Living in Romania

How to Immigrate to Romania if You’re Not an EU Citizen

If there’s one question that I get all of the time, it’s this: “I’m a US citizen – how do I immigrate to Romania?” I did publish an article covering all the steps required to get a residence permit with the official requirements, but first hand experience is even better, right?

So this article will cover immigrating to Romania as a non EU national. No matter if you’re coming from the US, Canada, Australia or any other non-EU country, this first-hand experience will surely help.

Do make sure to check out the linked article above for all the details and official requirements, but also read this one for a hands-on experience with the entire moving to Romania process.

This article was written by Kevin, who moved from the US to Brasov back in 2015 and is still there today, with no intention to leave.

In order to get his residence permit and be able to live in Romania long term, he decided to open a company since the other potential methods in his family’s case wouldn’t have worked.

(He and his wife are retired and since Romania doesn’t offer a retirement visa for non-EU citizens at the moment, the company route was the best for them).

And he’s going to share all the knowledge on this matter with us in an extremely helpful article that you can read below.

Brasov romania
Brasov – the city Kevin now calls home

Please note: this is based on his experience, which is still extremely helpful. Don’t forget to actually read the article I have linked to at the top, to explore all options and requirements for immigrating to Romania as a non-EU citizen.

Not being an EU citizen, trying to immigrate to Romania is definitely a challenge. The laws are not in our favor.

I believe it’s by design, because there are a lot of non-EU countries that Romania doesn’t really want immigrants from. The US, Canada, Australia, etc. just happen to be lumped in with those countries.

I’ll start with a disclaimer. The laws will be different next year than they are now.

They’ve already changed 3 times in the year and a half that we’ve lived here. There are national laws, county laws, and local laws that affect us in different ways. 

They’re sure to change again and make it more difficult or at least different than it has been. 

Each county and town has their own rules. So what’s true for Brasov may not be true for Bucharest. This adds stress to each time I reapply.

Maybe there won’t be a way to remain here. Knowing that we could possibly have to pack up and leave worries us.

The key to the entire process is to have a good lawyer you can trust. I’ve seen lawyers that cost a lot that I wouldn’t trust. I’ve seen lawyers that cost little that I would. My lawyer costs more than some, but less than others.

What I like is that she knows the people she has to deal with. They know her too. They trust her and work well with her.

Finding a lawyer like that was dumb luck. I’ve seen others that weren’t as lucky and had a lot of problems getting their permit. I’ve also seen people denied permits.

Every step that I will outline below requires a lot of documentation. All of this documentation will be in Romanian.

So you can expect a lot of trips to the translator. There are also a lot of notaries required. Those will also be in Romanian.

They will likely arrange a translator there for you unless you are fluent in Romanian.

The notary public in Romania is very different from the notary in the US. It’s a very high position here with a lot of rules. It’s a unique process that you have to experience before you know what to expect.

So the procedure for us, as I can best remember it, was this:

1. You have to live in Romania. You can’t open a company from afar. There are steps in the process that you can’t complete unless you’re there in person.

2. You have to have a rental contract registered. They can’t let you stay in the country if you don’t have a place to live. The only way they can verify that is with a registered contract.

Pick your place!

3. You have to name your company. It should be three words for the SRL. Using your family name as one of the words is a good option since there aren’t many Smiths or Jones here. After about three days you’ll have the SRL opened with the trade register.

4. You have to have a headquarters for your business. Most landlords will not allow you to use your rental address as they believe it will raise their taxes.

You may have to rent space somewhere. This is one of the trickiest steps (talk to your lawyer or accountant as they will have solutions for this – cheaper than actually renting extra space!)

5. You have to have a Romanian bank account. You must put capital into your company for each of the administrators.

6. There are tax filings that must be accomplished quarterly and annually to keep your company legal. This requires an accountant.

Get a good accountant that will electronically file your documents. You have to give them power of attorney for this, which requires another trip to the notary.

So now it’s time to work on your residency permit. As above, you have to be here and you have to have the registered rental contract for at least a year.

1. You have to have insurance to apply for residency. You will have to visit a private insurance company and get a contract for the year.

You can’t get the optional state insurance at this point (but you can switch to it after getting the permit).

2. You have to pay a lot of little taxes to a lot of little places. There is a long list of various amounts that must be paid to different agencies.

They will provide either stamps or signatures and stamps on documents you’ll need to apply.

3. You must visit a doctor. There is a small form they must sign and stamp saying that you don’t have any communicable diseases and are fit to stay in Romania.

4. You have to provide passport style pictures to the immigration office. They attach this to your package requesting your permit.

