Recognition of academic diplomas
There is no automatic EU-wide recognition of academic diplomas. A foreigner will need to go through the national procedure to get his/her academic degree or diploma recognised in Bulgaria. Such recognition could be helpful if a person seeks admission to a further course of study or work. In most cases, a person obtains a “statement of comparability” of his/her diploma, stating how it compares to the diplomas delivered in Bulgaria.
For a document issued by a foreign state to be recognized by Bulgarian institutions, it shall be arranged in a way which depends on:
- whether the respective state is a party to the Hague Convention:
All documents issued in a foreign state which is party to the Hague Convention shall have an apostille from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The First Hague Conference in 1899: A meeting in the Orange Hall of Huis ten Bosch palace, source: By Unknown. This is photograph HU 67224 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums
Documents with apostille need to be translated in Bulgarian in one of the two ways below:
- by a consular or diplomatic official in the country where the document is issued;
- by a translation agency authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The translation of the document shall be certified by “Legalizations and Certifications” Sector of the “Administrative Service of Bulgarian and foreign citizens” Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The states, parties of the Hague Convention can be seen here.
- whether between Bulgaria and the state there is an Agreement for Legal Aid in force:
When there is such a bilateral legal aid agreement between the states, the documents issued by the foreign state must bear the stamp of the respective authorized institution. The issued document is recognized by the Bulgarian institutions and it only needs its Bulgarian translation which shall be certified. The states with which Bulgaria has such bilateral agreements for legal aid are: Austria, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Cuba, Czech republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia, Greece, Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Libya, Macedonia, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Syria, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Vietnam, Yemen.
- OR whether this state does not fall in any of the first two groups.
In case the documents have no or cannot have any apostille, in order to trigger actions on the territory of Bulgaria, they need to be certified (legalized) in line with the generally accepted practice:
- the document is required to be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the state that issues it;
- the stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the foreign state shall be certified/ legalized by the Bulgarian diplomatic or consular mission in that state. In case there is no Bulgarian embassy/consulate in the issuing state: the stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the issuing state shall be certified/ legalized by the embassy of that state in a third state’s capital which is accredited for Bulgaria. Then the signature and the certifications of the consular service with that embassy shall be certified by the consular service of the Bulgarian embassy in that state. Here is the list of the diplomatic missions accredited for Bulgaria with headquarters abroad.
After these considerations the person will have to contact the National Centre for Information and Documentation to receive its certificate for “comparability” of his/hers diploma with the Bulgarian educational standards.
The layout of the National center for information and documentation web-site in EN, source.
Before the assessment, make sure you check:
- first and most importantly – what exactly is requested from you; there could be 3 options:
- if you will be employed by a private company – the company may simply accept your foreign diploma, without any re quest for additional legalization and certification;
- if you will be employed by a state institution – then you will have to follow all the steps for recognition of your diploma and you will need the certificate from the National Centre for Information and Documentation (see the procedure and requirements below).
- if you want to apply for a higher education degree at a university – you will need to follow the procedures set by the university itself (which also may include getting your diploma recognized by the National Centre for Information and Documentation).
- how much the service will cost ;
- how long the assessment will take – it could be several weeks to several months depending on the purpose, and the complexity of your file and number of documents provided;
- what type of document you will get as a result – it could be a full equivalency, or a comparative report;
- what you can do if you disagree with the assessment (how to appeal);
If in the process of recognition you provide documents in the Europass format (such as the Diploma Supplement), your degree can be more easily compared and recognised.
- Recognition of school and university (higher education) diploma
The requirement for apostille certification of diplomas and academic references issued by the higher education institutions of the EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland is waived as of 20.09.2016. Documents other than the European Diploma Supplement issued by higher education institutions in the EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland must be accompanied only by a translation into Bulgarian.
Recognition of school education and higher education, acquired in foreign schools and universities must be done following the procedure set from the National centre for Information and Documentation. The procedure consists of the following steps:
- Filing an application – the forms can be found on the website of the National centre for Information and Documentation (the forms should be filled in Bulgarian)
- Original and a copy of the education qualification or another similar document, issued by an educational institution recognized by a competent government authority as a part of the secular system of school or higher education in the respective country.
- Original and a copy of the academic transcript as well as an original and a copy of European diploma supplement if it is available.
- Original and copy of personal identity document as well as a document, certifying the change of the names of the applicant in case of such a change.
- Document on paid administrative fee.
The documents, required in items 2 to 3 except the European diploma supplement must be legalized, translated and certified in accordance with the provisions of the international treaties of the Republic of Bulgaria with the country in which they are issued; in case of absence of such provisions it must be done in accordance with the general procedures for legalization, translation and certification of documents and other papers (see above).
The translations of the legalized and certified documents under items 2-3 should have the consular certification of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The applicants or their representatives may receive the originals of their documents within 14 days after their examination. The identity document is to be given back immediately.
