How to exchange a uk driving license without education?

Hi all,
How do I change my UK Driving License for a Bulgarian one without Education documents?

I've got my Bulgarian  residency ID card, and a Clean, Full UK driving license, I understand that I am only able to drive on the roads with the UK license for a limited time once I permanently emigrate here fully - fulltime.
With that, and keen to make the move here a permanent one later this year, ...I am trying to get my UK license exchanged.

However I am having great difficulty getting my head around understanding the section of a 'Completion Certificate of Primary school Education' that is needed, if unable to provide a Secondary School Qualifications.

I don't recall getting any sort of cerfitcate at the end, when leaving/completing Primary School, before starting Secondary school in the UK.
Due to personal circumstances as a kid back in the 1970's, I had finished Primary School, but was removed from Secondary school at the age of 13/14 - which had meant I didn't have the chance to obtain any CSE's or O'levels of qualifications of my schooling-life years.

Fasforward in life, Since school-life; I went straight into work of employment where no education-qualifications was needed, AND the line of work I went into, had there never been any opportunity within the company to obtain any sort of qualification.

I'm now in my 60's, looking to live a nice content life in Bulgaria, however being able to drive, is my life-line. And without this in Bulgaria, I know I'll mentally struggle to cope.

Is there a way around this dilemma?

Surely there must be someone else out there who has been in this same situation, please help me... I don't know where else to turn.

I've tried reaching out to the embassy and Transport police, but I don't know if it's the way I'm asking .. but they just come back to me with saying they are unable to give me a answer to my question.

Ouch! I don't know the answer, Hollie, but I hope someone else does!

If your old primary school still exists, it could be worth writing and asking if they can write a letter certifying that you attended between x and y years and completed primary school. Officially translated and with plenty of rubber stamps on it, that may be enough.

Hi exchanging linence in bg is a real pain even with cert I nearly gave up. Contact Helen or pat Fahey at onestopptpoerty burgas they can advice. The law is clear but as always I'm sure the are ways. Pay a small amount of money to get it done.

Hi Hollie,
I exchanged my licence for a Bulgarian one pre brexit but my husband had planned on keeping his UK one with a view to returning to the UK last year to obtain an international driving permit, which I believe is valid for 5 years- anyway, that didn't happen, and he now finds himself in a similar situation to yourself. It's early days in the post transition period, for everything, not just driving licences and the British ambassador to Bulgaria, Rob Dixon is working on making the exchange of driving licenses a more simplified process. You can see a short 2 minute 38 sec video on him discussing the topic on Facebook- go to the British Embassy  Sofia on Facebook, and click on videos, if you scroll down its the 8th one down- he finishes by saying that we can still drive on our UK licenses for the time being... We are waiting for further updates from him.
Don't despair, you are not alone and I'm confident they will make the process easier shortly.

I believe this is being looked into by the embassy, and it's ok to continue to drive on a U.K. licence for now. But that's as much as I've heard recently.

Unfortunately schools can't help, I tried mine at the start of the year, and was told since GDPR came in they don't hold pupil information after they reach age 25. They couldn't even say which exam boards they were under when I sat my exams.

So now need to send a (free) subject access request to find out which board my records are with and apply to for copies (not free).

It's a shame as we only got residency late last year, due to the palaver of travelling, so while we waited the required 6 months the Brexit deadline passed.

I'm sure something can be done, particularly for people who didn't take exams etc, but the wheels of diplomacy turn slowly.

ETA the International Driving Permit is not a solution here, it's not needed in Europe if you have a U.K. licence and it doesn't change the fact that you need to hold a licence in the country you are resident in. If you're back and forward between U.K. and another country,
whichever one you are in longest is the licence you should hold.

I think, typically, the rule is (in pretty much any country, not just Bulgaria) that, after a certain time (usually 6 months) of being officially resident, you have to get a local license. So once you have a Bulgarian residence permit you should go get yourself a Bulgarian license.

