Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


1 Comment

Putting It All Behind Us

Immigration...DONE!Vince started work today and it went much better than I expected. I thought our HR manager would have some questions about his immigrant visa or ask for something we don’t have yet (his new Social Security card, for example). As usual, I worried for nothing. He was in and out of her office and starting his first day of work for the 2013 season in just a few minutes.

Today, I was finally able to really breathe, relax, and let go of all the worries and stress that come along with the immigration process. It was exactly this time last year that I was gathering paperwork, filling out countless forms, and beginning our journey to making Vince a permanent U.S. resident.

Oh, the stress that 12 months of bureaucratic red tape and rules can cause!

In a few months time we will have to adjust his status, but other than that, we are done!

We can now focus on building our lives together in Alaska and, eventually, even starting a family.

But first things first…we have to make it through this summer in one piece!

Advertisements


4 Comments

Approved!

Vince went to his visa interview at the U.S. Embassy today and was approved! He said it only took about an hour total and they’ll be sending his visa to him in a few days. I didn’t mind him waking me up from a dead sleep at 6am this morning to tell me because I had been stressing about it a little bit even though I knew he would do fine.

He didn’t get the Bulgarian & American flag combo that some applicants get. Bummer!

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that we are done with his immigration. It’s been a long 10 months full of paperwork, fees, and stress; but we are thrilled to have come through it all relatively unscathed and are really looking forward to starting our life together in the U.S.

The only hurdles left are adjusting his status in a few months (90 days before our second wedding anniversary) and then his citizenship in a few years. After going through the Bulgarian D-visa process and then the Green Card process…I am pretty sure we can handle anything!

I contemplated writing up a wiki or post on our experiences and how we did his CR1 visa for those also going through it, but now that we are done I just want to put it behind us. If you happen upon this post and have any questions, I will do my best to help you out. Just email me at whitney @ girlmeetsbulgaria.com

A Very Happy Wife,

W.

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | Twitter |  Instagram | Pinterest | Flickr | Goodreads


13 Comments

Long-stay Bulgarian Visa: Success at Last!

I have been getting quite a few questions lately via my blog email about the {horrendous} Type D, Long-stay Bulgarian visa process.

(feel free to keep your questions/comments/advice/etc. coming, either here in the comments section or through my email: whitney@girlmeetsbugaria.com).

I thought now would be as good a time as any to update you all on my progress and to go over my experiences as a whole.

First off, I should announce that…

I GOT THE VISA!!!

finally!

Now that I am on the other side of this long and expensive ordeal (for that is what it was, a total ordeal), I can take a deep breath, evaluate how it went, and look back with some clarity.

(this is a reaaallly long post, so you may want to come back another day if all this doesn’t interest you)

Last time I wrote about the visa, I detailed my specifics situation as well as what documentation was required in order to apply.

 Back then I had planned on returning to the Bulgarian Consulate in Chicago (where I went in November to ask some questions on a visa trip turned birthday trip because I didn’t have all the necessary paperwork in order). I actually ended up applying at the consulate in Los Angeles at the end of last month after leaving Alaska.

I spent the entire summer gathering all of the documents, getting translations, and planning my brief stop in L.A.

I am not a fan of Los Angeles, so I wanted my stay there to be as brief as possible. And brief it certainly was!

I arrived at LAX on a direct flight from Anchorage at about 10am. I purposely booked a hotel close to the airport (the always classy Super 8) which offered a free shuttle. I arrived at the hotel (motel?) which was practically ON the runway–and immediately walked across the street to the Avis office to rent a car (again, I went the classy route and got a Hyundai Accent).

Because my appointment at the Consulate (yes appointments are required and I called to schedule mine early on in the summer) was the next morning, I had nothing to do for the rest of the day but watch TV and eat delicious Greek food, courtesy of the restaurant literally 10 steps from my hotel room door.

I got an early start the next morning because I was terrified of getting lost on L.A.’s crazy freeways. The consulate, which is located on Wilshire Blvd.-right off the interstate, was easy enough to find and I made it there well before my 9:30a appointment time. I found a meter, talked out some of my nerves over the phone with my lovely husband, and waited in the lobby of the building.

My meter only gave me a max of 2 hours, so I asked the security woman if I could possibly head up to the consulate a little early so I wouldn’t get a ticket. She not so nicely informed me that the building–which also houses the consulates for several other nations–is extremely secure and I would not be allowed entry onto the elevators until my scheduled time.

