Thanks Mark and especially M_W for his long and informative post. The 'recent' changes in immigration law took place in February 2011, btw.
The final outcome? Well, we arrived at the MBP Pernik office at 12.00 yesterday and showed the declaration to the uniformed immigration officer at the desk. He read it and told us that that the declaration was only valid if you were married. I told him this was not right and asked to see the Nachalnik. Then I phoned the ex-minister's wife and she spoke to him and put him straight, so to speak. I think I saw his face visibly blanche as they were talking. Apparently, the immigration office said that they had carried out immigration inspections at our address and no one had been there on each occasion. I am sceptical of this but again, my helper put him right saying that there is no onus on any foreign resident to be living in BG full-time and anyway, we also have a flat in Sofia. I don't know where the officer got the idea of carrying out inspections from from as I wasn't aware that the immigration department were charged with carrying out inspections on LTRs.
The Nachalnik was at lunch so we went back, as suggested, at about 13.00 and the Nachalnik was still at lunch. He finally arrived back at his office at 13.30 and we spoke with him in his office. He spoke quite good Russian and both I and my girlfriend could easily understand him. I told him that we had been told that it was possible for a non-EU citizen of a non-married couple who had completed a declaration (which he had now read) stating that the relationship was ‘enduring’ to be given long-term residency of Bulgaria. He and the uniformed immigration officer then started to pore through their rules and regulations and finally found the correct article of law, which is article 10, btw. I told him that the Director of immigration had already confirmed this to me but he told me that the director had phoned him but had just told him that we would be visiting their office on Thursday.
The Nachalnik then told me that he wished everything to be 'quite correct' and so for this, he wanted an interpreter to be present. We found a very good one in Pernik centre – a man called Orli, who could not only speak good English, but also quickly understood what needed to be done and then arranged things so that they could be done in the minimum of time. Orli completed the application form for us, took us to a notary to obtain a notarised declaration that I would support my girlfriend while she was resident in Bulgaria and we also went to the bank and paid the state fees of 7 leva + 36 leva.
We took all the documentation back to the immigration desk at about 16.40 and after a wait of about 10 minutes we were given a ‘talon’/receipt for the application submission. First of all (today, I think) my girlfriend will be given the simple white card (the old-style residency card for foreigners) and then 3 working days later she will be given the normal photocard residency card. She has also gone to the MBP office this morning for them to take a photo of her for the card and we were told that the card will expire on the same date as mine, in August 2014, just before which we will make another application to renew them.
So we got there in the end - but I have to say that without outside influential help and advice I don’t think that we would have achieved our aim. We probably would not have even got past the initial refusal to accept that it was possible without being married as the uniformed immigration officer had seemed pretty adamant about it.
Orli said that when the Nachalnik spoke with him he was extremely polite, which was most unusual. He says he does a lot of interpreting/translation work for the police and immigration departments and never before has he experienced such extreme politeness, which I suspect was as a result of the higher intervention.
So that''s about it - Mission accomplished but even with influential help it was a bit of a struggle. I'm optimistic that following this recent little saga, we will be remembered in Pernik and will have no more problems in the future. I also hope that the same can be said for anyone else in the same situation who chooses to process through the Pernik office but I am so not confident about that.