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How I Obtained Residency in a European Country

Castle in Romania
According to official Romanian immigration law, citizens of most countries are allowed to visit and stay in Romania for no more than 90 days in any 180 day period of time. So once you’ve spent 90 days in this country, you must then remain outside the country for 90 days before being able to return.

However, as of yesterday, I’ve now spent over 140 days in Romania since the end of December 2011, coming and going as I please. And I haven’t broken any laws whatsoever. It’s all been 100% legal and it’s all thanks to this…

Residency Visa, Romania

Yes, several months ago I obtained temporary residency in Romania. Now I am able to stay, and to come and go, as much as I want for up to one year. And at the end of the year, I can renew my residency as well.

How did I manage to get this temporary residency visa?

Did I get a job in Romania? Nope.

Am I studying here? No.

Am I in the Peace Corps or working for some other volunteer organization? No I am not.

Am I marrying a local woman? Nope. Not yet anyway.

So again, how did I, an ordinary traveler, manage to obtain residency in a country where I don’t have any connections, where I don’t speak the language and where I am not working, studying or volunteering?

The answer lies in my favorite word – creativity.

It All Started as a Joke

While eating dinner with a Romanian friend back in March, we started to joke about my sudden addiction to this country. At one point, she mentioned that I should just get residency considering how much I like to be here and we shared a good laugh at that suggestion.

However, the next day, I started to think about what she said. I realized that if I had residency here, I wouldn’t have to worry about visas at all and I could actually have an official base in Europe. That possibility was more than enough to convince me to head down to the main immigration office in Bucharest right away.

After waiting in line for thirty minutes, I was given a piece of paper that explained the seven categories of temporary residency visas and I was told by the clerk behind the counter that if I can fit into one of those categories, I can apply.

But since I didn’t have a job offer or a volunteer stint lined up and I wasn’t about to enroll in a local university course, and I didn’t have any family living in Romania and I wasn’t claiming to be a refugee, the only category left was category #7 – “Other”.

At first that seemed a bit disappointing but I soon realized that “Other” is actually a great category. It could be anything. All I needed to do was find a reasonably realistic reason to remain in this country and I could apply under the “Other” category.

The Visa Process

The following two weeks were interesting. It all began when my mom, out of nowhere, happened to email me one day upon discovering that a great-great-grandfather of mine was actually born in Romania. My mom even forwarded me the early 20th century US census sheet she found online that proved this fact.

What timing! Let me tell you…I was mighty excited at this discovery and, with the census sheet in hand, I practically ran over to the immigration office.

Unfortunately, once there, the woman behind the counter laughed at me when I told her I was a travel blogger who wanted to stay in Romania for more than 90 days in order to travel around the country, tracking down my family roots and writing about it on my blog. She told me that wasn’t going to work. But before I walked away, she also suggested that I set up an audience with the head of immigration to discuss my situation.

Census Sheet

The following day, there I sat in a large, sparse room across the table from two senior immigration officials. Well, they too laughed at me when I told them about finding my family roots and writing about the journey on my site, even though I mentioned several times that I would be promoting Romania as a result.

They also said that wasn’t a good enough reason but, instead of telling me to leave, the immigration officials asked me some questions and after discussing among themselves for a few minutes, they gave me a possible solution. They told me that I could find an organization to partner with, an organization that would be willing to sponsor me in exchange for me writing about them on my blog. If I could do this, I could obtain residency.

Shaking their hands several times, I left the room and immediately started contacting everyone I knew in Romania. This was actually only three people, so I had to kindly ask these three people to please contact everyone they knew as well in order to try and find an organization that would be open to a partnership.

Amazingly, a few days later, a friend of a friend informed me that he knew of someone from his hometown who works with a local NGO aimed at promoting sustainable tourism in Romania. And just like that, after a couple of conversations, I agreed to help spread the message of this NGO and to promote their projects online in exchange for a sponsorship.

We created and signed a contract and back to the immigration office I went, where I handed over my folder containing the residency application form, a health certificate (which I got in 10 minutes at a local clinic here), the receipt for the residency visa fee and a couple of other forms I needed to fill out. Then the woman took my photo and simply told me to come back in thirty days.

Thirty days later I walked into the immigration office once again and a few minutes later I walked back out with an official Temporary Residency Card in hand. Success!

