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 A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo

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bob
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PostSubject: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:53 am

A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo

Novinite is publishing the account of Martin Smith, one of our readers, about his experience with the Bulgarian administration.

It is almost four years ago that I moved here to live with my Bulgarian wife. At that time within the statutory 90 days I applied for and received my Bulgarian I.D. card which gives me long term residence status here. Today I realise that this card has expired so I must make a trip to Haskovo to renew it. I arm myself with my expired I.D. card and my passport and accompanied by my wife we visit the Immigration office in Haskovo.

We are greeted by a lady who speaks as little English as I do Bulgarian (which I thought a little strange given that this is an immigration office for foreigners coming into the country), never mind, luckily my wife is here and a dialog is entered into between them where the woman gives us 3 forms to complete and then explains that we need a document to prove that I am uninterrupted health insured in Bulgaria before a card can be issued and that we must visit the health authority office in Haskovo for such a document. Now I think that this is no problem as I paid my state health insurance 1 year in advance last December. So we set off to walk to the health authority office, wait in the queue for our turn and explain the situation whereupon we are told that although she can see that I have paid my health insurance for one year they do not issue such document and that we should call at the tax office for said document. So we set off to walk across the town, wait in another queue and finally meet up with a lady who somewhat reluctantly issues said document.

We then walk back across the town to the immigration office and hand the lady the document to which she looks at me and says "Bravo", (This is one of the many Bulgarian words I have learnt so I felt proud of my achievement). That was short lived as she then asked, " where is your house deed?" Now I don't pretend to be knowledgeable about exactly what I should carry in your country everyday so I do try by carrying my I.D. card, my driving license and a few lev in my pocket, but I'm sure that no one else carries their house deed!! Anyway, I'm thinking that this woman is sat in front of a modern computer in a modern government office and she has my I.D. number which would surely enable her to extract my file from 4 years ago when I registered here and such file would contain copies of all the documents that I had to produce then, such as my house deed, my passport, my bank details, my address, my marriage certificate, my income status, my health insurance re cords, my photograph, my DNA and blood group, (only kidding about the last two but you get the idea).

However this does not appear to be the case and she then explains that I need a letter from the bank to prove that I have a Bulgarian bank account. At this point both my wife and myself are getting somewhat frustrated at this behavior and I'm feeling sorry for any foreign persons who do not have the benefit of a Bulgarian speaking assistant with them when they come to register here. So we set off across the town again and head to the UBB bank (which happens to be only spitting distance from the tax office where she had sent us previously). We went into the bank and requested a letter of account status from them and they told us it would take half an hour and cost us 10 lev. What can we do except pay up and wait? Half an hour later we are back in the bank and asked to wait as the manager has to sign the letter. What?? I could have printed out a bank statement from home which shows my bank account status, (Is there no end to this bureaucratic nonsense)? So we wait and wait and we can see the manager sat at his desk through the large glass office that my 10 lev helped to pay for and finally he comes out and then sits with one of his staff at their desk and passes the time of day with them while we patiently sit waiting.

Another five minutes pass and my wife approaches him and ever so politely asks him how long it takes for a simple signature on this "ever so important" document from the bank at which point he signs it and we leave and head back to the immigration office. The lady takes this "ever so important" document and then advises us that new European rules dictate that I have to have an interview before they will issue an I.D. card and then states that the cost of issue will be 18 lev and 7 lev. Now I'm questioning in my mind why she is saying 18 and 7 and not saying 25 but then I remembered that her computer is no t good at finding records and that it might not be good at adding figures together either so I take her 2 pieces of paper for 18 lev and 7 lev downstairs to the cashier and pay my 25 lev at which point the cashier informs me that there is a tax of 3 lev on each payment. Now that was a good trick to extract more money from me, 3 lev tax on 18 lev and 3 lev tax on 7 lev and all becomes clear and I hope the woman upstairs will forgive for me thinking she couldn't add up.

So back upstairs we go at which point she tells us that the new "European rules" interview will happen at 1pm. (in ten minutes time). At 1.30 we are still sat there and all this time we are wondering how they are going to interview me as no one appears to speak my language. 10 minutes later we are called to the window again where a small group of women have congregated and one of them explains, (via my wife) that they will only issue an I.D. card for 1 year as my health insurance is only paid for 1 year and if I want an I.D. card for 5 years then I must pay 5 years health insurance in advance. Furthermore they require a document from the tax office to prove that I have paid my health insurance for 1 year in advance. At this point my wife exchanges a few choice Bulgarian words with the woman in question and we, yet again, head off to the tax office for this new document. Arriving at the tax office and repeating the earlier procedure we are told that no such document exists and that we should go upstairs and speak with the manager. We seek out the managers office and my wife explains the situation to her. For some reason this manager appears to shout repeatedly at my wife that they cannot issue such document and my wife repeatedly shouts at her to telephone the immigration office and discuss it with them. Reluctantly the manager rings the immigration office and shouts at them also and the end result is that we should return to the immigration office and they would "sort something out".