5. You have to have originals and copies of all your business documentation.

6. Usually, your lawyer will prepare all the documents that are required to apply for your permit, including the application itself.

7. Now it’s time to go to the immigration office at the police station. They will go through the entire application package and ask you a few minor questions. Then they will take your picture. This is the actual picture that will be on your permit.

8. After 30 days, your permit will be ready for pick up, but you’re not done yet.

9. Once you have your permit, you must pay into the Romanian social insurance for each family member over 18. This takes a few visits to a few offices to accomplish.

Any children under 18 will be allowed to stay for family unification. That means as long as you’re allowed to stay, they’re allowed to stay.

So the date on their permits will match yours, even though you had to wait to apply for theirs. Don’t be caught off-guard by this like we were.

We had to scramble to get the paperwork submitted on time for our son. If your child turns 18 while you’re living here, that creates an interesting situation.

It seems like there’s a hole in the laws. The permit will run until their 18th birthday only. There may be fines, deportation, or other issues with immigration because of this situation once they turn 18.

So the important question: how much does all this cost?

The short answer is a lot. There are variables each year. The lawyer and accountant you choose will impact how much it costs.

We set aside $6,000 each year to cover the expense of permits for two. We have been told that after 6 years of this cost, we can apply for long-term residency or citizenship.

So $36,000 later, we may get peace of mind in the knowledge that we can stay forever.

This is just how it worked for us, in Brasov. It surely works differently in other cities as their laws might be different – but it’s a great starting point when it comes to knowing what you have to go through and especially what the costs are for a non-EU person to immigrate here.

Have in mind, though, that these amounts are for those who choose to open a company to get the registration permit.

If you come here to study or you are employed, your costs will be much lower since you won’t need to spend on so many things (including accountants, lawyers and so on).

Make sure to also read the comments section of this article, as there are additional details from Kevin and other readers of our blog.

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17 Comments

  1. Calin/Kevin:
    Thank you for a very well-written article! You’ve listed everything one needs to do to obtain a residence permit via a “business route.” Certainly, it’s quite a tortuous route! (Makes me want to find a Romanian lady to marry–ha, ha!) There are A LOT of things you need to do during your first 90 day Visa. (I assume that is the Visa you had when you first came to Romania.) You must be a whirling dervish to have accomplished so much!;-)
    Kevin, I certainly hope you will eventually obtain permanent residence or citizenship so you won’t have to “jump through all the hoops,” forever. You have a nice website which shows you want to make Romania your home.
    For “open a company” (oac) step 4, do you think you could rent a postal box like at a UPS store (Romanian =) instead of a brick and mortar address. (I mean if it’s the latter, one ought to open a real business and actually hire people.) For oac step 5, what should one budget for bank account deposit(s)? Is there a minimum? Are you comfortable with Romanian banks and their security? For me, I will have to have my retirement income deposited there, I reckon.
    Ballpark, how much do you budget for (health?) insurance listed in residency step 1? Do you consider the “taxes” in residency step 2 as valid, or more of baksheesh?
    Are you picking up the language on a day-to-day basis, or are you going to an academy? Maybe, you’ll become so fluent, you’ll save some Lei on translators and lawyers.
    Do you feel safe meandering around Brasov at night? Obviously, there’s not much chance of being shot (as is so common in the USA) but what are some of the personal safety issues which concern you?
    Now that it’s warm, do you have a/c at your home? Do you have screens in your windows to prevent the moskies from bothering you? During the cold months, is your heating bill through the roof, or is it manageable?
    Are you able to navigate through the grocery shopping w/o too many surprises? (Maybe thinking you’re buying a tin of tuna, and ending up with a tin of octopus–Aargh!?!?)
    Sorry about so many questions, but you’re the first American I’ve “met” who has the first hand experience as an ex-pat in Romania.
    Uh, oh, does this mean another article…?;-)
    Thanks again!
    ~Teil (USA)

    1. Hi Teil,

      I went line by line to try to answer your questions.

      For “open a company” (oac) step 4, do you think you could rent a postal box like at a UPS store (Romanian =) instead of a brick and mortar address. (I mean if it’s the latter, one ought to open a real business and actually hire people.)
      A- There’s nothing like a UPS store here. There are no short cuts, and there is no easy way. You can find places that rent desks, but they charge a ton. There are countless ways to handle this step, but it’s really on you. Your lawyer should be able to help guide you on this.

      For oac step 5, what should one budget for bank account deposit(s)? Is there a minimum?
      A- Yes, there’s a minimum, but it wasn’t much for my type of company. I’m not sure, but I think the amount is tied to the type of company you’re opening.