Some places, like Spain, are much stricter, so the police do check, and you will get into trouble. From my experience, the Bulgarian police are much more laid back about it, and their main concern is that your car has a current MOT, and a current insurance. I have only been stopped a couple of times in my time here and they either didn't even ask for my license, or when they did, he didn't seem bothered by seeing my UK one (and I have had my residence permit since 2017).

But these were random vehicle checks, so maybe it would be different if they were stopping me for some kind of driving offence.

However, I did go exchange it at end of 2020 (so I don't know if the process is different this year), in the Plovdiv KAT. It was a bit stressful, but I managed to do it without taking an attorney or translator. They did not ask for any evidence of my education. The main issue was that the UK license has loads of permissions for different vehicles, so we had to have a discussion about this as I had to give most of them up.

KAT sent me away to get a doctor's (she charged me 50 leva) certificate re: health/eyesight, so probably best if you sort this out before going. If you want to keep some vehicles (like bus or lorry), then these are stricter medical exams, so you will need one per group. I just kept car and motorcycle based on the standard exam.

I haven't been stopped yet in 2021, so I don't know if things have tightened up post-Brexit.

As it's an exchange, they did ask for my UK card before giving me my Bulgarian one. However, I don't think there's anything stopping you from asking for a new one from DVLA next time you're in the UK.

Really helpful info thanks guys I'm in the same situation. This has really made me stop panicking.

Ah thank-you Gwynj' .......that's really helpful to know...

I did wonder about the medical exam done by a gp it says on the list of requirements.

As im still currently in the UK, and still use my doctor's at the moment, I haven't yet switched over to the Bulgarian doctor's.

You mention about the importance of getting the medical etc stuff sorted first.. but how would I go about going down that route.
Will I need to assign/register myself over to a bulgarian gp first before I can take the exam.

Or can I just pay a one-off visit to a bulgarian gp to do my medical?

You can just pay a one off  visit to a Bulgarian GP, this is what I did, it cost me 10 leva. I had my eyesight and blood pressure checked.

10 leva?! I was robbed! :-)

This is not a certificate from your official BG GP. It's pretty much any doctor (mine was actually an optician/opthamologist). I went to the nearest hospital to KAT to find one, but the receptionist said they didn't have one there, but she gave me a name/address instead.

Because it's for KAT/driving license, then it's on a special certificate, so I don't think every doctor has these.

I had to do something similar to get permission to teach, and they sent me to the Plovdiv Psychiatric Hospital for a certificate of mental fitness. She asked two questions: Is there anything wrong with you? Do you have 40 leva?  To which I replied No/Yes, and she gave me the certificate. So I think you'll find that some doctors will actually check your blood pressure/eyesight, while many will probably just check that you walked in unaided and that you have 50 leva, and 2 minutes later you have your certificate.

Oooh... now this is interesting...

I found BULGARIAN PLATES DOT COM... with lots of info...

"EU-Issued Licence: Valid driving licences issued in an EU member state/ EEA or in Switzerland are valid in Bulgaria indefinitely."

"There is no obligation for the licence to be exchanged for a Bulgarian one, although the licence-holder may if they choose to. The licence may be exchanged – without having to pass a driving test – by anyone who has a permanent or a long-stay residence status in Bulgaria."

"When an EU driving licence is exchanged for a Bulgarian one, its validity is verified and the foreign licence is returned to the country of origin with an explanation of the reason for the exchange. The Bulgarian driving licence has validity of 10 years."

"Non-EU-Issued Licence: A resident foreigner who does not have a driving licence issued by an EU member state/ EEA or Switzerland may drive in Bulgaria for up to one year. After that period, the licence must be exchanged for a Bulgarian driving licence (if an exchange agreement exists) or the Bulgarian driving test must be taken and a new licence issued."

So that explains why they were never concerned about my UK license: we were still EU, and so it was valid. It also means that it was probably slightly easier for me to do my exchange last year while we were still in the transition year.

Technically, UK became non-EU at start of 2020. But I don't know if our year allowance (for non-EU resident foreigners) started then (i.e. it's over, and we should have a BG license already), or at the end of transition period (i.e. we still have until end of 2021 to get our BG license). But if I were stopped, I'd certainly say I was told that it was the latter!