Carpathian Mountains, Romania

And now I can stay in this beautiful country for as much as I want for one year. I’m a temporary resident of Romania, a country that offers an excellent standard of living at a very attractive cost, with friendly people all around, wonderful food, mountains, the Black Sea coast and endless other regions to explore, high quality wi-fi (helps with work!) and a location that is perfect for exploring Eastern Europe, while being able to fly anywhere in the world from nearby Istanbul. I decided to live in Bucharest and I couldn’t be happier.

Is It Really Possible?

I know you might be thinking that it was easier for me to get the residency visa because I have this blog. However, I could have done the exact same thing above without a blog, creating a partnership in which I would write articles about the NGO and submit them to online publications or I could have offered to assist with their social media efforts. I could have found any local company or organization and tried to use my skills/knowledge/interests to work out a mutually beneficial partnership.

Of course, if you do have a website or any kind of online presence at all, you can certainly use that to your advantage. And in the end, if you do work online in any capacity your chances of obtaining residency will be higher as it shows that not only do you have sufficient income to support yourself but you won’t be taking away local jobs.

Either way, it all comes down to creativity. Think outside the box and the possibilities are endless.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as well…

If you find a country where you want to stay/live beyond the usual tourist visa restrictions, the first thing you should always do is go down to the immigration office and learn the rules. Find out the steps you need to apply for a residency visa, what categories are available and exactly what is required for each category. Asking these questions in person is far better than trying to interpret information on a website.

Then start brainstorming until you figure out a way for you to enter into a partnership with someone or some company or organization. If there is an “Other” category available, that very well could be your best bet as it will be much more difficult to obtain residency in categories that require employment or volunteer contracts or proof of university enrollment.

Finally, try to make an appointment to speak with the immigration officials before you apply for residency, even if this is not routine in whatever country you’re seeking residency in. Explain that you have a unique situation that doesn’t fit into the normal categories and before you apply and pay the application fee, you want to ask some questions. Then, during your appointment, be sure to mention that with your situation you’ll just be spending money in the local economy without taking jobs and without relying on government benefits or assistance. And don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. If anyone knows what is required for you to obtain residency, it’s going to be the immigration officers, so try and get them to give you as much information as possible. You never know, they might be willing to help you out and give you some ideas, just as the officials were willing to do for me here in Romania.

The bottom line is that if you wish to have a foreign base without having to worry about the validity of tourist visas all the time, residency is the way to go. Of course, the above is not going to work every time or everywhere and it might not even work the majority of the time either, but if it does work, and you establish temporary residency somewhere, life as a long-term traveler certainly becomes so much easier.


Do you have residency or have you thought about obtaining residency in a foreign country? Have you tried to get residency? Any tips to share?

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109 Responses to How I Obtained Residency in a European Country

  1. shafiul says:

    Hi I’m studying in Moldova , I’m citizen of Bangladesh, now I want to know that can I come I Romania without visa you know Moldovan economic situation is now in crisis, for this reason I want move to Romania permanently, could you help me please. I will wait for your reply.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Shafiul – I’m not sure how it works in your situation unfortunately. I only know how I did it based on my own circumstances.

  2. charlotte says:

    hi, …i thought maybe u could give me some advise?…, i am also british and i have a romanian boyfriend. i am thinking of relocating to romania in about a years time…when you moved to romania did you have to get a visa/permit to live there permanently? how does all that stuff work exactly.i have been having a look online but as we are not married i was wondering if i need any kind of paperwork etc. also i read that as i have an EU passport we have the right to reside in any EU country but then i have also read that i can only remain in the country for 90 days at a time. please, any advice would be greatly appreciated ,thank you

  3. Sim says:

    Hi Earl,

    many thanks for your quick answer. The application must be done once in Bucharest right?

    Thanks,
    S.

  4. Sim says:

    Hi Earl, I’m Italian and I’ll be moving to Bucharest for job in June as I got a 3 years contract with a Romanian Company. My gf is american and would love to join me in Romania but the problem is getting a VISA. She told me nobody would hire her if she doesnt have a VISA beforehand so my last chance is to marry her within the first 90 days of her stay but I’m not sure either if it is a viable solution.

