FAQ About U.S. Citizen Services
Does an American citizen need a visa to enter Bulgaria?
An American Citizen traveling with a blue tourist passport does not need a visa to enter Bulgaria if he/she does not intend to remain in Bulgaria for more than ninety days within six months. If he/she is traveling on a diplomatic/official passport or plans to be in Bulgaria for a longer period of time, a visa must be obtained. You may find more information at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Bulgaria.html
How can I renew my passport? How long does it take?
Passport renewals generally take between 10 and 15 working days to process. Please see our online information regarding passport renewal for information on the application process and to make an appointment.
How do I obtain a U.S. passport for my baby who was born in Bulgaria?
What Is The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)?
STEP is a free online enrollment program that allows U.S. citizens to input foreign trip and residence information. Through this enrollment you will receive updates on safety conditions in the country in which you are traveling or living, and the Department of State and the Embassy can use this enrollment to assist you in case of an emergency.
Visit the STEP site at https://step.state.gov/step/ for more information on the program and to enroll.
Is it safe to travel to and stay in Bulgaria and some other countries in the region?
For information on traveling conditions in Bulgaria visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Bulgaria.html. The Department of State also posts Country Specific Information for other countries on its website. For recent messages to U.S. citizens in Bulgaria, please visit this page.
Can the Embassy make certified copies of documents requested by SSA?
The Embassy can make certified copies of documents requested by SSA. This is a no-fee service. Once you receive guidance from FBU-Athens about your application for SSN or federal benefits, please schedule an appointment for notary services at https://bg.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/appointments/. Please bring original documents. You also need to bring a clear black-and-white photocopy of each document. If you wish to have the photocopy done at the Embassy, the fee is $1 per page.
For additional questions about SSA services, contact FBU-Athens:
Federal Benefits Unit
91 Vasilisis Sophias Avenue
101 60 Athens
Phone: 302-1072-02426 or
How do I apply for retirement, spouses, children's and disability benefits?
You can apply for Social Security retirement, spouse, Medicare only or disability on the internet at https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/rib. It is secure, fast and easy. Once you submit the application online, print the receipt, and wait. SSA will contact you in about 6-8 weeks to review your claim and to request needed documents, if needed.
The online hours of operation are:
– Weekdays 5 AM – 1 AM Eastern Time (ET)
– Saturday 5 AM – 11 PM ET
– Sunday 8 AM – 11:30 PM ET
You may find more information on applying and receiving federal benefits in Bulgaria.
I want to take my cat/dog (or other pet) to the U.S. What are the requirements?
Cats or dogs need to have a passport (your veterinarian can assist in getting a pet passport) and valid rabies vaccination (administered more than one month – but less than twelve months – from the date of travel). We have a web page containing the specific requirements. Always contact the airline with which you will travel to inquire about their specific requirements for transportation of pets.
I need a document notarized. Do you have a Notary Public? What are your hours?
U.S. Consular Officers may notarize documents (acknowledge signatures) for use in the U.S., but the Embassy does not legalize documents (apostilles). Notarial services are available by appointment only. For more information and to make an appointment, visit our website.
I'm applying for a criminal background check. Can I have my fingerprints taken at the U.S. Embassy?
U.S. Embassies cannot provide criminal background checks since we are not a law enforcement agency and do not have access to law enforcement information. The agency that houses a central database of criminal information is the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). You will need to work directly with the FBI to obtain the necessary document.
Additionally, we do not take fingerprints, since this is a law enforcement activity. However, you may be fingerprinted at a local police station.
We have detailed information on our web site about how to contact the appropriate offices and how to obtain fingerprints.
What are the customs requirements for entering/exiting Bulgaria?
If you are carrying cash in the amount of 10 000 EUR or more or their equivalent in other currency, you must complete a cash declaration upon entering or leaving the European Union and submit it to a customs officer. For more information, please visit the website of Bulgarian Customs.
What are the customs requirements for entering/exiting the United States?
