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Unravelling the Mystery Of Apostilles

If you are considering a permanent move to Bulgaria then you may be asked to provide certain documentation with an Apostille attached. Indeed, when I first encountered this phrase I was left wondering why my sons’ birth certificates needed certification by the Church!?

Further investigation proved that an Apostille is the legal term used to refer to the legalisation of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. Bulgaria, the Russian Federation, France and the UK are all signatories to the Convention.

The type of documents in need of an Apostille in Bulgaria is children’s birth certificates, educational documents like SAT qualifications and school reports, change of name deed poll documents and pension documents proving income.

In the case of most documents excluding original birth, death or marriage certificates, all educational documents must be signed by a UK solicitor or notary before they can be legalised. The solicitor or notary should either confirm that the document is original if that is the case, or a true photocopy.

Educational documents which are not degrees, diplomas, certificates, qualifications or other awards may be legalised if they have been issued by an educational establishment in the UK. This includes school reports and letters concerning enrolling, attendance, fees and grades.

Apostilles are obtained in the UK from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is now based in Milton Keynes. You can visit in person, use their postal service or engage a private agency to act on your behalf. At the time of writing, the FCO charge GBP 27.00 per document plus a further GBP 6.00 (regardless of the number of documents sent) for return postage by recoded delivery and you do not need to be resident in the UK to use their service, which takes two to three weeks to complete. More information including opening times and addresses can be found by visiting www.fco.gov.uk

Once you receive the documents back from the UK, they need to be translated by a registered translator into Bulgarian and sent to the Ministry of Justice in Sofia, where their authenticity will be confirmed with the Ministry’s stamp on the back of the document. This process takes around two weeks to complete. Your translator will charge their standard fee and the Ministry charges 2.50 Leva per document. More information on how to pay this fee can be obtained from www.mjeli.government.bg


If you are asked to provide apostilled documents do not worry about the time scales involved. You will not be under any pressure to return documents by a certain time, nor will you be expelled from the country for failing to supply them immediately, after all, it’s all part of the notorious Bulgarian paper chase!