Humph.

I was a bundle of nerves, so waiting only made things worse.

Eventually 9:30a rolled around (security would not let me go up even 1 min. early!) and I was allowed onto the elevator (AKA, Fort Knox). The Bulgarian Consulate consisted of a simple waiting room with a glass window separating the offices from the customers. I walked up to the window and was immediately helped by two eager and somewhat brusque Bulgarian women. *Side note: they were by no means rude to me, rather they had the blunt personality that many Bulgarians do.

They asked (incredulously, as always) why I wanted to go to Bulgaria. I gave them the “My husband is Bulgarian and, like every normal couple, we want to be together speech.” They asked for my paperwork, which I gladly handed over in a meticulously organized envelope. They proceeded to randomly glance at each paper in no particular order whilst talking to each other in rapid-fire Bulgarian.

Turns out I was missing a few things that I did not know I needed (but which weren’t listed ANYWHERE on their websites OR told to me over the 4+ phone calls I made to THREE different consulates, as well as the embassy–TOTAL SHOCKER THERE…). They said I needed my marriage certificate/apostille/translation notarized as well as my FBI background check/apostille/translation notarized. My heart dropped and I thought I was going to be sick. My flight out of L.A. was later that night and I had no clue where or how to go get a bunch of documents notarized AND then those notarizations translated in Bulgarian. Luckily, they relieved me of another $60 and did it right there.

Thankfully, all my other paperwork seemed to be in order. They gave everything back to me besides Vince’s affidavit of support statement and the notarized copy of his passport.

At this point they started talking to each other again and seemed a little nervous. The younger woman finally told me that I would have to pay $150 to get the visa because I had not yet registered my marriage in Bulgaria. I know I had heard something about doing that but I never got around to it while I was there, so I came prepared to pay the fee. She seemed relieved that I knew I would have to pay and went about writing out all my receipts.

I paid the visa fee of $150 (plus another $25 for an express USPS envelope), handed over my beloved passport, and they said they would “be in touch.” I asked if they knew how long it might take as I had a flight to BG scheduled for early in November, and they just said I would have to wait and see, but that the average wait is 30 business days. My flight falsl on the 31st business day. CRAP.

I walked out extremely worried but just glad it was all over and out of my hands.

I got home to SLC and the waiting game began. I kicked myself for bot getting a tracking number for the envelope (and considered making Vince call the consulate to get it). After about a week I began looking into arrangements to change my flight. A few days after that, Vince called me and said that the local municipal government office in Smolyan had gone to our apartment to make sure it really existed. No one was there, of course, as Vince is living in Sofia and my in-laws live in Elhovets most of the year. A neighbor friend of ours saw the person knocking on the door and told them that no one was home. He gave them Vince’s cell phone number and they called him shortly thereafter. Basically all they wanted to do was confirm that we did indeed have someplace to live and that I hadn’t lied on any of my paperwork.

I really had no clue that anyone in locally would follow up on my visa application made in the states. It didn’t really matter as we did everything completely as we should have, but it was still a little surprising.

Then, about another week later, I got a call from the local FedEx office that an envelope was waiting for me. I knew it had to be my visa but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too soon as it had only been a little over 2 weeks since I had applied.

Well, I’m sure you have gathered by now that it was my passport WITH my shiny new Bulgarian visa taking up an entire page of much sought after real estate.

It was such a huge relief to finally be done with the process and know that I didn’t have to change my flight.

I am still in awe of all it took to get 6 MONTHS in Bulgaria. Wow. Craziness.

My biggest pieces of advice for those of you going through the visa process are:

•Start preparing all the paperwork WELL in advance. I’m talking at least 6 months. The FBI background check alone can take up to 12 weeks (mine took 9), not to mention all the time it takes to send away for apostillations and translations.

•Do your research on what the specific consulate you will be visiting requires. I got a slightly different answer from all the Bulgarian entities in America, so don’t talk to one and then think that everything they say will apply somewhere else. That being said, I found the consulate in L.A. to be the most helpful, which is contrary to what a lot of other people have reported.

•If you are married to a Bulgarian and can swing it, register your marriage in Bulgaria to save yourself $150 and a lot of hassle.

•Arrive to your appointment with plenty of cash. The L.A. consulate did not take credit or debit cards and I had to run downstairs to find an ATM to get extra cash because I was not expecting the additional $60 notarization fees.