      Are you comfortable with Romanian banks and their security?
      A- Yeah, no issues or worries.

      Ballpark, how much do you budget for (health?) insurance listed in residency step 1?
      A- It depends on which insurance agency you go with and the level of coverage you select. It cost us about 100 euros each for what we chose.

      Do you consider the “taxes” in residency step 2 as valid, or more of baksheesh?
      A- Everything is valid. They lay it all out in front of you so you know what you’re paying to where and for what. I haven’t dealt with anyone in any office situation that has tried anything under the table.

      Are you picking up the language on a day-to-day basis, or are you going to an academy?
      A- I pick it up from friends and tv.

      Do you feel safe meandering around Brasov at night?
      A- I never feel unsafe. My wife took our dog for a walk at 10:30 last night. My son didn’t come home until almost midnight. We have felt safe at all times here, although we’re more on guard during the day when there are more people out.

      Obviously, there’s not much chance of being shot (as is so common in the USA) but what are some of the personal safety issues which concern you?
      A- Nothing concerns me. My wife worries about cars though. Often you are forced to walk in the street because everyone parks on the sidewalks. The cars driving by don’t seem to care. They don’t slow down, so it feels like it’s on you to get out of the way.

      Now that it’s warm, do you have a/c at your home?
      A- No. There are a couple of really hot weeks later in the summer though.

      Do you have screens in your windows to prevent the moskies from bothering you?
      A- There are screens on most of our windows. There aren’t many mosquitoes here in Brasov though. It’s more for flies.

      During the cold months, is your heating bill through the roof, or is it manageable?
      A- It’s a lot higher in the winter, but the most I’ve ever paid is 650 lei. On average in winter (Oct-Mar) it’s around 300-400 lei.

      Are you able to navigate through the grocery shopping w/o too many surprises? (Maybe thinking you’re buying a tin of tuna, and ending up with a tin of octopus–Aargh!?!?)
      A- There have been some surprises. We try a lot of things though. We’re not sure what something is, so we’ll pick it up. When I really try to find something I just use emag, as I detailed here: http://www.brasovreviews.com/review-of-mega-image-ordered-via-emag/

    2. I have a few things to add as well:

      1. Regarding banks: most of the banks here are actually branches of large Banks in Europe. For example Banca Comerciala Romana, despite its name, is part of the Erste group in Germany. Also, all accounts have the EU warranty of getting the money back if something happens with the bank, but there’s a limit of 100,000 Euros.

      2. Regarding insurance: you don’t have to use the private insurance after getting residency and go with the much cheaper state insurance (although I wouldn’t really recommend that). You could also probably find something a bit cheaper in the private sector.

      3. Regarding heating costs, ours were similar to what Kevin paid during the winter. However, his family lives in a large house, while we live in an apartment. In theory, we should pay a lot less since we’re heating less space, but the methods used for heating make the difference. We have no other option than to go with the city-provided heating (which had big problems anyway last winter), while Kevin has the best heating option available in Romania right now – gas. This shouldn’t be a big issue since most cities offer this option, but it’s worth having it in mind when looking for places to live in. And definitely stay away from electrical heating as that would be a lot more expensive.

      1. We never used the private insurance that we had. We used the state insurance at a state hospital. It was a great experience for us even though we were going through something not so great.
        Once you get your permit you are required to pay into the state insurance each year. We haven’t even considered private insurance since. Other Americans here swear by the private hospital and pay that extra money each year.
        That’s good info on the banks. We didn’t know there was any guarantee.

  2. Wow, thanks Kevin for a very detailed outline of exactly what’s involved. It may be a tad more expensive ultimately than I was hoping for, but I’ve known from the beginning of my research that it wasn’t going to be easy or cheap to make Romania home. I also understand that some of these things are in flux, and will change somewhat, though this should give anyone, especially from the U.S., a pretty good idea of what to expect going forward. Teil has a good question, as I know here in the states, a lot of folks are able to use a P.O. box as a “business address” for mailing purposes, but not sure if that would fly in Romania for the purposes of showing as your “headquarters”. He had another good question as to what to expect to pay for health insurance. Regardless, this article was very helpful and a useful tool moving forward for any of us who are approaching that time to start making plans to start the process. Thanks Calin & Kevin for this article! JC

    1. Indeed, Kevin managed to offer a very clear view of the entire process. I am sure it will help many people willing or wishing to make the move. The $6,000 is for two people, not per person. I have edited the text to make it clear.

