This is probably the single most urgent question that I regularly get asked, so I felt it deserved a detailed answer.
There are four ways to become a citizen of Romania and thus get a Romanian passport:
- You’ve legally resided in Romania for 8 (or more) years; OR
- You’ve been married to a Romanian AND legally resided in Romania for 5 (or more) years; OR
- You’ve been granted asylum in Romania and meet certain criteria; OR
- One or more of your parents OR grandparents is/was Romanian.
Note: You can halve the time requirements for #1 and #2 above if you invest a large amount of money in Romania (I believe it’s 100 thousand Euros).
#1 above is pretty self-explanatory. You’ve got to be familiar with Romania and Romanian culture after living in the country so long, so contact a local lawyer and follow the steps to become a citizen.
For #2, it’s important to understand that you must BOTH be married to a Romanian person AND have lived in Romania (legally) for five years. You can be married to a Romanian person for 20 years, but if that was outside the country, it won’t count. If you qualify, ask your spouse to help you find a lawyer and then follow the steps to become a citizen.
Note: If your spouse is Romanian, it’s a pretty simple procedure to get legal residence in Romania, but you’ll have to spend 5 years in country before being able to get citizenship.
For #3, this is a very rare occurrence and you need to speak to whoever handled your asylum case for more information.
It’s #4 that I get asked the most about, and that’s what I’ll be discussing in the rest of this article.
Much like Ireland, Romania has a belief that your “Romanian-ness” can be passed down from generation to generation. Therefore, if your grandfather/grandmother was born in Romanian territory 80 years ago but immediately fled/left and no one in your family has been back since, you’re still “Romanian” in the eyes of the Romanian government.
Furthermore, Romanian territory includes parts of the world that are not part of the modern state of Romania today. This means if your parent/grandparent was born in the Republic of Moldova, parts of Ukraine, or other areas once under Romanian control (from 1920-1940), you can still qualify.
The way the government of Romania views giving citizenship to grand/children of Romanian citizens is that your Romanian citizenship will be “restored” rather than awarded/granted. The term for this in Romanian is redobândirea.
Contact the Romanian Embassy
So… you know you have a parent or grandparent who was born in Romanian territory once upon a time. What’s your next step?
First, contact the Romanian embassy in your home country. The embassy is where you’ll (eventually) get your passport and citizenship papers. The embassy will both a) tell you what papers you’ll need and b) tell you what the rules are about becoming a citizen.
They’ll likely tell you that you need some basic documentation about yourself, including proof that you’re not a convicted criminal and a few other things. I can’t say what these are, as the Romanian government isn’t very well organized so each embassy/office tends to do things a bit differently. But I can tell you that you do not need to speak Romanian in order to get Romanian citizenship.
One thing that you definitely WILL need, however, is proof of your grand/parents’ Romanian identity. In most cases, this means their birth certificate. And this is the issue that most people contact me about.
Getting a Birth Certificate
In Romania, the concept of “public” records is not well understood. Birth certificates are supposed to be public, but you cannot get access to them. The only birth certificate you’re allowed to view or obtain is your own.
So how do you get your grand/parent’s birth certificate? Well, you’ll need something akin to a “power of attorney” letter (called împuternicire in Romanian) that authorizes you to get it. In Romania, these documents are used for many, many things, and any notary in the country will be happy to draw one up for you (for a hefty fee, of course).
But if you don’t live in Romania, it’s a bit trickier. What you’ll have to do is find someone who lives in Romania to get the birth certificate for you. To give them permission, you need to get the “power of attorney” document notarized at the Romanian embassy in your country.
Who to Trust?
If you need help, and you live outside of Romania, my advice is to contact a reputable law firm in Romania (or Moldova/Ukraine as the case may be) and let them handle everything. That’s certainly worked for people in the past, but it can be expensive. I’d budget anywhere from 500 to 1,000 euros for the law firm to handle all the paperwork AND physically retrieve the birth certificate.
I cannot recommend any specific law firm but usually, the most useful ones are those either based in Bucharest or the largest city near where the birth records you’re seeking are kept.
If your family is Jewish and emigrated from Romania before or during WW2, I also recommend that you contact the Jewish Federation, especially if you need some supplementary records beyond a birth certificate.
Once you’ve got your documents in order, you’ll present them to the Romanian embassy in your home country. They’ll then review them and, if you pass muster, you’ll be given Romanian citizenship. It’s important to understand that this review period can last a year or more. It’s definitely not going to be quick!
Once you’ve got your citizenship papers, you can then get your Romanian passport. You’ll do this at the embassy as well. Thankfully, this won’t take nearly as long. Officially, it’ll take 90 days or less. After that, you’re set!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to speak Romanian to get citizenship?
Not necessarily. If you’ve never lived in Romania, you do NOT have to speak Romanian. If you’ve lived in Romania for 5 or 8 years, you DO need to pass a language test as well as a test about the Constitution and government. Don’t worry though as it’s a pretty easy test.
Can I live in Romania after I get my citizenship?
Strangely enough, no. For that, you need to establish “domicile” in Romania which means that you either need to own property or have a property owner declare that you permanently reside there. This means you can’t just rent a place.
You can enter Romania with your Romanian passport, of course, but you won’t be able to get a job or attend university (as a Romanian) until you get your ID card (called buletin). And you can’t get the ID card until you’ve established domicile in Romania.
Can my child get Romanian citizenship if born abroad to a Romanian parent?
Sure. You’ll just need to follow all the steps above.
Our child was born in Romania, but neither parent is Romanian. Can my child get Romanian citizenship?
Nope. You have to be Romanian by “blood”, not just born on Romanian territory. The only way for your child to get Romanian citizenship is if s/he has lived in Romania for eight years or more.
What if my grand/parent was born in Ukraine or Moldova?
As long as it was part of Romania from 1920-1940, that still qualifies.
What if there is no birth certificate for my grand/parent?
This is a tough one. If the birth records were destroyed or lost or something else has happened, you’ll need to find a way to convince the Romanian embassy that your grand/parent was Romanian. Ask the embassy for guidance on this.
Can I (also) get Moldovan citizenship if my grand/parent was born in Moldova?
Nope. Moldova doesn’t have this “restoration” of citizenship concept like Ireland and Romania do.
What if my grand/parent was/is Romanian but wasn’t born in Romanian territory?
It’s still possible for you to get Romanian citizenship, but it’ll be more difficult. You’ll need to prove that your grand/parent was a Romanian citizen, not just an ethnic Romanian.
What if my grand/parent was born in Romanian territory but wasn’t an ethnic Romanian?
Again, it’ll be more difficult, but you can still qualify. It doesn’t matter if your grand/parent was/is a Turk, Tatar, Greek, Russian, Macedonian, Hungarian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Armenian or any other minority, only that they were a Romanian citizen at one point in their life.
What if my Romanian grand/parent is deceased?
You’ll need to prove your family relation through documents, but you can still get your deceased family member’s birth certificate and thus your Romanian citizenship and passport. Ask the Romanian embassy for more details on this.
What if my uncle/cousin/etc is/was Romanian?
Nope, this won’t work. It has to be either your father, mother, grandmother, or grandfather.
If only one grand/parent was Romanian, can I still get citizenship?
Yep. It only takes one!