Name of Country: Bulgaria
Part II. U.S. Embassy or Consulate Information
U.S. Embassy Sofia
Address: 16 Kozyak Street, Sofia, Bulgaria 1407
Phone: (359 2) 937-5100
Fax: (359 2) 937-5209
After Hours Phone: +359 (2) 937-5101
Part III. Profile of Religions of the Host Country and Religious Services available to visitors.
Country Profile: Visit the State Department’s website “Background Note: Bulgaria”
Religions: Based on a national census conducted in February 2011, 76% of the population is Bulgarian Orthodox, 10% Muslim, 1% Roman Catholic, 1% Protestant, and 1% other. The remaining 11% does not identify with a religion.
Religious Activities For Visitors: English-language services are available in Sofia, some coastal cities, and limited rural areas of Bulgaria for most denominations. Services performed in English include Baptist, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Interdenominational, Mormon, and Seventh-day Adventist.
Part IV. Funeral Directors, Mortician and Related Services Available in the Host Country (updated April 2021)
ALIANS 2001 LTD
201 Georgi Sara Rakovski St.
Sofia, Bulgaria 1142
Phone/Fax: +359 2 981 7808
Mobile Phone: +359 2 981 7808, +359 878 109 222
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
DISCLAIMER: The U.S. Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians, and other service providers.
Part V. Profile of services available in the host country regarding preparation and shipment of remains
Death and Disposition of Remains
In the event that you are faced with the death of a fellow American in Bulgaria, please contact the Embassy as soon as possible. Under Bulgarian law, an autopsy must be done when the cause of death is unknown or the police suspect a criminal act or foul play. After the autopsy, the decedent is moved to the local morgue in advance of preparation by a local funeral director. At this stage, the next-of-kin may choose either to bring the decedent’s full remains back to the United States, to have the decedent cremated and the ashes returned to the United States, or to arrange for local burial/cremation. Please see below for more details about disposition of remains.
Issuance of a local death certificate and a Consular Report of Death Abroad
Bulgarian authorities issue a Death Certificate that lists the individual’s name, time and place of death. Local authorities do not list the cause of death. The Embassy will request the decedent’s passport(s) as well as this Death Certificate in order to issue a death certificate in English that can be used in the United States. The Consular Report of Death Abroad is the equivalent of a U.S. Death Certificate for resolving legal matters in the United States including estate and insurance proceedings. The Embassy can provide up to 20 copies of the Consular Report of Death Abroad to the decedent’s next-of-kin free of charge. The Embassy will also cancel the decedent’s U.S. passport and return it to the next-of-kin and report the death to the appropriate government agencies if the decedent was receiving federal benefits.
Additional copies of the Consular Report of Death Abroad can be obtained by contacting:
Department of State
Passport Vital Records Section
1150 Passport Services PL
Dulles, VA 20189-1150
Tel. (202) 485-8300
In rare cases, a consular officer from the Embassy can take temporary possession of a recently deceased American’s personal effects/property if no family members were traveling with the decedent. The Embassy will make a complete inventory of such possessions and will hold them for a limited period until the next-of-kin makes arrangements for assuming possession of the property. In these circumstances, the Embassy may charge storage fees and/or maintenance fees if the amount or property exceeds an ordinary amount of personal luggage or if special circumstances exist.
The deceased’s next of kin or spouse may be entitled to a lump sum death payment from the Social Security Administration and possibly other benefits. The Embassy can advise and assist with the application(s).
All payments for preparation of the remains and repatriation may be arranged directly with the local funeral agent. A U.S. Embassy or Consulate cannot provide this funding but can assist in locating and transferring funds should this service be required. Most funeral homes accept bank transfer or Western Union payments. There will be some deviation in prices depending on the region of Bulgaria where services are rendered.
