An Exhaustive Guide to Immigration in Romania and the Republic of Moldova

Word Count: 3487

Note: What follows is an extremely detailed analysis of immigration laws and practices in Romania and RM. If you’re just a simple tourist from a rich country, you can skip this entire article. All you need to know is you can enter Romania/RM without a visa, stay up to 90 days, leave for 90 days, and come back and get another 90 days, repeating this cycle ad infinitum. It’s a silly and stupid law, but you don’t need to know anything else if that’s all you’re interested in doing. Use AirBNB or another service, rent an apartment for 3 months, and you’re set.

Well folks, although the paperwork isn’t finished, I’ll have both my immigration cases in Romania and RM wrapped up within a month, and be free to live and travel in either country. I’ve learned a lot since my first encounter with those immigration devils in Cluj, and been through hell and back, shaken down for bribes, and had rampaging journalists tilt the scales of justice against me. I also learned a whole lot about my Romanian case that I didn’t know before, and I’ve also served as my own lawyer here in RM, so what follows is a heck of a lot of information learned from (literally!) trial and error.

First things first – Romania and RM both inherited a legal system based on the Napoleonic code, which itself was a reform of the old Roman system. This is totally different than the British (and American) system, especially in one key aspect – the British system is designed to evolve based on precedent, while the Napoleonic system never evolves, and thus gets supremely cluttered with crap over time.

I’ve been writing about the complete lack of transparency in the Romanian system for a long friggin’ time, and nobody really wants to hear it. That’s fine. But the British system is designed to be transparent by its nature (which is how it evolves) while the Napoleonic system is designed to be opaque by its nature. Thus, despite consulting with at least nine different law firms in the two countries, and speaking to “experts” in the field of immigration law, I can promise you that nobody knows what the fuck is going on, not really.

Note: if you’re a person seeking asylum, not an immigrant, then you probably know the current situation is pretty grim at the moment, and there are a whole host of different laws and rules in place, so none of what I’m saying deals with that.

Okay, so both countries have a MAI, or a “Interior Ministry”, which is sort of like a federal law enforcement division of the government. This MAI is divided into numerous subsections, and the two that deal with immigration are the Border Police (Politia de Frontiera) and the Immigration Department, known as “Migration and Asylum” in RM (because there are only “migrants” in RM and never any immigrants, as in people who want to live here permanently!). Both the Border Police and Migration/Immigration Departments are divisions of MAI, but totally separate agencies, and never communicate with one another or work together. That’s key to understand.

Assuming you cross into Romania/RM legally (you’ll get a stamp in your passport), that is handled exclusively by the Border Police. Unless their computers flag your name, or Interpol has an arrest warrant for you or something, you’ll enter the country in five seconds and be on your merry way. The Border Police then immediately forget about you, and don’t give a shit what you do, or where you go, until and unless(*) you cross back through one of their crossings. Then they look to see if you exceeded your 90 days, and if so, they can either a) give you a small fine b) ban you from returning for X number of days/months/year or c) do nothing.

* – It is incredibly easy to leave/enter either country without crossing through an official checkpoint. Romania has a wide open border with Hungary to the west, and RM has no control whatsoever over their entire eastern border with Transnistria/Ukraine.

Depending on who you are, not WHAT you did, the Border Police will make their decision. If you’re a gypsy, or from a high status country, and crossing a small land border, they’re usually going to do (c), which is nothing. Or they might charge you a small fine and give you a stern lecture. Only if you’re exceedingly egregious in your violation of the 90 days (like years overdue) or leaving from an airport in the capital (**) will they go through the trouble of filling out the paperwork to ban you for a certain amount of time.

** – The reason why the capital airport is different is because it is the Immigration/Migration Dept that bans you, not the Border Police, and the Immigration office is just next door at the airport in the capital city of either country.

So, who wants to immigrate to Romania/RM?
So, who wants to immigrate to Romania/RM?