Now at this point, what turned out to be a quick trip to immigration has taken us over 5 hours, multiple trips across the town, many lev in taxes and fees, not to mention the parking at 1 lev per hour so we decide to call it a day, go home, get copies of our house deed and the receipt from the bank when I paid my health insurance and return tomorrow.

So here we are, day 2, sat waiting at the immigration office for 30 minutes, a few people in front of us but no matter, they will no doubt be sent running across town and soon it will be our turn. Then a new male walks straight up to the window and they attempt to serve him. At that point I jumped up and said "There is a queue here", a man in the office replied " He is here for an interview", I explained that I was here for an interview yesterday at 1 p.m. and I'm still waiting 1 day later. At that point about 5 people appeared in the office and all started talking between themselves, My wife was justifiably annoyed at their behavior and started arguing with them and insisted they took copies of our deed and other documents that we had brought and walked away to calm down whilst I stood at the window waiting. I asked all five people if any one of them spoke English to which one man replied, "very little". I went to where my wife stood, spoke w ith her and then returned to the window where they gave me back our copy deed but, can you believe, lost or otherwise misplaced my receipt from the bank showing my payment for my health insurance. Nevertheless, no doubt in an attempt to get rid of us, they gave us an appointment slip for me to attend to have my photograph taken on 26th February. Maybe then I will have my "European approved" interview.

Well here we are on 1st March, myself and my Wife back at the immigration office, for the SEVENTH time, admittedly a little later than planned due to a serious health issue with a family member and the fact that there was little point in me attending on my own due to my limited Bulgarian and their limited English. So the lady greets us and after asking to see my passport then hands us a form to complete, which was totally in Bulgarian, (I knew I had to bring the Wife along). My Wife starts to complete the form and then realises that we have already completed this form on one of our previous visits so advises the lady accordingly to which she replies, "Do you have your marriage Certificate? At this point I'm expecting some hidden camera television presenter to jump out and we can all have a laugh at this continuing saga but this is not the case and the lady is deadly serious. I ask her, (via my Wife), why she cannot simply access my file from four years ago and she will l see a copy of our marriage certificate there to which she replies, "things change"!!! Now I'm stood there with my Wife, the same Wife as I was stood there with four years ago and I cannot understand what she means by this remark and my Wife and the lady and the rest of the people in the office enter into another heated dialog whereupon it transpires that in all other cases of English people applying for a residence certificate there is never a problem and that in my case it was complicated, apparently by the fact that I had chosen to pay my health insurance one year in advance.

Amid the raised voices it was agreed that I would collect my new I.D. card on 1st April and could produce my marriage certificate at that time. In the meantime another lady kindly takes my photograph, (3 times) and then issued me with a residence certificate for 5 years. So what was this all about? AND WHAT HAPPENED TO MY "EUROPEAN APPROVED" INTERVIEW??

As an Englishman with a reasonably logical thought process, can I make a few suggestions to prevent a repeat of this fiasco in the future.

1. That when the immigration department issues the application form, that it produces the said form in the language of the applicant. It is obvious that the applicant will NEVER be Bulgarian so what is the point in printing it in Bulgarian?

2. That together with the application form the immigration department attach a list of ALL the documents that the applicant is required to produce then the applicant can take away the list, run around their local city and request the required documents from the relevant government departments, banks, etc; (which will no doubt have their people running around like headless chickens), and then return and in an ever so efficient manner and process the application for the issue of a certificate for residence.

Now I realise that such an obvious and simple solution might result in a more efficient government department which might even result in having to make redundancies and I would hate to think that my actions or words have contributed to such drastic action, but that is unlikely because one thing that I have learned from this experience is that both the British Government and the Bulgarian government have one thing in common and that is they spend millions educating the citizens of the country to a high standard and those that don't quite make the grade appear to be given management jobs in top heavy government departments.


