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…
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.
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!
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?