Castle in Romania

How I Obtained Residency in a European Country

Derek "How To" Travel Guides, Travel Tips & Advice 150 Comments

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 in a European Country - 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 in a European country?

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.

Residency in a European Country - 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 actually obtain residency in a European country.

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!

Residency in a European Country - 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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Comments 150

  1. Sam

    Hey Earl,

    Its an amazing journey you had, thanks for the share 🙂
    I will be going to romania soon for educational purposes, my course will take 6 to 7 years to complete including the language year.
    Can I apply for permanent residency after 3 years as you mentioned? even though I am a student?

    1. Post

      Hey Sam – From what I know, you need to first apply for temporary residency. Once you have that for 3 years, then you can apply for permanent residency if you fit into one of the categories. I don’t think being a student is one of the categories though. You will probably just remain on a student/temporary residency visa the whole time but I can’t say for sure.

  2. David Bernazani

    Nice blog, Earl. You’ve given a lot of people hope.
    I’m an American, lucky enough to be married to a Romanian, and we plan to retire there in a few years. But for a long time I searched for a way to live in Europe, my favorite continent. Your blog offers some good information for those trying to get there without big money or fancy degrees. Thanks, man.

    P. S. You can read how I met my wife in Sibiu and my thoughts on Romania in my travel blog, Dave Europe.
    Note: it’s rather long, almost a year of travel around the world, so you’ll have to do some scrolling to get to the Romania parts.

    1. Bryan Nnamdi

      Hey David read your post and it looks like we share few things in common as a traveler…Europe is also my dream continent to retire as an Electrical Engineer meanwhile Romania got me interested that I would love to get married and settle down with a Romanian lady.
      It will fill my heart to share in the fantasy of the Romanian culture and lifestyle. I will be glad to exchange contacts with. Thanks in anticipation
      And thanks to you Earl I love what you doing… God bless you.

  3. David Bernazani

    Fay, be careful about staying past your legal time frame. You do not want to break any laws in Romania, trust me.

  4. Fay


    This post was pretty helpful! I am an American applying to school in Bucharest. I have been there multiple times before and know this is a place where I feel at home. If I am accepted in June then great- no worries. However, if I don’t get accepted I still plan on going there and staying past the 90 day limit. I would not work but instead live on my own or with my best friend who also goes to school in Bucharest. My only valid reason to stay would be to do volunteer work, learn Romanian, and wait to apply to school again. I know you only know from personal experience but do you think this reason could be valid if justified well? I have no experience with obtaining visas or residencies.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Fay – They’ve become a little stricter and those kind of general reasons won’t be accepted as valid reasons for a long-term visa. You really need to fit into one of the defined categories (studying, working, volunteering with an NGO on a contract-basis, etc.). The main way to do it would be to enroll in a language school to learn Romanian. Then you can apply as a student although you will need to show proof that you continue with the studies.

      1. iomada

        Hi Earl, we have an American friend currently in his first 90 days of stay in Romania. As per current regulations he did not require a visa to enter the country as a tourist but he must leave in 90 days.
        He was hoping to get residency here during these 90 days. When calling the immigration office they said that he must have first a visa (for volunteering, study etc.) and then he can apply for residency. You mention visa and residency in your article and actually they seem to be 2 different things in Romania. your resindency ID .. clarifies you went through the process end to end. So retroactively.. when you first entered Romania – did you have a visa..? did you need your visa from Romanian Consulate in US (or another country) in order to build on that .. the paper work for permis de sedere – residency?

        1. Wandering Earl

          Hey Iomada – I didn’t have a visa when I entered Romania and you can get a residency visa even if you don’t have a visa when you entered. Many people I know have done this and that’s how I did it as well.

        2. Seth

          Hello Iomada – I think there was a issue with terminology. What the immigration office is talking about residency – that is when you get a normal 5 or 10 year Romanian ID (Bulletin). Foreigners can get this if they have been living in RO for 5 years (some absence is allowed), you meet certain conditions, and can read/write Romanian at a satisfactory level. The permis de sedare is a one year visa for staying in RO beyond the allowed 90 days every 180 days. I hope this explains the difference. And as Earl stated, Americans can come to RO under a 90 day travel visa and 30 days before this visa expires can apply under various provisions to get a one year visa/Permis de Sedare.

  5. timmy

    Hello Earl, Thanks for your great contributions. Please let me know few benefits of having permanent residency in Romania in terms of travelling to other european countires as you claimed that it is possible after many years.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Timmy – Those benefits would kick in once you get permanent residency or citizenship. It does take many years to reach that point though.

      1. Tom

        Hi, if I have a 12 day European or even Czech Republic visa what can I do to avoid deportation after my time is up. I don’t know if you are going to respond but I really have no one to ask. Thanks in case you answer — I may not have much time —

  6. Jean

    with your temporary visa, do you think that you’d be able to become a permanent resident, and then eventually into a citizen?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jean – The way it works is that after renewing the temporary residency visa for three years, you can apply for permanent residency. And then I think you have to wait 5 or 7 years before you can apply for citizenship.

      1. Andrew

        Romania is actually a relatively easy country to become naturalized in, particularly if you’re a US citizen. They love Americans considering much of Bucharest seems like it IS in the United States.

