In the past two weeks, the government of Romania has threatened genocide against its own people, left the leader of Japan cooling his heels at a museum like an ordinary tourist, legalized corruption (once again), and seen the downfall of a second prime minister in less than a year.
We’ll have to wait another week or so to find out just how bad Romania’s first ever female leader will do, but in the meantime, a small but vitally important piece of legislation has gone into effect, one that will affect tens of thousands of people, including many people reading this blog.
It’s Your Home, But You Can’t Live There
A few months ago, I wrote an lengthy article about how to get a Romanian passport.
Most of the readers who contacted me about that article were not born in Romania, but because the laws state that anyone can get Romanian citizenship if they had a parent or grandparent who was a Romanian citizen, they wanted to know how to get a Romanian passport.
To be clear, once you clear all the hurdles and get the document certifying that you are a Romanian citizen, you can go ahead and apply for a passport normally.
But what I didn’t mention in my earlier article is that the passport, although valid, will some text that inside that reads “Does not reside in Romania.”
It won’t affect someone traveling with the passport, but being a citizen with a non-resident passport prevents you from living (full-time) or working in Romania.
TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR – If all you want is a Romanian passport, click here. But understand that ALL you’ll get is a passport.
If you want to take advantage of your new citizenship and gain access to all of your rights, you’ll need to negotiate a hellish maze.
And that, boys and girls, is the subject of today’s short article.
In the Romanian language, the national ID card is called a “buletin” (bool-eh-teen) which is short for buletin de identitate.
Without this card, you can’t do anything in Romania. You can’t vote. You can’t open a bank account. You can’t get a job. You can’t get a loan or a credit card. You can’t get access to citizen services like healthcare, pensions, or welfare payments. And you cannot (legally) live in Romania on a full-time basis.
The buletin is a holdover from the Communist era, and I’ve written (and complained) about it many times before. But getting your citizenship (and passport) does NOT help you get your buletin.
Only by jumping through some serious hoops can you get the paperwork filed that is necessary to get the buletin, and the government has just changed the law.
These changes are what I’ll discuss in this article.
In order to get a buletin, first, you have to make Romania (legally) aware of your existence. At a minimum, this means having your birth certificate on file.
In the ordinary course of events, all you’d need to do is provide the government of Romania with a copy of your birth certificate (translated, where applicable) and you’d be set. But that’s in an ideal world.
In Romania, before you can do file paperwork, you have to physically travel to an office and hand over your documents. And that’s where all the trouble starts.
If a child is born in Romania, the procedure is easy. You go to your local office and file the paperwork there. In other words, you go to the office in Cluj if the child was born in Cluj.
But which office do you go to if you were born outside of Romania?
Officially, there’s only one place to go – the Bucharest Sector 1 office that handles this kind of stuff.
But you can’t just walk in there and file the paperwork. Ostensibly to help “speed up” the process, you first have to make an appointment using an online system.
Unfortunately, the online “ticket” system doesn’t work, primarily because it’s been taken over by professional hackers. Using bots in a way similar to how Ken Lawson broke TicketMaster, there’s simply no way to make an online reservation. No matter how fast you hit “refresh,” the available slots are always gone.
Power of Attorney
The reason why hackers use bots to scoop up all the appointment slots is that it is – or was – an extremely lucrative business.
If you can’t make an appointment to file your paperwork, your only choice is to hire someone else to do it for you.
By signing (and paying for, of course) a “power of attorney” document (called imputernicire in Romanian), you can authorize a Professional Filer to use their reservation slot to file your paperwork for you. It’s a huge business in Moldova.
Depending on who you hire, you have to pay between 200 and 300 euros – per document. That means that the birth certificate costs 200 euros, your marriage certificate 200 euros, and so on and so forth.
With a single locked-in appointment time, one Professional Filer can easily earn a year’s salary for 10 minutes’ worth of work and the inconvenience of traveling to Bucharest.
In order to boost their voter base, the PSD party has, in the past year, passed new legislation that bars someone from filing this paperwork on your behalf.
With a single stroke of the pen, the people who travel to Bucharest for you are now out of business as of January 1, 2018.
And Then What?
I should add here that this is just what I’ve heard, including from a source in Romania and from a Professional Filer in Chisinau. Nobody, though, is quite sure what will happen next.
Will the bots disappear so that ordinary people can get an appointment slot online? Not sure. Have to wait until next month to see.
Will They, Won’t They
Meanwhile, there are other options. These options are both unofficial and official at the same time, something that you can only understand after you’ve lived in this region for a while.
Officially/unofficially, other offices throughout Romania might/do accept paperwork from people who were born outside of Romania.
Iasi, for instance, has an online appointment service (and it hasn’t been overrun with bots), but the waiting list is more than a year. Rumors are that the office in Vaslui will take the paperwork as well.
But nobody really knows. Right now, for the moment, the only way to 100% officially get your paperwork filed is to travel to Bucharest yourself after making an appointment online.
Of Course, There’s a Hitch
So far, all I’ve discussed is the problems surrounding how to find a frigging person in the government who will take your paperwork. But once they do take it, you’re still in for a long, crazy road.
First, although government departments in Romania “strive” to complete something as basic as file a birth certificate in 30 days or less, the reality is that most people are waiting two to three months.
Then, assuming everything goes all right, what you will have in your greasy little hands after all that waiting is a thin stack of papers that say okay, now you’re in the system, so you’re “alive” according to the Romanian government.
But you still don’t have a buletin, and without a buletin, you’re nobody. You’re only a homeless Gypsy.
To get your buletin is a separate nightmare that involves either buying property (in your name) or getting someone who owns property in Romania to legally declare that you live with them. And then there’s the usual bullshit of having to buy a special stamp at the post office, wait in line at another place to pay a tax, and other, assorted paperwork.
Long story short, it is not easy to become a “real” person in Romania even when you’re a citizen.
The Bridge to Total Freedom
So… unlike others, I’ll tell you right now exactly what you’re in for if you weren’t born a Romanian citizen but are eligible to become one.
Assuming you want the whole enchilada – to live, work, and play in Romania as a citizen with full rights and a passport – here’s how long it will take:
- Getting citizenship granted after filing paperwork – 12-18 months
- Getting passport issued – 30-90 days
- Filing birth certificate and other documents with Rom gov’t – 12 months
- Waiting for paperwork to be approved – 2-3 months
- Time to file paperwork to get buletin – 2-4 hours
- Waiting for buletin to be issued – 30-90 days
If you’re lucky, it’ll only take you two and a half years. If you’re unlucky, it could take as long as four years.
And none of this takes into account how long it might take you to get the paperwork together to file for Romanian citizenship in the first place.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!