May I drive in Bulgaria with my U.S. driver's license?
A state-issued U.S. driver’s license is valid in Bulgaria only when carried and presented in conjunction with an International Driving Permit. For more information on International Driving Permits and general information on international road safety, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/safety/driving.html.
How can I renew my U.S. driver's license?
The U.S. Embassy does not perform or assist with the renewal of U.S. driver’s licenses. You may renew your state-issued U.S. driver’s license before it expires. If you wish to get forms and/or information from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, you may visit https://www.usa.gov/motor-vehicle-services to find a link to the local DMV website.
Experience has proven that it is very difficult to apply for a new U.S. driver’s license from overseas. If your license expires, many states require that the applicant appear in person, and pass the road test, eye test and written exam.
Do I need to register with the Selective Service if I live in Bulgaria? What if I am a dual citizen?
Almost all male U.S. citizens aged 18 through 25, regardless of place of residence, must register with the Selective Service.
Dual nationals (American citizens who also hold a second nationality) also must register, regardless of place of residence.
Am I able to legalize my document (obtain an apostille) at the Embassy?
The Embassy does not perform legalization of documents. Bulgaria and the United States are parties to the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, done at The Hague on October 5, 1961, (also called the Hague Legalization Convention). The procedures to be followed in the legalization of documents are as follows:
Documents issued in the U.S.: To be recognized by the Bulgarian authorities, such documents should bear an apostille, attached by the State (not federal) Secretary of State or the Governor’s Office of the particular state where the documents originate. (You can search for state Secretary of State contact information.) In Bulgaria they must be officially translated by a translation company, and then the translation must be certified by a Bulgarian notary public.
Documents issued in Bulgaria and meant to be used in the U.S.: In order to be recognized by the U.S. authorities, such documents should bear an apostille issued either by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice (for all documents, originating from the Bulgarian court, from notary public and the prosecution), or by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (for all other documents – diplomas, birth, marriage and death certificates, bank documents, documents issued by other ministries, etc.) Translations of documents may be done either in the United States or Bulgaria.
Documents issued or notarized by U.S. missions or federal institutions in the U.S. and meant to be used in Bulgaria: Such documents should bear an apostille attached by the Authentication Office in the Department of State, Washington, D.C. In Bulgaria they must be officially translated by a translation company, and then the translation must be certified by a Bulgarian notary public.
What do I need to do to get married in Bulgaria?
If you are a U.S. citizen and wish to marry a Bulgarian citizen in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian authorities require that you make a statement before a U.S. consular officer, swearing that you are legally eligible to marry. The fee for notarization of this statement is $50. This service is provided by the Immigrant visa unit Monday through Friday, by appointment only. Please call tel.:(359 2) 937 5100 – from 9:00 a.m. to noon or send an e-mail to email@example.com to arrange a specific time. The statement must include the full name of the American citizen (please bring your U.S. passport) and the full name, date of birth and current address of the Bulgarian citizen spouse. This statement is not required if the American citizen spouse holds dual citizenship and is also a Bulgarian citizen.
The sworn statement must then be taken to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be authenticated, before you may get married.
Where can I find useful health/medical information?
All travelers should familiarize themselves with conditions at their destination that could affect their health (high altitude or pollution, types of medical facilities, required immunizations, availability of required pharmaceuticals, etc.).
While some of this information may be found on our website, the key resource for health information is the Travelers’ Health page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. The CDC website also provides general guidance on health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect-bite protection.
The CDC also maintains an international travelers’ hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or, by fax, at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299).
More information can be found at the State Department’s Health site: What You Need to Know in Advance of Travel
How do I obtain local Bulgarian civil records?
Duplicates of Bulgarian civil status records may be obtained only in person or by another person that is empowered for the purpose with a duly authenticated and translated Power of Attorney. The Embassy may obtain a duplicate of the Bulgarian birth certificate for an American citizen who is in a process of applying for Social Security retirement benefits.