•Just take everything one step at a time and try not to get too frustrated. Unfortunately, it seems like this is just the way things work in Bulgaria (and their respective counterparts in the U.S.), so going with the flow will help to prevent a lot of anxiety and major freak-outs. I learned this the hard way.

If you’ve read this post as well as my previous post and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I know I appreciated all the help and advice I could get from others when I was ass-deep in the tangled Bulgarian visa process, so I am more than happy to pass what I know and experienced along.

Best of luck!

W.

P.S. If you made it through this entire post (and all my misused commas) I commend you!

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | TwitterTumblr | Pinterest | Flickr


3 Comments

It Begins Again

I started my Bulgarian type-D long stay visa process {again} today.

As many of you may already know, I gathered most of the paperwork and went through many of the steps in the fall, but was not able to get my visa in time for my flight to Bulgaria. As such, I gave up on it and went over to Bulgaria for the 90 days that I am allowed as a tourist.

Well, this time around I plan on being well prepared far in advance. I can’t be as nonchalant about it as I was before. I need that visa!

Last time around I even booked a flight to Chicago to visit the Bulgarian Consulate  to apply for my visa–all before even getting all the necessary paperwork. November rolled around and I didn’t have most of what I needed, so Chicago turned into a birthday trip with my friend. We did stop at the consulate briefly to ask some questions, but it was pretty useless. All the woman did was hand me the visa application form, which is easily found online. So much for good customer service!

I am still unsure as to where I will apply for the visa this time. I am leaning towards L.A. as it is the closest to my home in Utah, but I have heard that the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington D.C. approves the visas same day. I need to verify this but I hope it is true. It would be such a huge relief to fly home with my visa in hand and not have to wait for a month or so to get it. I suppose I will make my choice of where to apply sometime over the summer. If I went to D.C. I could turn it into a mini-vacation as well. That’s very enticing!

Today, I went and had my fingerprints taken again so that I can submit them to the FBI for a criminal background check. The technician told me that they turned out “a bit dark” and that if the FBI rejected them that I would need to send in another card. The thing is, it takes upwards of 12 weeks to hear back from the FBI on the status, so waiting for up to three months only to find out that I need to do it all again would really stink. I told the technician this, and he simply shrugged it off and said they would probably be fine. GRR!

The thing is, I already did all of this and got my results back from the FBI (I am a good girl–no criminal record!). However, I have heard that the Bulgarian Consulates don’t accept any background checks older than 6 months.

Thankfully, I got all of the things I needed from Vince (notarized copy of his passport and affidavit of support) while I was in Bulgaria, so I am covered there. Now I just need to wait on my background check, get it apostillated by the U.S. State Dept., get my marriage license translated into Bulgarian, get the proper health insurance, have $3,000 in the bank (although this number changes depending on which consulate you talk to), and go apply.

Yada. Yada. Yada.

SUCH a hassle for a 6 month visa!

Overall, today has turned into a life maintenance day. In addition to getting my fingerprints taken and mailing them off to the fine folks at the FBI, I also turned in my taxes to my accountant.Praying for a good refund this year!

Wish me luck!

W.


3 Comments

Paperwork and Plans

Last week I received both my FBI background check and my apostillated marriage license in the mail.

Too little too late, unfortunately!

I leave for Bulgaria in just over three weeks, which is not enough time to send for an apostille on the background check and translations for both the background check and my marriage license. BOO.

I suppose with our (tentative) plans to work in Alaska again next summer, it’s all going to work out without too much hassle and need to spend extra money.

Although, I might apply for another background check while I am in Alaska. I don’t know how picky the consulates are and if one dated for November of this year will be acceptable. I mean I could have turned into a mass murderer in the span of a few months, right?

Currently, I am pondering the idea of apply for my visa at the Los Angeles consulate rather that the one in Chicago. I have been jonesing for a trip to Disneyland and I am sure Vince would love it (well, the big rides… not so much the characters), so we could make a vacation out of it if we head to Los Angeles. I suppose Chicago would be a vacation too, but I’m still coming down from my Chicago vacation high, so Disneyland sounds more appealing – I have become somewhat of a Disneyland junky in recent years (Disneyworld is a must at some point soon too!).

I don’t really know what the point of this post is!

Just a general update, I guess.

Hope December is treating you all well.

♥W.