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You first need to have your certificate translated then go to education department fill in a form then pay 35lev each person and it goes before a board every two weeks and then they post online if it has been accepted.

If accepted you go collect a Bulgarian certificate from them and then can go get your license. This applies to everyone applying for a bulgarian driving licence............

EVTRA      07 May 2021 20:40:21

I really dont think that you are correct in any of your assumptions, read the above. You do not take the certificate to the KAT office.........and do you really think that the Bulgarian authorities dont know what they are looking for............well think again...........

(Generally speaking they have *no f# idea* of what they are looking at when you present them any document apart from a driving license and a passport. Usually none speak English apart from top your employee could be looking at a croquet online course certificate and they won't blink.)

Thanks, Bullador, that's helpful. Do you know what the education department will accept as the original "certificate of education"?

I don't think I ever had one, and neither does hubby, even though we both got A levels (equivalent in my case, as I'm Australian). All we recall getting is a letter from the examining board telling us we passed. We are however both registered nurses and have our certificate for that.

I heard of someone who wanted to teach in Bulgaria, had a degree and post-graduate diploma of teaching. But because he couldn't show evidence to completing primary school, his qualifications weren't accepted. I hope we won't hit the same with driver's licences!

Hi Jane, Im sorry I really dont know, I do know that the British Embassy in Sofia are trying to sort out some agreement with Bulgaria, but as the locals have to provide the same things its difficult.

Oh well, we'll find out when the time comes. :)

The problem is that by obtaining a Bulgarian residency card you are declaring that you are now a resident here. That removes any entitlement to services etc that you have by virtue of being a UK resident. It isn't a Pick'n'Mix sweet shop where you can cherry-pick what suits you out of various offering from different states.

You are required by UK law to declare any change of address and that includes becoming resident abroad. A UK driving licence cannot be issued for a foreign address, so your UK licence becomes invalid from the moment you cease to be a UK resident. Bulgarian law requires you to exchange your UK licence for a Bulgarian one after a period of residency but that doesn't affect the relevant provisions of UK law.

I find the complaints about having to demonstrate a minimum level of education laughable - it's exactly the same for Bulgarian citizens.  How do you suppose that
British people would react if foreigners living in the UK were to demand that UK regulations didn't apply to them because they weren't the same in their country?

If you choose to live in another country you're under a legal and moral obligation to follow their laws, not arrogantly assume that you can pick and choose the ones that suit you.  There's no shortage of local-grown criminals here, I can't see any need to import more: shape up or ship out!

Yes...I had the same challenge! I wrote emails to the Authorities pointing out that having left school almost 50 years ago the Certificate they required was not available.
So, to prove that I am not a moron I sent them a copy of my UK Aircraft Pilot's Licence broken down into the sections that I had to pass in order to get the licence...all far more advanced than a simple School Cert...No, sorry, School Cert or nothing!
Fortunately I had my UK issued Internatonal Driving Licence and drove with that.
Inflexibility is the answer!!!
Stragely enough my friend was not asked for a School Cert when he went to change his licence!!
All the best!!!!!! :dumbom:

When the UK was in the EU, we were not allowed to hold two different driving licences (from two EU countries). Now it is post brexit does anyone know the current rules? Can you legally hold a UK driving licence AND a Bulgarian driving license?

No you can only hold one licence and it needs to be issued by the country you ordinarily reside in. Otherwise people from other third countries wouldn't have needed to get a BG licence, in fact they have to take the BG driving test so we Brits should count ourselves lucky that it's still a straight swap.

Once again IDP is not required for U.K. licence holders to drive in EU and this is NOT a work around in this situation.

The Embassy has not issued any updates on this AFAIK so it's still a case of wait and see.

Does anyone know if a Brit is able to exchange a non UK driving license?

I previously exchanged my license for another third country. Would I have to exchange that back To a UK license before exchanging to BG license?