What a great insight and how very true this is I'm sure there will be many on here who know how frustrating living here can be at times.
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BigDave
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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:57 am

I think its time that Bulgaria was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. The customs system, health system, immigration, land titles all come out of the dark ages. It seems the system requires that the public servants must undergo the compulsory course in "Difficulty" to be a Public servant and must pass with flying colours. There is no communication between departments and even the record keeping within the department is sadly lacking.
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justbazz
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PostSubject: subject   Tue Mar 15, 2016 10:32 am

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
I think its time that Bulgaria was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. The customs system, health system, immigration, land titles all come out of the dark ages. It seems the system requires that the public servants must undergo the compulsory course in "Difficulty" to be a Public servant and must pass with flying colours. There is no communication between departments and even the record keeping within the department is sadly lacking.


Can't help but agree with you. Mr Smith had it fairly easy because he comes from another EU country...he would be even more unhappy if he had to complete the processes that I do, as an Australian. Every year, for five years, I had to jump through the hoop and put up with the run around...not to mention the outrageous fees (1500 leva PLUS). I finally got my 'long stay' visa which is valid for five years and then I have to go through it all again. Each time I have to renew, it takes between 7 and 10 days...the card will be issued 4 to 6 weeks later, so I have to carry my passport with me everywhere during that time.

I've been here just on 10 years now, never left the country at all during that time, still live at the original address, still married to the same girl, still have the same two children, but all the forms, photocopies, bank details etc. have to be supplied EVERY time!

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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:01 am

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
I think its time that Bulgaria was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. The customs system, health system, immigration, land titles all come out of the dark ages. It seems the system requires that the public servants must undergo the compulsory course in "Difficulty" to be a Public servant and must pass with flying colours. There is no communication between departments and even the record keeping within the department is sadly lacking.


Can't help but agree with you. Mr Smith had it fairly easy because he comes from another EU country...he would be even more unhappy if he had to complete the processes that I do, as an Australian. Every year, for five years, I had to jump through the hoop and put up with the run around...not to mention the outrageous fees (1500 leva PLUS). I finally got my 'long stay' visa which is valid for five years and then I have to go through it all again. Each time I have to renew, it takes between 7 and 10 days...the card will be issued 4 to 6 weeks later, so I have to carry my passport with me everywhere during that time.

I've been here just on 10 years now, never left the country at all during that time, still live at the original address, still married to the same girl, still have the same two children, but all the forms, photocopies, bank details etc. have to be supplied EVERY time!


Having lived here for many years now I have found that as time passes the bureaucracy and the amount of paperwork involved in the smallest of things has grown, I'm sure that they are taught here to make life as difficult as possible for us foreigners but having said that its also very hard for the natives who seem to think nothing of it as its been their way of life since the days of Fred flintstone and it will continue that way until one day the penny drops  and that will probably be in a couple of generations yet.
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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:52 am

Quote :
I think its time that Bulgaria was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. The customs system, health system, immigration, land titles all come out of the dark ages. It seems the system requires that the public servants must undergo the compulsory course in "Difficulty" to be a Public servant and must pass with flying colours. There is no communication between departments and even the record keeping within the department is sadly lacking.

Having just returned from a meeting with other UK residents and The British Ambassador. There are going to be changes regarding Applications for residency.

As soon as all the information is on line I will post the info.

Outline link below

British Nationals Who Live in Bulgaria Number about 7,000

Veliko Turnovo, Northern Bulgaria, March 15 (BTA) - The Britons who live permanently in Bulgaria number about 7,000 people, British Ambassador to Bulgaria Emma Hopkins said here on Tuesday. Ambassador Hopkins said that the areas with the biggest presence of British nationals are Veliko Turnovo, Yambol, Bourgas, Sofia and Plovdiv.

In Veliko Turnovo the diplomat presented a project which seeks to encourage British nationals to register before the relevant authorities in Bulgaria for long-term or permanent stay in the country, within three months. The documents for this are available in English, and come with leaflets with clear instructions how the forms are to be filled in. Detailed information in English will also be uploaded on the website of the Migration Directorate of the Interior Ministry.

Veliko Turnovo Mayor Daniel Panov told Ambassador Hopkins that the initiative has the categorical support of the local administrations.

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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:47 am

wow Just my luck, I will have to jump through hoops now to get residency... Left it a bit late eh! They were not keen on giving us residency as we only had less than a year on our passports so now new passports (well Dougie has, mine not turned up yet) when we go back we will try again. My insurance agent is telling me we need to take out health insurance is this correct?

