Today was an exciting week in the Auntie Bulgaria household. We went to Sofia to apply for long-term residency and get our Bulgarian ID cards. We first tried to do this a month ago but were turned away because the notary act for our house doesn’t list the actual address of the property (as it’s a rural property the notary act is for a plot of land with a dwelling on it). Anyway, they got mighty huffy in the immigration office last month and said we needed something from our local mayor to prove we live where we say we do.
We’ve had to jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops over the past week or so to get this sorted. First we had to present ourselves at the local police station, tell them we’ve moved to the area and get a form signed and stamped. We then had to get a declaration from our mayor. This incredibly crucial piece of mayoral documentation is just a paragraph of text typed up by his secretary saying (I’m paraphrasing obviously) blah blah, Claire and Robert live at so and so address in my village, honest guvnor, blah blah, please grant them bloody residency on this basis. This paragraph is then duly signed and stamped to make it all official.
So, this week we presented ourselves back at the immigration office with all the various pieces of paper from the police, mayor, village shopkeeper, local librarian and my driving instructor from 1997 (I get sarcastic when I’m angry, can you tell?). Thankfully, throughout this whole process we’ve had the lovely Emilia assisting us – she’s our estate agent’s assistant and an actual Bulgarian. We stood around awkwardly as Emilia filled in several forms on our behalf and presented our various documents. Then we went down to a different floor to pay for our application. We received a number of stamped receipts (5!). Then we went back upstairs where they told us they’d forgotten to give us all the forms, and duly presented another couple of forms for Emilia to fill in. Then, all forms submitted, they told us to come back in one hour. We had coffee, went back an hour later. This time we had our pictures taken and were told to come back in one hour. We went for lunch. We went back and were given a document with my personal ID number on it (we needed this for the next stage – registering the car) and we were told our ID cards would be ready in three days. Job done.
Next we had to tackle re-registering our English car. First we had to sort out Bulgarian insurance (hence, I needed a Bulgarian personal ID number for this). Buying car insurance in Bulgaria is brilliant. Not once was I asked how long I have been driving, how much no-claims bonus I have or whether I have been involved in an accident in the last five years (regardless of blame). We sat down, gave them my ID number, they typed the car details into the computer and basically said “220 Lev please”. That’s just over £100. For a year’s car insurance. After I’d finished laughing, we paid up and got our temporary insurance certificate. Temporary because we then had to register the car, get a new Bulgarian number plate then get a final insurance certificate with the new details. Is your head hurting yet? It should be. Mine nearly exploded with frustration.
So, we went back to the immigration office – which is also the police HQ and car inspection place – and filled in more forms. We then had to go to a different desk and pay an admin fee. Then we went outside to the car with an Official Bulgarian who verified the car was as stated on the form. Then we went back inside to a new desk to fill in new forms. Obviously this resulted in another payment back at the cash desk and numerous additional stamped receipts. Then, we went back out to the car where a different Official Bulgarian replaced our number plates with the Bulgarian plates we’d been assigned. Then we had to go back, to a different desk, hand in the old British plates and collect our new Bulgarian registration certificates. As my MOT is still quite new, they switched me straight over to the Bulgarian equivalent for the same amount of time – thankfully no need for a technical inspection until next June.
Finally, we had to go back to the insurance company and get the final insurance certificate with the new number plate on it.
And that was it. Seven hours of administrative hell. Thank God for Emilia. And rum. Lots and lots of rum.
But, we now have shiny new Bulgarian ID cards and have been granted 5 years’ long-term residency. And Uma the Puma looks all native with her new Bulgarian number plates. From henceforth she shall be known as…Ooma.