You should be able to exchange a non-UK licence just the same as a UK one, I would think, as UK is now treated under the same rules as other non-EU countries.
If the licence you hold is from an EU country, you'd be fine to drive on that without changing, anyway.

I have the same problem. I have applied some time ago and constantly go to the KAT center Burgas to try to get the reason why I can't exchange my license, if I need my educational background that's a problem as primary school history gets past to secondary level and destroyed after 25 years. I try to get information from them but it's no, or we don't manufacture anymore. I just get the buricratic cul-de-sac! There has to be a path to a license but I have not found what they are looking for! Any advice on this would be appreciated.

Yes...utterly nonsensicle, I have had the same problem!
My records are no longer available, however I got the school to issue a letter of attendance and exam passes...but the computer said NO!
So, believing they needed to confirm that I could add 2+2 and get 4, I went with a copy of my UK Pilot's Licence which showed all the exams I had passed....but the computer still said NO!
Bureaucracy gone mad!
Hmmm...Perhaps Mr Google + some creativity might resolve matters?

This is a brick wall. No diplomas, no license.

KAT is an interesting institution. I have exchanged my UK license for Bulgarian before Brexit happened, and now went there just to change my address. Guess what? I need a new medical certificate (just to change the address!) and some proof of the new address (the residence card, which has it, is not enough) :)

How long have you lived in Bulgaria?  Do you have a Residence Permit, and what sort/duration is it?

daxman wrote:

Yes...utterly nonsensicle, I have had the same problem!
My records are no longer available, however I got the school to issue a letter of attendance and exam passes...but the computer said NO!
So, believing they needed to confirm that I could add 2+2 and get 4, I went with a copy of my UK Pilot's Licence which showed all the exams I had passed....but the computer still said NO!
Bureaucracy gone mad!
Hmmm...Perhaps Mr Google + some creativity might resolve matters?

What's "nonsensicle" about that? An educational certificate and a pilot's licence are two different things: it's not a "bureaucratic difference" - would you expect to be allowed to pilot an aircraft because you happen to hold a GCSE certificate in Art?  :/

sogy wrote:

This is a brick wall. No diplomas, no license.

KAT is an interesting institution. I have exchanged my UK license for Bulgarian before Brexit happened, and now went there just to change my address. Guess what? I need a new medical certificate (just to change the address!) and some proof of the new address (the residence card, which has it, is not enough) :)

Yes - whenever you receive a new driving licence here, for whatever reason, you are required to prove that you are still medically fit to drive. That's the law in Bulgaria, whether you find it "interesting" or not - or did you think that the laws here shouldn't apply to you?  ;)

Honey, I'm not getting a new license. Unlike in the UK, there is no address on the Bulgarian license. All I want (and probably supposed) to do is update my address in their own records. Don't get on your high horse before you understand what you are talking about.

sogy wrote:

Honey, I'm not getting a new license. Unlike in the UK, there is no address on the Bulgarian license. All I want (and probably supposed) to do is update my address in their own records. Don't get on your high horse before you understand what you are talking about.

Thank you for sharing your ignorance - did I perhaps use too many long words in my previous post?

Let me reiterate: in Bulgaria, when you change your address, you have to change your driving licence as well.  You will be issued with a NEW driving licence; you will have to supply a certificate from a doctor that you meet the medical requirements for holding that licence, even if you've only held your old one for a few weeks.

Is that clear enough to get through to you, or is my voice too faint to reach you from the saddle of my "high horse"?  :rolleyes:

I think you must be joking...I assume the School Cert is to prove you can read road signs etc...a Pilot's licence proves the same

On the address issue, specifically, I think it's useful to clarify that Bulgaria seems to operate rather differently from many other countries that we might be used to (such as UK or USA).

In terms of legality, Bulgaria is like most places in that it requires you to keep your address up to date in relation to your government documents (ID, driving license, vehicle registration, etc.).

Your ID/biometruc residence permit is the starting point as this includes your Bulgarian ID number and your address. And it is used here as your proof of address. Thus you will present this card in every office you go to, and they will put this ID number and this address on your driving license, your bank account, your car registration, etc.

