Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)

Long-stay Bulgarian Visa

24 Comments

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!

♥W.

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24 thoughts on “Long-stay Bulgarian Visa

  1. Pingback: Approved! | Girl Meets Bulgaria

  2. Well I just wrote it.. and internet failed and I lost everything, after hitting send button…

    So here comes the re-write – I have a similar situation but not identical – I am Canadian and fiancée is Bulgarian, we want to get married, but since this means go back n forth and headaches, not to mention alot of money… another way is actually getting a job permit (also Visa D) then once your there you can get married, and remain there as job permit and marriage (applying same visa)

    once your in bulgaria, you apply for residency and if you didnt have ajob because you went through marriage, you can work now… etc etc.. (even before applying residency). So I wanted to know, do I understand all this correctly…. also is there a place where I can get support in finding a job there to start all these paperworks, from what I understand they dont take tremendous time, and hontestly staying in your host country and doing all this… costs about 600$ including all your fees, and insurance – visa – paperwork – printing.. etc etc..

    anyways continuing

    Any websites for jobs that are better than others, I knowa few, and i think jobs.bg is best, but unsure. am I correct? and what about tricks and tips, what can I get as support from all this reasoning I have, I am confused in many stuff, and would like so much support…. I would do anything to just be with my Fiancée, This isnot easy by far, but I mean, Im desperate for this solution. any solution, simplestsolution… without going back and forth and taking upto 5 months to do all this…

    Support me with whatever you may, please, info or anything.

    Thank you
    Germain C

    • Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, Germain; sometimes WordPress hides comments from me!

      Unfortunately, I really cannot be of much help when it comes to job hunting in BG. I don’t work here so I haven’t gone through the process myself. I can say that networking with other expats is the way to go. I heard about several really great job opportunities from people I met online. Jobs.bg is probably the best website for job hunting in BG, however.

      Even if you get married in Bulgaria you will have to return to your home country to apply for the D-visa. It’s a huge pain but we looked for ways around it. Don’t even try; there aren’t any! The only thing I can think of is if you find a Bulgarian company to sponsor you for a work visa. Then you could get married in BG and remain there on a work visa. From there you may be able to change over to permanent residency.

      Other then that, I don’t really have any tips or tricks. It’s a long and expensive process that you have to go through if you want to be together in Bulgaria!

      Best of luck,

      W.

  3. Does a clear FBI report mean nothing can be on the report? Can you be turned down for minor offenses that occured over 40 years ago?

    • I honestly do not know what is considered acceptable on the FBI background check. It probably depends on the country. So if you are trying to get a Bulgarian visa, I would suggest contacting your nearest Bulgarian Consulate and asking them (L.A., Chicago, New York, and the Embassy in DC). They can sometimes be hard to reach but they are your best source for up to date information. W.

  4. Pingback: Long-stay Bulgarian Visa: Success at Last! « Girl Meets Bulgaria

  5. I’ve met you in Denali and am a good friend with Pringle! (I was his friend who he was with in Sofia) Anyways, my BG fiance will be here(arizona) in a week and after spending 6 months there, I’ve now realized BG might be the place for us to settle down in rather then the US. Of course a lot of of hassle and money has already been spent just getting her fiance visa to come here.Plus, we will soon begin the agonizing and expensive green card process, so I was hoping if we do decide on Bulgaria, It would be a much smoother process……apparently not. Anyways, I appreciate the information and will continue to view your blog for updates as this is very important to me!!

    • Hey David! We met at Dry Creek, right?! My husband and I are struggling trying to figure out where we want to settle. Bulgaria has so many advantages, but the economy/job market is not one of them (for our career paths, anyway). We will likely end up back in the U.S. at some point, but for now we are just going to enjoy the time we have in BG. I can’t wait to get back in the fall. I just have to get through the D-visa process. Now that I actually have most of the necessary documents, I am not too worried about it. If you and your fiance are ever back in BG, let us know! We’d love to meet up. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions.

  6. The Los Angeles consulate is such a hassle. They never and answer and the only way to get through to them is to select the emergency crisis option, which will get you yelled at by some mean old woman! About how long did it take you to obtain your visa after your physical appointment with them?