Once you’re inside the country, then you fall under the jurisdiction of the Immigration/Migration devils. I say “devils” because that’s what they are. They regularly extort bribes, yell at, mistreat, abuse, and otherwise take advantage of people “foolish” enough to want to stay in the country beyond 90 days. Since immigrants don’t vote, and rarely speak Romanian (or Russian), it’s super easy to bend the rules and treat people like shit.

If you are a clean and upstanding person who follows every rule, you then need to apply to the Immigration devils for a residency permit, known as permis de sedere in Romanian. The rules and paperwork for how to apply for these changes, but what I can tell you without a doubt is that it changes every day, and changes depending on who is working that day. I’ve personally known dozens of cases where a foreigner applied one day, was told their paperwork wasn’t sufficient, and then waited until another day to speak to a different officer with the same paperwork, and everything was fine.

If your paperwork/bribe gets accepted, then you’ll receive the residency permit, and you can show that to the Border Police when you leave/re-enter, and all will be fine. That’s what most foreigners do, and if that’s your situation, awesome for you. I’m writing this article today for all the foreigners who fall afoul of the Immigration devils in one way or another, so that you know what will happen and what your rights are.

First, you’ll discover that you are somehow in violation of your 90 days or residency permit requirements. You will probably panic, and think it’s game over. Or maybe you’ll hire a lawyer (or a team of them) and find out it doesn’t matter anyway. If you do want to stay, and want to WIN, then you best listen to me.

It is critical to understand that the Immigration devils will always lie. Always. I’ve yet to hear them utter one word of truth. You’ll be lucky if they even tell you their real name (they lied to me about that too). They’ll tell you there’s a “big file” on you. Lie. They’ll tell you that they’ve been monitoring you. Another lie. They’ll tell you that you have to sign paperwork, or can’t speak to a lawyer, or can’t even go to the bathroom. All fucking lies.

What you need to know is to beware the Proces Verbal. Despite the word “verbal” in there, the term comes from French, and refers to a written statement. Romanians/Moldovans are friggin’ obsessed with the Proces Verbal, and apparently can’t even get dressed in the morning without a P-V. They will yell at you and bully you into signing one, or writing one (if you speak Romanian). This is a huge mistake! Do not do it. Tell them you’re illiterate if you have to, but never ever sign or write a P-V without a lawyer present, and even then I wouldn’t do it.

The P-V is, in effect, an admission of guilt (to something). It’s a sworn statement, and once you put your signature on it, nobody will give a shit if you didn’t understand it, or were pressured into signing it. All they will care about is that you signed it. And what it will say, inevitably, is that you admit that you’ve overstayed your “legal” period of residency/visitation to the country, and so now you’ve admitted that you’re a criminal. Even if it doesn’t quite say that, trust me, they’ll add that on later when you’re not in the room (as they did to me in Moldova) and, again, it doesn’t matter that it was obviously added later with a different colored pen. All they need is a P-V with your signature on it and they’ll put whatever the fee fiddly fudge on there that they want to.

I’ll just add here that the P-V is a pre-printed form that the officers fill out, and it is full of obtuse legal language and obscure verbs that even the officers themselves can’t understand. I had a belly laugh (on the inside) at one of my Immigration hearings in RM listening to those stupid devils try to read those words out loud and obviously not understand what it meant.

As soon as they force you to sign the P-V, now you’re screwed because they will immediately (or the following day) write a Deportation Order against you, known as a Decizie de Returnare (literally “Decision to Return”), giving you 15 days to get out. If you leave on your own power, then your punishment/ban is reduced by half, and if you don’t leave, then they’ll tell you a lie and say that they’re going to forcibly deport you.

This is where I got confused last year. Yes, I mistakenly signed the P-V, but then they let me go home, so I thought I might be treated fairly. I got the Deportation Order, and it says (in both countries), that you have the right to appeal the order, and that’s true. But what happens when you appeal it is the dirty secret.