  3. Great info, Kevin! My immigration experience will be somewhat different, so any advice will be welcome. We’re boarding the plane for Bucharest four weeks from today. My “wife” of eleven years, a Romanian citizen, and I intend to get married shortly after we arrive and soon move to Brasov. I am now retired, officially a pensioner, and will be taking the Family Unification route in order to stay. In this situation, do you believe that an immigration attorney would required or advisable? As for the private health insurance, are the companies offering these services easy to find and comparison shop? I’m having a difficult time locating them from the States and want to make sure I choose wisely with regards to services and cost.

    1. You’ve got the easiest way to stay! Immigration of any kind is a daunting task though. You won’t need an attorney, but you may want one. Immigration will tell you what to do. Then they’ll surely forget a stamp or a form and you’ll have to go across town for it. Then they won’t be open by the time you make it back. Make sure that you’ve applied by the time you’ve been here for 60 days or there could be issues once your 90 day visa is up.

      Before you leave the US make sure you have copies of all important documents with an apostle from the state they were issued in. I have needed most of these documents, but not all. It’s way easier and quicker to get them while you’re in the US.

      As for insurance, once you’re here, just turn on a tv. The first commercial break will likely have two insurance commercials. The websites for these places aren’t usually based in Romania from what I’ve seen. So the only way to figure anything out is to go to an office. They’re literally everywhere.

  4. Thank you,I’ll moving to Romania around august,I’m from South Africa,I intend to stay a long time,if anyone knows any immigration lawyers please tell me

  5. Multumesc mult pentru informatie. Me and my husband lived in Ghimbav for 5 months. I absolutely love Romania and wish to return someday. I never felt more safe than there. Before returning to SA I had to withdraw our money at the atm and sometimes I even went to the atm alone at midnight and not even once worried about being robbed. I am sorry your wife had bad experiences with the cars in the streets but I found that if you cross at pedestrian crossi gs even where there’s not traffic lights you can just cross as the drivers get heavily find or their licence suspended for a period if they don’t stop. The language is a real challenge but like you said… you pick it up from friends and tv etc. What I also liked was the fantastic internet connections.

  6. I also came to Romania from the USA. I had no intention of going through the hassle or expense or time to establish or run a company.

    1. I recommend establishing a relationship with an established non-profit. I had a past relationship with a local high school and had some friends here. Once I arrived I put out the word that I needed a Volunteer Contract to establish my reason to remain. A teacher stepped up.
    2. I had to get a lease for an apartment.
    3. I had to have a document from a local doctor.
    4. The doctor recommended an insurance agent.
    5. I have a pension and I presented my W-4 from the past two years to show income.

    The taxes/fees to the immigration office is a couple hundred per year. Add rent and living expenses and insurance which I would need where ever I lived. The biggest hassles were running back and forth between offices and that no one had ever dealt with an American before so they were a bit confused.
    You must fill out the forms, have a current volunteer contract, and pay the fees each year. My first contract was with a high school, the second with the library, the third with a children’s literacy group. My work was teaching English.
    I don’t intend to go back to the States.

  7. Ahh… In a perfect world, we could live wherever we want.

    Some people aren’t cut out to be volunteers. Some (me) are older, and just want to enjoy what’s left
    of their time on this planet. (Which means no workies and no volunteering–unless it’s to save a life,
    or to do something ad hoc, if the need arises.)

    So on that gracious note… and forgive my not knowing how to set up a “company” in name only.
    Not being a Jeff Bezos, or an Elon Musk, I DON’T have it in my DNA, to set up a successful company in
    Romania. I would need to set up a business which doesn’t do any business. (Makes a lot of sense, eh?)
    If one has set up such a company, how does one provide “receipts” to those entities (bureaucrats, I guess)
    which ask for them? I just don’t understand how the so-called business can work to provide a reason for
    being in Romania.

    I don’t want to ever do anything illegal, so I would want to make sure whatever I set up as a rationale for being
    in Romania is legal and “righteous.”

    Any info., specifically the set-up of a “business,” would be most appreciated.

    Thanks for this blog!

    1. I think we were on the right track to building a world where anybody can live anywhere… but then 2020 came :))

      Regarding the business, until very recently (and it might still be valid) all you needed was to set up the company – even without real activity, you still had to pay some taxes and it just worked. We don’t know for sure if the officials want you to actually have some sort of activity or that was just an exception.

      You could still set up a consulting business – for people interesting in making the move to Romania – and only have one client per year.

      1. Hmm… I wonder if there’s anybody you’d know who’d like to be my consulting client?;-)
        Maybe Biggie would be interested?;-)

        1. Maybe Biggie could set me up in Romania, and he’d be rewarded with doggie treats for life!!!
          Bow wow!;-) (NOT the rapper!;-)

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