on that last one I’d call them first to verify if they offer visa services as I wasn’t able to find a website for them nor could I find much information about the facility online). In the past, Americans were able to apply in Europe (usually in a country neighboring Bulgaria), now, however, we are required to apply in the U.S. I have decided to make the trip to Chicago for my visa as opposed to going to Los Angeles (the consulate closest to me) for two reasons… First, after contacting both consulates, Chicago came out the clear winner as far as helpfulness. Second, I would rather spend a few days in the Windy City than I would in L.A.
Contrary to what the websites for all the locations state, it seems that quite a bit of documentation and legalization is needed to get the visa.
So far, I have learned that the following items are required:
–Apostillated and translated copy of the marriage certificate – Before applying for the visa the marriage certificate must also be presented in Bulgaria to register the marriage there. Apostillation services are done by the county in the state in which you are married. Each consulate has a list of approved translators.
–Affidavit of Support provided by the Bulgarian citizen – From what I understand, this just needs to be a written statement provided by the Bulgarian citizen stating that they have the means and intent to financially support the applicant. Notarized and translated, of course.
–Notarized copy of Bulgarian citizen’s passport – If both parties go to the consulate together, the passport can just be presented. If not, the notarization must be done in Bulgaria as that is the issuing country.
–Criminal Background Check on applicant (also called a previous convictions certificate)- This is a new requirement and a huge pain in the butt! The Chicago consulate requires a FBI background check which includes being fingerprinted and takes at least 8 weeks to get, oh and it also has to be apostillated and translated! Some consulates may also accept a state background check.
– Applicant’s passport – Finally, an easy one!
–Proof of insurance coverage– The provider must be licensed to operate in the EU, the policy must last at least 6 months and have a minimum of 30,ooo EUR covering all repatriation of remains, emergency medical care and hospital treatment. Yikes. This one scares me!
– Bank statements from both parties proving “sufficient funds” – This requirement is fairly ambiguous. Although, one Bulgarian government website says it has to equal the Bulgarian minimum monthly wage. I cannot get anyone to tell me a required amount so it looks like the applicant is at the mercy of the agent helping them. However, I think that a few thousand dollars is sufficient, especially by Bulgarian standards. I guess if they want more and I don’t have it in my account I can always do a cash advance on one of my credit cards then transfer the money back after I get the visa.
– 2 copies of the Type-D Visa application
– 2 current passport size photos
This list is by no means the be all and end all of the visa process. If you are in a situation similar to mine and plan on applying for the type-D visa, I would highly recommend doing your own research and calling a Bulgarian Consulate for a list of current requirements. As with any bureaucratic process, requirements are subject to change and there are always exceptions to the rules. If you come across this post and have any questions or anything to add or correct, by all means COMMENT! Also, if you’ve been through the process yourself and have (or plan on) writing about it, let me know! I would love to compare notes (Lauren, I am looking in your direction!).
Where do I stand in all of this mess?
Well… I was crazy and thought that I would be able to get all of the needed documentation in time to apply for my visa next month. WOW! Was I wrong! I completely spaced the fact that pretty much everything has to be legalized (apostillated) and translated. I also put too much faith in the government and thought my background check would come in sooner than 8 weeks (it won’t). Finally, I need the affidavit of support and notarized copy of Vince’s passport. Who knows how long those take in the mail from Bulgaria.
So, my highly important visa trip to Chicago has turned into a much-needed and highly anticipated birthday vacation to Chicago! Quite frankly, I am pissed that I won’t be able to apply for my visa but I am still happy that I can see such an awesome city. I will at least take advantage of being there and will visit the consulate to ask the dozens of questions I still have regarding this whole asinine process.
The plan, for now, is for me to head over a few days after Christmas and stay for the 3-month period I am allowed under a tourist entry. During this time I am hoping to finally settle in, learn a little Bulgarian, search out some jobs prospects, travel as much as possible and finally spend some time with my new hubby. For sanity’s sake, I am considering this my move to BG. My time spent in the U.S. after March will nothing more than visits home (oh, and a brief work stint in Alaska–see below).
I will fly back to Chicago and apply for the visa; hoping that by that point (March), I will have all the necessary documents.
Another hitch in the plan? I am mulling over the idea of working in Alaska again next summer. In all likelihood, Vince would not be able to come this time so I would be on my own.
The plus side of all of this back and forth over the Atlantic? I have the opportunity to take all my stuff over in shifts! Which means I may be able to take over the 220-volt KitchenAid mixer and Le Creuset french oven I have been eyeing! I have to look at the positive in order from going completely insane!
As always, thanks for reading! Hope this will be helpful to somebody out there!