The US Embassy in Sofia has launched a simplified procedure for the issuing of visas for Bulgarian citizens. The procedure will reduce the time it usually takes to issue a visa by half through an electronic system on the website of the embassy. A visa for business and tourism will now be issued for a period of 10 years and can be used repeatedly throughout the period of validity.
Of the total yearly average of 25 to 30 thousand U.S. visas issued in Bulgaria, about 15 to 18, 000 are tourist or business ones. The percentage of denial of such visas varies between 11 and 14. "The new program is designed specifically to Bulgaria to make it even easier for Bulgarians to travel to the U.S. This is another step towards more efficient and smooth process of issuing visas," said U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick during the presentation of the program at the American Center in Sofia.
Under the new procedure, all Bulgarian citizens applying for a U.S. visa have to visit the website of the embassy, said Consul General of the U.S. Embassy in Sofia Eric Alexander. The electronic visa assistant will guide you through how to fill out your forms step by step. This system allows for the processing of documents to begin immediately after submission. This way the process is sped up while the time spent by visa applicants is reduced by half. The new program has facilities to speed up the process of renewal of visas. If the visa has expired in the last four years, in most cases, the applicants may send their documents to the embassy by mail and get automatically their renewed visa and passport back by mail. But if their visa was issued before 2007, they would have to go personally to the embassy to be taken fingerprints. The reason is that before 2007 taking fingerprints was not required. However, they can do this at a convenient time, without prior appointment within two weeks. This also applies to applicants whose visa expired over four years ago, said Eric Alexander.
Bulgarians who live, work or study in the U.S. can apply for visa renewal at any U.S. Embassy in the world, pointed out Eric Alexander.
The fee for a 10-year U.S. visa is $ 160. It is expensive for the standard of the average Bulgarian, but also cheap in comparison to the prices of US visas in other countries. But if calculated for the duration of validity, the visa is cheap because it costs only $ 16 a year. This is the average lunch at a standard restaurant, said Ambassador Warlick. When asked by Radio Bulgaria when the US visas for Bulgarians will finally be abolished, he did not commit himself to an exact estimate.
English version: Delian Zahariev