Information on Disposition of Remains
Embalming can be performed at all major Bulgarian hospitals. It is not always of the same quality as embalming in the United States. Length of time for this process varies, and cannot be performed until 24 hours after the time of death. According to Bulgarian regulations, embalming is not mandatory for a body to be shipped to the United States. If the American citizen was a victim of a crime or died in a hospital partial embalming of the body is mandatory. Partial embalming costs approximately 150-200 dollars. Burial may be postponed indefinitely if the body is kept in a refrigeration facility. If the body has been embalmed, the maximum period before burial without refrigeration is 40 days.
The only cremation facility in Bulgaria is located in Sofia. Before the remains may be cremated, the facility must receive a notarized request from the next-of-kin and a medical certificate. The physician who signed the death certificate issues the latter. The medical certificate must state that a post mortem was performed and that the individual died of natural causes. If the American citizen was a victim of a crime or a road accident, permission for cremation from a forensic doctor is required.
Transporting the remains from Bulgaria requires special documentation and should be coordinated with the funeral home and airline, if applicable. The Embassy cannot take custody of remains – the funeral home should make arrangements to provide properly dated documentation to allow for pickup and transport by the deceased’s kin or other representative. The Embassy can suggest a regional funeral home that is familiar with these requirements but cautions that few Bulgarian funeral homes have experience repatriating remains. Please contact the Embassy for more information.
Casket and Containers
The wooden caskets and zinc-lined containers used in Bulgaria meet U.S. regulations, as well as the requirements for shipment out of Bulgaria. The zinc-lined containers are made on order. The ashes from cremated remains are placed in marble or ceramic urns, which necessitate very careful outer packing.
Burial plots can be purchased in Bulgaria. Initially, they are provided gratis for an eight-year period following the burial. If not purchased, they may be rented by the next-of-kin at the end of the initial eight-year period in ten-year intervals. The rent is paid for 10 years and the municipality determines its rate. Rent is pre-paid before the expiration of the initial eight-year period and before the expiration of each subsequent ten-year period.
Transportation and Repatriation of Remains
CDC requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease.
At this time, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and may be cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:
- The remains are cremated; OR
- The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
- The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment.
Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.
Costs for preparing and returning a deceased individual’s body to the United States from Bulgaria are generally quite high and must be paid by the family unless appropriate insurance was acquired in advance. Often, local laws and procedures can make the return of remains to the United States a lengthy process. On average, 10 days to 14 days should be expected for return although it can take significantly longer depending on the circumstances of death.
In order to be cleared for shipment, a body must be sanitarily treated, sealed in a zinc-lined container, placed in a wooden casket, and put in a packing case. The case must be to the requirements of the air company that will ship the remains. Sealing is performed in the presence of customs officials in the case of embalmed or cremated remains. If the body must be shipped from one location in Bulgaria to the point of international departure in another city, the outer container must be bonded by local customs and accompanied by a “Transporten List” issue by the local custom official who witnessed the sealing of the casket and outer container. Permission for the exportation of the remains must be obtained from the county sanitation authorities. The permission is issued upon presentation of copies of the deceased person’s passport and of the Bulgarian death certificate.
If the remains are cremated, the county sanitation authorities issue the permission for the export of the ashes upon presentation of copies of the deceased person’s passport, of the Bulgarian death certificate and of a copy of the cremation certificate. The permission is issued after the cremation has been performed.
Cost of transportation of remains depends on flight availability, the airline operator, and the final destination in the U.S. In general, flights may cost between $500 to $1000 USD. There are no direct flights between the U.S. and Bulgaria. This means that funeral agents must coordinate with the transit country to ensure availability on flights approved to carry remains. Often, agents will have to wait up to a week in order to find availability on approved flights.
Exhumation and Shipment
Remains may be disinterred only after an initial eight-year period has elapsed. In the rare cases of exhumation before that time period, permission from the sanitation authorities is required. The cemetery will charge an exhumation fee and cremation and packing charges are the same as above. Documents required for the exportation of remains are: Request from the next-of-kin, a copy of the Bulgarian death certificate of the deceased, an excerpt from the cemetery’s registrar, permission from the respective county sanitation authorities and permission from customs officials. All requirements and regulations are national in scope.