First, you have to find out where to appeal it. That is an incredibly daunting task unto itself. I could write a book about the run-around that I got in RM when trying to find out just where and how to appeal it. In Cluj, I had a team of lawyers, so they did that part for me. In RM, I decided to go “Daniel Boone” style and represent myself as my own lawyer, and guess what? Yes, you can do that. Of course nobody wants you to do it (not hire a lawyer), but it is perfectly within your rights to do so.

So… you’ve filed the appeal, and then you think that the Deportation Order is “frozen” until a judge rules on your appeal. You’ll think this because that’s what your lawyer will tell you. I know because at least five different lawyers in the two countries told me that, and they all believed it to be true. It is NOT true.

Here’s what actually happens – your appeal is filed with the court, and will be assigned to a judge, and you’ll get a hearing date, and you can prepare for that (assuming nobody is sabotaging your case), and it’s all nice and dandy but it puts absolutely no restrictions on the Immigration devils at all. Nothing is “frozen” or “suspended” in their eyes! They do not give a shit who you appeal to, or even what a judge rules (or doesn’t rule).

That’s because the Immigration devils are, essentially, completely independent and do whatever they want. They can deport you the minute you sign your P-V if they want to. Or they can grab you on your way into the courthouse and deport you. They can come get you at 4:00 in the morning if they want, and nobody will stop them***. They don’t even always recognize the jurisdiction of the court to even rule on the issue at all (in Romania they did, in RM they didn’t). They’re a separate force, wild and crazy.

*** – Here’s the key though – even with a valid, uncontested, totally incontrovertible Deportation Order, it’s still not legal to arrest you and deport you. Yep. That’s what I didn’t understand about my case last year until just recently. The paperwork can be solid gold and yet still they don’t have the power to arrest you. What’s the difference?

Arrest means that a judge signs a warrant to arrest you, which will not happen unless you’re a terrorist. What the Immigration guys CAN do is trick you into giving yourself over to their custody. Last year, I couldn’t figure out why, if I was so “guilty”, that they didn’t just come to my house and get me. Why did they grab me on the street? Well, they didn’t ACTUALLY grab me. They surrounded me and told me to get in their car. That was my mistake. If I had said “no” or just took off and run, there’s not a damn thing they could’ve done. All they CAN do is take a person in their custody (you enter their office/car) and deport them. They CANNOT come and arrest you, chase you, grab you, etc, unless you’re an international terrorist and a judge issued a warrant against you.

So that’s the first tricky part, which is to understand that the Immigration devils just make up their own paperwork (the Deportation Order), and can’t do anything with it except extort you for a bribe and/or scare you. It’s still effective though, as they got me last year, but this year it didn’t work, and I walked right into their office in Chisinau after my “valid” Deportation Order had expired, and the devils didn’t do shit.

If you really want to leave the country and not mess with these Immigration devils after you’ve received a Deportation Order, just head for a small land border and then you’ll be dealing solely with the Border Police, who don’t give a crap about you, and are most likely to just let you go or give you a small fine. Trust me, they have NO IDEA what paperwork or “orders” the Immigration Department have issued.

But let’s imagine you’re foolish enough that you want to stay even AFTER the Immigration devils write their Deportation Order. Assuming you get your paperwork filed in time (the court system is incredibly byzantine and difficult to understand), and make it past all the delays and other mumbo jumbo, eventually a judge will hear your case. Then, supposedly, the judge will make a ruling***, either “validating” the Deportation Order or else invalidating it.

**** – In my Romanian case, the judge never did either. We just “heard” she made a ruling, but neither me, nor any of my lawyers, nor the Cluj Court of Appeals internal website, ever published that ruling. Technically, my case is still “in the process” of being examined by the judge. Having fun yet, kids?

If the judge validates the Deportation Order, again, that doesn’t mean anything. You can either appeal it to the next highest court (all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights) or ignore it. And if the judge invalidates the Deportation Order, again, it doesn’t matter. The Immigration devils will do whatever they want to, and can easily (and legally!) say that the judge didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter. Essentially, you can spend a billion dollars and fight the thing for years, and it won’t resolve anything.

