Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


Decisions, Decisions

It’s 5:20 7:20 am I haven’t been to bed.

Vince and I have been on Gmail video for hours discussing visas, immigration, timelines, life plans, etc.

Until a few days ago, our plans for the next year were this: following my 3-month stay in BG this January-March, I would head home to Utah and Vince would stay in Bulgaria working on getting another J1 visa so we could work in Alaska again in the summer. After Alaska, we’d head to the Bulgarian Consulate in Los Angeles and apply for my long-stay visa. Vince would fly home and I would join him once my visa came through around early to mid November. From there we’d look for jobs and settle in.

Well, after some online searching, an email to the U.S. Embassy in Sofia and talking with the agency Vince uses for his J1, we sadly realized that, while not necessarily impossible, getting a J1 now that we are married is going to be tough. REALLY tough.

Because he is married to a U.S. citizen (moi), Vince is now seen as a “potential immigrant” and all attempts to get a student visa would be highly scrutinized. They pretty much assume people are going to commit visa fraud and stay in the U.S. Yeah. Lame.

To their credit, the U.S. Embassy did say that nothing is out of the question and that each visa applicant is handled on a case-by-case basis. Vince would have the opportunity to explain our situation in person during his interview. But still, it seems like a long shot.

I cried. Like I do.

(I’m a sensitive, easily stressed soul)

Tonight/this morning, we ran through about 1,000 scenarios: Roll the dice and apply for the J1 (and lose all the money paid out for school tuition, agency fess, etc)? Me work in Alaska alone (with a big hit to our plans for saving as much money as possible–two paychecks are much better than one, obviously)? Bag the living-in-Bulgaria scenario and just start the immigration process now? Jump off a bridge (thus avoiding any cross-cultural marriage challenges)?

*That last one is a joke. I think.

What did we decide?

Something entirely different and absolutely crazy/exciting/adventurous…

And something we’re not yet ready to share. It’s not official (and may not be for months to come).

We do know this:

  • Our ultimate goal is to settle in Bulgaria for as long as it makes sense. Financially and otherwise.
  • I want to make it a top priority to learn as much Bulgarian as possible. Being able to speak with Vince’s parents and raising our kids bilingually is not something I am willing to give up on.
  • We want to start a family in the next few years, and the decisions we make now need to support that goal.
  • We’re young and now is the time to live life to its fullest.

I will be sure to update as our plans become more concrete.

Now I am off to bed!



Long-stay Bulgarian Visa

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

Continue reading