The Council for Academic Recognition can request additionally other documents, significant for the recognition, which have to be submitted in two-month period from the date of receiving of that notice.
Who is entitled to apply before the National Centre for Information and Documentation?
- personally – with an identity card;
- parents, children and wife – with a written power of attorney and document attesting to the current civil status;
- attorney – with a written citizen’s power of attorney;
- other citizens – a written power of attorney with notarial certified signature
- Organizations – in this case applicants are represented by written power of attorney with notarial certified signatures. When organizations submit an application they can be represented by:
- legal representatives (a copy of a certificate of current status);
- person authorized by the legal representative, with a written power of attorney with notarial certified signature ( with a copy of a certificate of current status).
For the recognition of school diploma the accreditation committee follows the criteria:
- duration of education;
- the type of school in which the education was conducted;
- learning subjects and common work on each of them;
- learning outcomes;
- rights given by the document in the country in which it was issued;
- the pupil’s age at the end of the class and the differences between the foreign and the Bulgarian education system regarding the starting age for starting school education.
For the recognition of higher education diploma the accreditation committee follows the procedure:
- verification of the status of the higher education institution;
- authenticity verification of documents and assessment of the data from the higher education qualification and the other submitted documents with view of the state requirements for acquiring higher education in the same and/or related specialty in the Republic of Bulgaria;
- a decision for recognition of the educational and qualification degree of the higher education qualification with a professional qualification in cases when it is pointed out in the diploma or a decision for denying its recognition, or to cease the procedure;
- Issuance of a certificate with a standardized form.
The following criteria are taken into consideration in the process of assessments of the higher education diploma:
- way of students’ admission;
- duration of study;
- overall workload of the studied subjects and/or acquired credits;
- proportion of subjects and their workload, which provide the fundamental, specific and specialized training;
- proportion of subjects and their workload, which provide the theoretical and practical training;
- learning outcomes as a set of knowledge, skills and competencies acquired during the study;
- way of graduation.
The recognition of the higher education takes into consideration the acquired academic degree, granted and certified by the submitted applicant’s documents. In cases where the HE qualification does not grant an academic degree, the recognition commission decides to which national academic degree corresponds the acquired higher education under the Bulgarian legislation.
- Recognition of professional qualification
Holders of foreign professional qualifications in non-regulated professions in Bulgaria have direct access to the labor market. The recognition of such professional qualifications is within the competence of the employers themselves.
For the pursuit of professions that are regulated in Bulgaria the provisions of Directive 2005/36/EC are applied. The recognition of such professional qualifications is the responsibility of the competent authority in the respective regulated profession. To check whether your professional qualification is regulated in Bulgaria or not, please, see this site.
The term “regulated profession” was introduced into Bulgarian legislation as part of the most recent amendments to the Higher Education Act and Vocational Education and Training Act.
A “regulated profession” is an activity or range of activities:
- included into the list of regulated professions in the republic of bulgaria;
- of social significance and/or having considerable importance for people’s life and health;
- the pursuit of which is subject to the possession of evidence of education and training, an attestation of competence or membership in an organization recognized by the state, by virtue of laws, regulations or administrative provisions.
The competent authorities of the regulated professions in Bulgaria have the right to require the following documents for the purposes of recognition:
- a duly completed application (if there is a form) together with a structured CV (with information about educational and professional experience);
- copy of an identity document;
- documents relating to later change of the applicant’s name, if in the diploma name differs from name on application;
- a certified copy of evidence of formal qualifications – diploma, certificate or other documents;
- certified copies of certificates and proof of professional experience or additional training (evidence which are not part of the ones of formal qualifications);
- a document for duration, scope and content of education. This document will help the relevant authorities to consider whether there are big differences in the training between the country where it was acquired and Bulgaria. The applicant may submit a statement containing a list of completed modules/courses.
- if necessary for the profession pursuit the authority may require a certificate of suitableness regarding health, not older than 3 months;
- criminal record certificate to show that the person has no offences of law in his/her state – not older than 3 months;
- if needed: proof of applicant’s financial status;
- if needed a proof of insurance made in connection with the exercise of professional activity;
- a payment proof the administrative fee if it exists.
Please note that licensed or certified translations may be required for important documents like diploma, certificate, identity card, and the applicant will be informed by the relevant authorities where to obtain them.
Important: As of March 1, 2018 changes came into force of the Regulation on legalizations, endorsements and translations of documents and other papers, which introduce a new regulation concerning the certified transcripts of the translator’s signature under the Regulations. Certification of the signature of the translator who has made a translation under the Rules of Procedure of documents originating abroad and intended for use in the Republic of Bulgaria shall be carried out both by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by all notaries in the country. In order to ensure legal certainty, the interpreter presents to the notary a document issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he has the right to make official translations.
 This is regulated by the amendments to the Ordinance on the State Requirements for Recognition of Acquired Higher Education and Completed Periods of Education in Foreign Higher Education Institutions, adopted by a Decree of the Council of Ministers.