    • I have not been able to get much help out of them either. Like you said, it is nearly impossible to get them on the phone. I never would have thought to select the emergency option, but I totally will if it comes to that! I haven’t actually applied for my visa yet. I didn’t get all the required documents in time for my flight to Bulgaria in December, so I left without my visa. I visited the consulate in Chicago, however, and asked some questions. They weren’t super helpful either, but I was able to at least get them to answer emails and phone calls before I visited in person. This time around I am making sure to be well prepared. I will be flying to L.A. to apply in September. I spoke with the Bulgarian embassy in Washington DC, and they told me most applications are taking about 30-40 days from the time of the in-person visit. Are you applying for a d-visa for Bulgaria as well?

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  8. Well — I got my FBI Background check back yesterday. Apparently I’m not a crazed lunatic after all. I applied on Jan 25th, 2012 and received it on March 13th, 2012. Just short of 7 weeks to get it back. I’m heading to DC myself to get the Apostille at the State Department since you can walk in and get it the same day instead of waiting 2-3 weeks via post.

    We’re just going to tender the application then head over to Varna. I’ll return alone to get my visa once it’s ready.

    Whitney your posts have been immeasurable assistance in doing things right the first time.
    If you manage to make your way to Varna when you return in the Autumn, certainly get a hold of me (I’m guessing you have my email address from this post – correct me if I’m wrong).

  9. I’m just about to do this!! I’ve been searching high and low for a decisive list of things I’ll need. I’ve done this before unfortunately, a number of times. Last time, winter 2006, I actually got a visa C in Bucharest, then three months later got a visa D while I was in Varna. That was on the basis of a business owner however. I’m guessing it’s not going to work this time.

    This time, my wife, daughter and I are heading back and I need to get a long stay visa again!! The background check is the most worrying part … does it really need to be sent to BG for seals and translations??? We married while living in BG so I’m guessing our marriage certificate shouldn’t pose an issue, but the background check may just throw nuts in the engine as we were planning to leave NYC in April.

    I guess it’s time to get over to the consulate…

    • Ugh. It’s a tricky process, to say the least!

      Based on what the Bulgarian Consulate in Chicago told me (you may want to check with the consulate you plan on visiting for exact requirements), you do NOT need to send the background check to Bulgaria. Once you get the background check back from the FBI (which as you probably know, can take upwards of 3 months), you need to send it to the U.S. State Department for an apostille. Once you have that, you send both (the background check and the apostille) to an approved Bulgarian translator in the U.S. Each consulate has a list of approved people/companies that they will accept. I do know that Krasimira Kalcheva (ktranslations@yahoo.com) is approved by all three Bulgarian consulates in the states. She quoted me around $80 for my background check, although I have yet to have it done, so I don’t know if the prices have changed.

      The background check was the biggest hassle. It just takes so much time and effort, all for one piece of paper saying “no results!”

      I definitely recommend hitting up your nearest consulate for as much information as possible. You might have to pry it out of them, but be persistent!

      Best of luck in your visa process (I am still going through it myself). If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask!

      W.

      • Well, had my first call to the NYC consulate yesterday. Got a lot of details and a lot more questions. The process is so different (and more complicated) from when I did it in 2006 I actually had to check to my passport to make sure it was indeed a visa D that I received then.

        I’m starting with the background check; unfornately I’ve been snubbed today; my visit to the local police station was unencouraging. They only do fingerprinting on M-F from 8-12 and that is IF the sole person who does it shows up.

        I’m hoping tomorrow’s looking up.

        Did you do the background check request on your own via the post or did you use one of the channelers? I’m trying to sort out whether I’d get a little speed bump going through a channeler rather than doing it myself. Also, am I correct in deducing that “fingerprint card” = standard fingerprint form (FD-258)? In the instructions, it’s difficult to tell if they’re the same or not.

        Anyway, I appreciate the advice and your post has really been very helpful in asking the right questions to get detailed answers from the consultate.