The only real issue is whether you can leave and re-enter the country without any problems. Unless the Immigration Department physically makes contact with the Border Police, and tells them (without a shred of proof) that you’re banned/exiled, the Border Police will never hear or learn about any judge rulings, deportation orders, or anything else.

The ONLY reason I got banned for 2.5 years is because the Immigration devils physically took me to the border, then handed me over to the custody of the Border Police, who then had NO problem with me, and let me walk over to the Hungarian side. Even the “ban” against me is not from the Border Police, but is instead a handwritten piece of shit thing in my passport done by the Immigration Department, with NO date specified. Jesus, what a joke.

So, assuming you overstay your welcome in Romania/RM, and you still want to live there, your best bet is to just cross a land border, take your fine/verbal warning from the Border Police, and come on back after 90 days with your slate magically cleaned and back to zero. If you try to fight the Immigration devils, you’ll just lose a ton of time (and money), and never win in any sense that will ever convince them of anything, and they’ll trick you into thinking you’ll be arrested.

And only if you really super piss them off, as I did, will they even go to the trouble of actually deporting you. Trust me, the Cluj devils were fucking steamed that they had to actually deport me, and bitched and moaned the whole way about how much work it was. The RM devils just took one look at me, and (after 2 hours of insulting me and yelling at me, etc, etc) just told me to go home.

Honestly, if you’re desperate to stay in Romania/RM, just leave or enter somewhere that’s not an official border crossing. It’s super easy to do as long as you’re not doing it in one of the smuggling hotspots, which means Serbia/Romania, Ukraine/Romania, or Romania/RM borders (Bulgaria/Romania is all water except for the legal crossings). The border is totally unguarded, flat as a pancake, and you can use a bicycle and GPS to do it without anyone paying any attention at all. And then your passport will not have the “right” stamps, and nobody will know what you did/didn’t do, and you can just go on your merry way.

And while I never recommend lying, I’ve seen proof (in court!) that the Immigration Department has no idea when you came or left the country, except by your own admission and the stamps in your passport. Hell, add a fake stamp if that’s what you need to do, as nobody will ever be able to tell. Immigration rules and laws are a joke, and make no sense, and even when you try to follow all the rules and be “good”, nobody knows what’s going on at all. All that exists is a lot of official talk about “Section X subsection Y of the law says blah blah” and there are a thousand different “applicable” laws so it’s just garbage bullshit from one end to the other.

No judge, no prosecutor, no Immigration official, and no lawyer I’ve ever talked to has known ALL of what I’ve said above, only part of it, combined with what I’ve figured out on my own and through the experience of others. All they know is a tiny part of it, and even believe in some archaic nonsense like “all foreigners must report their location to the police within 3 days of entering the country”, which hasn’t been in effect since the Communist days. Ridiculous! And nobody will ever learn, again, because of the complete lack of transparency. Nobody will ever see/read/learn about my case, as nobody can even get to it, or a copy of it, or the audio recording of it, not even me!

Yes, the easy thing to do is come to Romania/RM for 90 days or less, and then leave, and no fuss, no muss. Or you can hopefully get your paperwork right (in less than 90 days!), submit it to the Immigration devils, and they will give you a residency permit and Bob’s your uncle. Awesome for you if that’s how it goes. But over the past 18 months, I’ve been learning about so many OTHER immigrants who had trouble, and just what a miasma of incompetence and obscurity the judicial/immigration system is in these two countries, so this article is for them!

Now, you may be wondering how in the heckfire I’m about to win BOTH of my cases when the Immigration devils in both countries hate my guts, and lied in court about me, and did all kinds of evil and sneaky shit to me. I’ll get to that once the ink is dried, but the short version is that religion is quite respected around here, so that trumps even all this bullshit about who did or didn’t “violate” stupid immigration laws in both countries.

Again, if you’re claiming asylum, that’s a whole different kettle of fish, and nothing I’ve said really applies. I’m talking about the poor souls who want to live in Romania/RM but didn’t have the right grandfather born on the right patch of dirt, and so have to go through all the bullshit of navigating some of the world’s stupidest and most inane rules and laws.



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