    Please if you have any advices share them with me…

    Bye S.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Sim – I’m not too sure how that works unfortunately but your GF could try to apply for the temporary residency permit based on the fact that you are a couple and you have a job there. It really doesn’t take much to get that permit, all she needs is a decent reason. Getting a work visa is much different and much harder to get though. The temporary residency permit does not allow her to work, only to live and stay in Romania for 1 year (it can be renewed each year). To get a job in Romania though, that’s a different thing and I’m not sure how to make that happen over there.

  5. jia says:

    Hi earl. I want to know is it possible for a indian to come to romania? And get the residency here?

  6. Mo says:

    hi Earl i loved your journey! ok my question is im a student here in craiova romania and i have US passport i been here for more then 6 months and i didnt make the permit and im gonna leave the country for emergency would they let me out? am i gonna have any problem? thank you

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Mo – I’m not sure what the rules are for student visas. It depends on how long you’re allowed to stay in Romania on a student visa.

  7. Bando says:

    Hi Earl, It’s really nice of you to share your experience, specially your positive attitude. It deserves appreciation. One thing intrigues me, may be some other EU countries offer better options for temp. residency permit. Why don’t you throw light in that arena too? Moreover, if someone is ready to offer recognised professional services at No/Low cost, will be it be at par with other requirements to get the permit?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Bando – The reason I can’t shed light on that is because I have no idea :) I only know how it worked for me in Romania as I’ve never tried it in other EU countries.

  8. esha says:

    hi so i would have to find a job or a school to get a residency permit other than 90 days us passport? since staying at a family or a boyfriends house is not enough as long as i have financial fund to afford for a year?

  9. Raleen says:

    Hey Earl nice article! I was wondering how do you travel to EU/Schengen states with your temporary residence visa? I ask because I too have Romanian temporary residency but I am a passport holder of South African Nationality. I find it annoying that i can’t travel to Hungary which is basically neigbours to the West of Romania, more specifically Oradea, Debrecen.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Raleen – For me, I don’t need the Romanian residency visa to travel to Europe…I just use my US passport which allows me to travel to the EU/Schengen area.

  10. Torey says:

    Hey Earl – what did you do for money during this time? Was it saved up for the trip/residency? Thanks

  11. esha says:

    Hi, Is it possible to apply for a temporary residence permit with a good reason by saying that I will be staying at a boyfriend’s house and enough money to support myself financially?

  12. esha says:

    I wanted to know, I’ll be staying for 90 days or more, I’m a US citizen and have a passport. Do i need to go to a nearest embassy in California to apply for a romanian visa, or it’s easier to apply in Romanian Immigration Office, with a temporary residence permit?

    I’m staying over 90 days within 180 days but i only will make 60 days, and still have 30 days left but it’s more than 180 days allowance. How can I get this properly done?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Esha – You cannot apply for the residency from the USA. You need to apply at the immigration office in Bucharest.

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  14. Ian says:

    Hey Earl, thanks for a great article that gives me hope. I actually have family in Romania so that should help. My question is, now that you have the Romanian residency card, are you allowed to travel through all the EU countries without a visa the same as a Romanian citizen? Does that card change your status for other EU countries or is it still based on your US citizenship when it comes to EU travel?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Ian – The temporary residency does not change anything but after having this for a couple of years, you can apply for permanent residency, which does change your status in EU.

  15. James says:

    Great story of creativity! And, I share your love of Romania, totally awesome place. But Bucharest? Probably the worst city I’ve visited in Europe, or most overrated at least.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Most people who visit Bucharest don’t like it, but those who stick around longer tend to love it. It’s actually quite a great city once you discover all it has to offer but that does take some time.

  16. Sarah P says:

    Earl, thank you very much for your post. It is a real help to many of us in a similar situation.

    I wonder if you can offer a couple of points about what is required for the Romanian partner organisation in terms of sponsorship? Is it a financial one, or do they have to act as a guarantor?

    I’d love to start organising this discussion, but any points or tips as to what was required would be a great help for a happy reader!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Sarah – It cannot be a financial deal. If money is exchanged, then it is considered work and you would have to apply for a work visa, which is very difficult to get. So you have to exchange some non-monetary service for some other non-monetary service in order for it to work. There is no need for a guarantor. You are just trying to prove that you have a situation that requires you to stay in the country for more than the allowed 90 days with a tourist visa. Hope that helps!

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