      • It’s my pleasure! I am more than happy to help anyone involved in the D-visa process as best I can. I appreciated all those who helped me along the way (and I still don’t have the visa yet, but I feel prepared now!)

        I did the background check on my own, other than time it took to get back, it was fairly stress-free. I don’t think going through an agency/channeler is necessary, but that’s just my opinion. The FBI will still take at least 2 months to process it, regardless of who actually submits the paperwork (at least this is what I was told when I called the CJIS Division).

        It’s all about timing… I visited my local police department (who also only did fingerprinting on certain days of the week at certain times) and got one set of fingerprints (I wish I had gotten more than one set–oh well). Directly from there I drove to FedEx-Kinkos and mailed my fingerprint card, letter of exactly what I was submitting them for (you have to tell the FBI you are requesting the background check in order to get a visa for Bulgaria, this ensures that they mail it back to you with the required seal which is necessary for an apostillation from the Dept. of State), and return envelope (I did FedEx overnight–I wanted it back as quickly as possible).

        Yes, the FD-258 is the correct form.

        Just like that, in one day, it was done and mailed. The tough part really is the waiting to get it back. I didn’t really think it would take 2+ months (their turnaround time is actually closer to 12 weeks now), but it definitely does. I got mine back after 9 weeks, which unfortunately, did not leave me enough time to submit to the Dept. of State for an apostille (which thankfully does not take 2 months–I think it’s running at about 3 weeks right now), before heading to Bulgaria.

        So, basically I did it all for nothing as the background checks are only valid for 6 months (per the BG Consulate in Chicago). When I get back to the states in April, I’ll be doing it all over again. Grrr!

        Oh, and one helpful bit of information… If you want to call the FBI and check on the status of your background check once you submit it, you can call 304-625-2000 or 304-625-5590. BUT, don’t call until it has been at least 8 weeks since they received it (NOT since the day you mailed it–you can get a confirmation of receipt through FedEX if you use them). I called before the 8 weeks and the woman who “helped” me was not the nicest. She said not to even bother calling to check on the status before 9 weeks. I actually got mine back before I ever called again.

        Whew, that was probably more info. then you needed, but when I get started on this topic, sometimes I just can’t stop!

  10. It is a headache. My wife and I have had to deal with immigration in three different countries (for long term stays). Bulgaria has been our least favorite. The bummer with the D-visa is that it is all that work, and only for 6 months. At least you got to see my favorite city. Chicago rocks!

    • Yeah, the fact that the visa is only good for 6 months seems like a bad joke. I hope getting permanent residency isn’t as hard! I am so excited to see Chicago. I am going to eat my way around the city and see lots of great art. That’s basically the plan!

      • Sasha and I lived in Chicago for a few years. (I actually used to walk a couple dogs who lived in the building where the consulate now is.) You will eat well.

        The good news about the 6 month visa is that you have 6 months once you get to Bulgaria to send back to the US for all the paperwork you are supposed to know you need to get the long term visa. 🙂

        We just went through it, so it can be done. Just remember to stay on the immigration workers’ good sides.

  11. Pingback: It’s Coming… « From Here to Bulgaria

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  13. Oh my, what a headache, right? At one time I thought I would get a post together about this process but once it was over I just wanted to forget about it! It is seriously a never ending back and forth of documents. We are in the process of getting my residency and it seems to be much smoother operation, just submitting the same info to a different office and paying a couple hundred leva. Haha. Well if I can help with anything, just email me 🙂 I wanted to mention that the size of the passport photos is different dimensions than the US- theirs is smaller if I remember correctly. Also, make sure Vince sends the stuff to you airmail and it shouldn’t take too long. My family has been sending me things and it’s been taking about 7 days. Don’t let it stress you too much, you’ll be with your hubs soon!

  14. W.

    Wow I had no idea it takes that long and I thought the US green was a big hassle. I guess if we ever decide to make the move to Bulgaria, I’ll have to go through the same process. Question, now will the type D Visa give you permission to work, or is that a separate Visa?

    This week, my husband received his US citizenship…….

    Take care,
    Kellie

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