        It’s also an easy country to get residency in by starting a business; much cheaper than Belgium for instance.

  7. mary B

    Hi Earl. Thanks for your information. Very helpfull.
    You said you created and signed a contract with the NGO you found. What kind of contract was it? Did they pay you the minimum wage sallary requiered for you to be able to get ur permit to stay? Because i know that s one of the criteria requiered. And what about the place you re staying.. is it enough to live in a romanian s home or do you need a rent no matter what? Many thanks!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mary – The idea with the NGO route is that you are not getting paid but instead, there is an exchange of services. If they pay you, then you need to apply for an employment visa which is harder to get. With that said, it’s getting a bit more difficult to get the residency visa these days and so you might need to start a shell company instead in order to get the permit.

  8. Sam

    Hi gentleman,
    Is there any benefits for non Europeans with Romanian residence outside Romania,? Eg; If you are on a visit to other European countries.
    Please explain.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sam – At the moment, no, it doesn’t help you with the Schengen Zone unfortunately. If Romania makes it into the Schengen Zone, that it could change.

  9. Cesar


    I am from Los Angeles, and wanting to move to Europe also. I have an Associate’s degree in Sociology from a community college. I am currently receiving disability pension from the military. I get $750 monthly from disability pension. Will it be possible to move to Europe and gain a residence visa?

  10. ash

    Funny story.
    Just a quick question; i’m assuming this allowed you to work legally within Romania.
    I’ve noticed that Romania is the outsourcing centre for IT work within Europe; so there are a lot of jobs there. However, what I don’t know is the employers attitude towards sponsoring Visas of foreigners. (Non EU citizens) … Wondering if you had any experience with this?

    1. Seth Y.

      Ash, well your assumption is not correct. You would have to get a separate work visa to legally work in RO. From what I understand, it is not an easy process. Your employer would have to show that they tried to advertise the position and there was no qualified applicant who is either from RO or within the EU. I’m sure there are other websites that describes the process. If you own your own company, you may be able to avoid obtaining a work permit if you are performing consulting work for IT companies. Just a thought and this would first need to be researched further.

      Good luck.

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  12. Don

    I presently live in Belgium and work in France. I suggest you try searching for teaching jobs in Belgium. I saw a handful of English Teaching jobs and I know the pay is good. There could be other opportunities but I do know of the Language Jobs.
    Hope this helps!

  13. Nella

    Hi Earl,
    Thank you for sharing this with us. Im 22 and writing from Mauritius and recently completed a Bachelor Degree in law from a british University Branch Mauritius and i would like to move to France or the UK (including Ireland) to work. I also possessed a Secondary Teaching Certificate for English and French subject. Do i have any chance?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Nella – I’m not too sure actually. I just don’t know enough about France’s or the UK’s immigration rules to tell you your chances. I only know what happened with me here in Romania.

  14. Miraj

    i live in bangladesh but my GF living in Romania.
    And we want to marry now..
    what is the procedure???
    How we can marry

  15. Monica

    hi earl. im a 21 indonesian whos currently completing my bachelor. hopefully ill be finished in a year or so. id really want to move to europe, basically any country. ive tried to find scholarships but so far none available, dont have a job, etc. do u know any way i could move to europe? im clueless and desperate. thanks

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Monica – That’s hard for me to say as there are so many factors involved. The thing is, first decide on where you want to go and why and then start researching ways to legally make it happen. It’s much easier to achieve something once you’ve narrowed it down instead of having a broad goal of ‘move to europe’. Once you narrow things down, you can find real information to help you achieve your goal.

  16. Johnny Saye

    Hey Earl.

    I’m a young American dreamer/traveler playing pro soccer in Brazil. I really want to ply my trade and my love of travel in Europe. Was it that simple to work out a partnership? I have a degree in journalism and alis blog (with no following as of yet), but as I sit here in Brasilia with my options looking grim here, was just hungry for information and opportunity…
    Thanks for any help.


    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Johnny – In the end, it just takes some networking. If you are here in Bucharest, you can go to some cafes, start talking to people, join some meetup groups and before you know it, you’ll have a network of friends. And then, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to create a partnership with someone…there are plenty of people who have already made it happen!

  17. shafiul

    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.

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

  18. charlotte

    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

  19. Sim

    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.

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

  20. Mo

    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

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

  21. Bando

    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?

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

  22. esha

    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?

  23. Raleen

    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.

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

      1. Seth Y.

        Hello Raleen and Earl.

        I read your reply Earl and you should have your Romanian Temporary Residency Card when you travel outside of Romania. Usually, if you have stayed in the Schengen Area for more than 90 days out of last 180 days, you need to prove that you didn’t overstay and that is done by showing your RO Card. Although RO and Bulgaria are not part of the Schengen Area, starting in 2014 stays in RO and Bulgaria are included in the 90/180 days for Schengen visits. If you can’t show your card or they can’t easily look you up in the computer system, you may have to pay a fine and/or get clearance from the appropriate authorities that may delay your trip. It’s better to know this to prevent issues.

        Enjoy your travels!!!

  24. esha

    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?

  25. esha

    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?

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  27. Ian

    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?

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

  28. James

    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.

    1. Wandering Earl

      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.

  29. Sarah P

    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!

    1. Wandering Earl

      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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