However, in terms of using this address, it's very different. In other countries, your address is a big issue, and you will receive lots of mail here, including your utility bills... and your parking/speeding fines... council tax... electoral roll... background/credit checks... income tax & social security documents... etc. etc. While in Bulgaria you will receive... nothing. :-)

At least, that's my experience. In my years here I have not received any government letters or physical utility bills to either my apartment or house. I've had stuff sent by mail to myself, but then I've usually had to go to the local post office and collect it. I've made many eMAG purchases, and they get sent by Econt/Speedy, who call, and allow easy address redirection. I've ordered replacement debit cards, and you can choose to collect them at the branch. If you prefer, they will send them to you, at the address on your ID card. But they go by Econt/Speedy too, so if your ID isn't up to date (or you're at your summer house at the beach) it's easy to redirect your delivery to another address.

I do drive quite fast, so I was very pleasantly surprised that I had didn't get any speeding tickets in Bulgaria. Phew, what a relief! But then I went to Kat to renew my driving license, and that's when they checked the system and hit me with 4 years of speeding fines (you have to clear them off before they can do anything new for you). So it seems that instead of sending you the fines, they accumulate them and then ambush you when you innocently show up at Kat for something else. :-)

Thus, from a purely practical perspective, there doesn't appear to be any big issue with your address info not being up to date.

In my case, my attorney supplied a rental contract when I applied for my first residence permit, and this is what went on my ID. But immediately we moved into our own apartment in Plovdiv. And like all good Brits I started to fret about having the wrong address on my ID card. And where was this mystery rental address? And how would I get/redirect my mail from there?

But not enough to go visit immigration again to change it. That sounded like a right faff to go stand in line there again for a couple of hours, so I kept putting it off. And, in the end, it was 4 years before I went back to immigration, when I had to get it exchanged for an Article 50 permit. So, at that time, I got my address updated to our first Plovdiv apartment (but, of course, we immediately moved to our new Plovdiv apartment, and so it's wrong again anyway).

All my vehicle registrations were done early on with that first address. I've never gone back to Kat and asked them to issue revised documents with my later ID. My bank has changed their info to reflect the newer ID.

All my utility bills are paid via EasyPay using the account number, so my address is not an issue.

Incidentally, I have been stopped by the police a few times too (in nearly 5 years). Both for random stops and for a ticking off (speeding again, sorry). They want to see my ID and my vehicle documents (registration, inspection, insurance). This is what you must have on you, and they are very unhappy if you don't! But they don't usually ask for my driving license, and they've accepted both my UK and Bulgarian license. And they've never checked if my address is up to date, or if it matches on ID and documents.

Of course, one should get one's ID updated to reflect one's latest address. And then go visit all relevant offices to get your various documents updated and re-issued. But I don't think it's as urgent (or necessary) as it is elsewhere, so I'd suggest it's not something to get too stressed about.

Very True mate, i have a long term residence card, and upon entry to BG, no one is interested in seeing it..apart from Road borders and the pandemic..I always drive over, and last year was an exception as the Test wouldnt allow me to even get out of Germany let alone arrive in BG..So i flew..hopefully this year will be fine, as i have a new car on order, which wont be arriving until end of June..but i digress
2 yrs ago I arrived at the Calafat/Vidin frontier..after queuing for a bit, and declaring vi a medical form that i didnt have any related covid issues, was informed i had to turn back..hold on a minute..i told them i was a resident, and they duly asked for my residence card..and told me i would be allowed to proceed because of this.  so it is important you see, but only when irt suits..for in an airport, flash it infront of them and they ask for your GB passport..even though BG citizens can travel to the uk on an egernay passport..funny how we never seem to get a like for like in our deals.
I am eligible for Citizenship, as my wife is Bulgarian..but there is a language test..wifes or partners not allowed in the room..and it covered ion Bulgarian Language only..and seeing as i am not proficient enough..will have to continue to renew my Residence card, as and when..oh well.