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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:50 am

Hi Berni I didn't need to take any health ins out when I got mine but different regions seem to have different rules so I would check first? however its a good thing to have and it doesn't cost the earth, I have it as a standby just in case for some odd reason I need it.
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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 16, 2016 11:09 am

Hi Berni
The point of the British Embassy and the FCO team Project is to standardise the process to all area's so the 'hoop' jumping is the same everywhere . This 'New' package has been put together following several months of gathering feedback and complaints of the differing standards and addressing them, and has been accepted by the MOI Sofia Immigration department,

When the New format goes live, ( and that is process now) all the relevant information, for the different types of application and what is required for each one will be available in English and Bulgarian and also issued to all Immigration offices. For those of you on it... keep an eye on -https://www.facebook.com/UKinBulgaria or [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

In answer to your question Re Health insurance, from the form for application by Insured and Self Funded - long term Residence Permit (Including Pensioners) of the seven documents/information required it states - Proof of Valid Health Insurance (EHIC or medical Insurance Policy)

So the answer is yes

Bill
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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:05 pm

Hi All,
The below just in from the British Embassy regarding New process of application.

Information on residence permits in Bulgaria available in English

Bill
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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:29 pm

Thank Bill

I have looked to see what documents I need but none of these seem to apply to me

If you are an EU citizen, holder of a valid ID card or passport, you can reside in Bulgaria for a period of up to three months following your entry into the country. You must then apply for a long-term residence permit.

To obtain a long-term residence permit, you need to provide the following document and complete the following steps depending on whether you are:

Employed or Self-Employed
• Insured or Self-Funded

• Studying in Bulgaria
• EU National who is a Family Members of a EU National

• Non-EU National who is a Family Member of a EU National

Permanent Residence Permit


If you have resided legally in Bulgaria for a period of five years on the basis of a consecutive long-term residence permit, you and your family members are entitled to a permanent residence permit.

To obtain a permanent residence permit, you need to provide the following documents and complete the following steps:

• Permanent Residence Permit   ( I looked on here too but can't see anything)
and it says
a completed application form
a payment receipt

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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:44 pm

Quote :
To obtain a long-term residence permit, you need to provide the following document and complete the following steps depending on whether you are:

• Employed or Self-Employed
• Insured or Self-Funded

• Studying in Bulgaria
• EU National who is a Family Members of a EU National

• Non-EU National who is a Family Member of a EU National

Permanent Residence Permit

Hi Berni
I think if you look at - Insured and Self Funded (Including Pensioners) - that's the category I think most of us come under for long term, having completed that and Five years consecutive the Permanent residency application is all that needed as you have already complied in the previous application,

Bill
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PostSubject: subject   Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:44 pm

Gosh!...you guys get it so easy.

I have to apply and pay every year for a minumum of five years BEFORE I can apply for a long term residency visa. It is only valid for 5 years and a complicated renewal process follows.

Being married to a Bulgarian citizen and having Bulgarian children (born here) means absolutely nothing!

The fact that I have been paying (at the top rate)into the BG health system for 10 years means absolutely nothing!
I still have to have private medical cover.

One of the strangest things I have to provide is the criminal record check. I have to get a report from the Australian Federal Police, EVERY time I fill in one of these applications. That is DESPITE the fact that I haven't left BG since the day I arrived, 10 years ago...also DESPITE the fact that I haven't lived in Australia for more than 45 years...I was born in OZ, therefore that's where the report must come from. Happily, I have a squeeky clean past...but the OZ coppers have a laugh each time I ask for one of these reports. The fact that I lived and worked in the UK for a number of years, immediately before I came to this country, is of no interest to the BG authorities at all.
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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:15 pm

Thank Bill will have a look. Ah bless Bazz not goodnfor you at all

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PostSubject: Re: A Day (or 3) in the Life of an Englishman in Haskovo    Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:47 pm

Thank is great Bill just what I needed to know thank you. Will ensure I have all the documents ready for when we go. Strang how you don't have to have a norary in something as important as becoming a resident and you do have to use the notary for selling a car.

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PostSubject: subject   Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:02 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
Thank Bill will have a look.  Ah bless Bazz not goodnfor you at all    


Thanks Berni...but it doesn't stop just there.

My next door neighbour, but one, is the 2nd in charge of the department in Plovdiv and I asked her to check on how many Australians live in Bulgaria...just because I felt the need to talk to someone from home.


The official answer....there are NO Australians in Bulgaria...not even me!!!!

I hope all the money I have paid over the years have provided well for those who have stolen from me....and will continue to!
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