Last update 02/09/2022
Asylum-seekers and refugees in Bulgaria have the right to send their children to school for free. In fact, Bulgaria obliges parents and guardians/trustees to send children to school.
School education is compulsory until the age of 16.
Types of school education in Bulgaria
The primary stage of education is from I to VII class. It is divided into:
- Elementary stage - from I to IV class
- Junior high school stage - from V to VII class
The secondary level of education is from class VIII to class XII. It is divided into:
- The first high school stage - from VIII to X class
- Second high school stage - from XI to XII class
Deadlines for enrollment
Access to the education system shall not be postponed for more than 3 months from the date on which you filed your child's application for international protection (asylum).
If you file your child's application for protection at the beginning of the summer break, they can start school at the beginning of the new school year.
Children who are asylum-seekers, or who were granted international or temporary protection in Bulgaria, can enroll in school throughout the whole academic year, but no later than 30 days before the end of the second school term.
Here are the dates for the end of the second half of the school year in 2023:
- From 1st to 3rd grade: May 31, 2023
- From 4th to 6th grade: June 15, 2023
- From 5th to 6th grade in so-called sports schools: June 30, 2023
- From 7th to 11th grade: June 30, 2023
- 12th grade: May 16, 2023
The dates for the end of the current year and the yearly vacations are available on the webpage of the Ministry of Education.
How to enroll?
People under 18 cannot enroll in school by themselves. Their parents or legal representatives need to represent them and submit their documents.
The procedure varies depending on whether the child has a document for a completed grade, level or degree of education or other proof of previous education.
I. Children without proof of previous education
If your child has no proof of completing a level of education, they will be admitted to school and after that children of 5th and 10th grade take the entrance exams (see 'Validation of Competencies' in the section below).
As a parent or a legal representative visit your local regional department of education office and submit an enrollment application to the head of the department.
Within 7 working days, the head of the regional department of education will direct the child to a school according to the child's place of residence and the parent's wish.
Within 7 working days, the headmaster of that school will appoint a Committee to interview the child. They will decide which grade the child should join. The committee will ask questions about the subjects the child has studied in their country of origin and which grade they were in.
The regional department of education will provide an interpreter for this interview.
They will give you the results within 7 working days about the results from the interview. After that, in up to 3 working days, the headmaster of the school will issue an order that states the acceptance of your child in an appropriate grade.
I.2 Validation of competencies
A student from 1st to 4th grade is enrolled in school by age without validation of acquired competencies, i.e., without taking entrance exams.
A student from 5th to 10th grade shall validate previously acquired competencies for a completed class or stage of education by the end of the school year in which they were enrolled. They are entitled to be enrolled in the higher grade upon successful completion of the grade in which they were enrolled during the relevant academic year and to transfer up to 3 subjects for validation from the previous grade or stage of education until the completion of the relevant stage of education - post-secondary or first secondary stage in which they are enrolled.
A student from 11th- 12th (adult) grade will be admitted after recognition of completion of a period, class, stage or level of school education.
II. Children with a document or other proof of previous education
If your child has proof of previous education, this proof of completed grade, level or degree of education firstly needs to be recognized for compliance with the school education in Bulgaria. Secondly, the child will be admitted to school. Afterwards children in grades 7 through 12 take entrance exams.
II.1. Recognition and admission
The following documents need to be submitted for recognition of compliance with school education in Bulgaria:
- An application form. You can download this application here or get the printed version at the regional department when you go there for consultation. The application form is filled in Bulgarian.
- A document for a completed grade, level or degree of education. It can be a diploma or another certificate.
- A document stating the rights the school education document provides to continue one's education if that information is not mentioned in the school education document itself. You can get this document from the school or another institution that is responsible for issuing such a document in your country of origin.
- A reference or transcript for the subjects studied in the child’s previous school if the child wishes to continue his/her education in 8th through 10th grade or 10th through 12th grade. You should also get this document from the school or another institution that is responsible for issuing it in your country of origin.
- The original receipt that proves you paid the necessary fee when the documents have to be submitted to the regional department of education and not directly to the school. This is a regular paper that you get from the bank when you pay the fee. The fee is 25 leva, and is collected only for children above 16 years old.
- The Principal of the school may require additional documents.
These documents should be translated in Bulgarian by an official translator. Asylum seekers and refugees are exempted from the requirement to legalise the documents or to certify them via apostille.
Submitting the documents
If the child will be enrolled in 1st through 6th grade, submit the application form and required documents to the Principal of the school.
When the child is enrolling in 5th grade in places designated by the state admission plan, the application form and the documents, proving the completion of 4th grade shall be submitted at the regional department of education.
If the child will be enrolled in the 7th through 12th grade, submit the documents at the regional department of education.
II. 2. Passing the equivalence examinations
Children who have been recognised as having completed a period or grade for grades 1 to 6 on the basis of documents issued by a school of a foreign country shall not take entrance exams.
Children in grades 7 to 12 take the entrance exams at the school. The exams that are required are indicated in the Certificate from the regional department of education, after the recognition of the previous period of education. The time limit for taking the entrance exams must be no later than the end of the school year in question and, if there are less than three months to complete the school year, no later than the end of the following school year. There is the possibility from grade 7 to grade 12 for students not to take the entrance by re-taking the last recognised grade.
This information was prepared based on the information session presented by Attorney Valeria Ilareva in August 2022. A recording of the information session in Bulgarian and Ukrainian is available here.
For individual assistance, you can submit a request through the Request Assistance module.