In our Ultimate Freelancing Guide we've already visited the happiest country in the world – Denmark, we've been to Portugal, we even went as far east as Thailand and India and considered what Canada has to offer to an expat. This time we travel to one European country that might be an interesting, yet surprising choice – Romania. We give you all you need to know about freelancing in Romania, the home to Dracula and the land of many amazing sites to visit. Romania might seem exotic and obviously not the first choice when it comes to choosing a freelancing destination, but this country is now part of EU and with a rapidly growing economy, it might be a treasure to look into.
Freelancing in Romania – Legal and tax issues
Romania is part of the European Union and thus all the citizens of the EU have far less legal obligations when freelancing in Romania. Still, there are certain things everyone has to take care of before settling in Romania and living an expat life there. A valid passport is required for all overseas/ non-EU visitors. Your passport has to be valid for at least 90 days from the date of your intended departure from Romania (it will not expire sooner than three months from the date of departure). For stays longer than 90 days visitors need to contact a local passport office in Romania or a Consulate of Romania, to obtain a visa. The good news is that not only the EU visitors can do without visa. American and Canadian citizens as well as citizens of Australia, New Zealand and most European countries do not need an entry visa to visit Romania (for stays up to 90 – ninety – days). If you however are a resident of a country that is not any of the listed you will need a visa. There are three basic types of visas: transit (if your purpose is to transit for a period not exceeding 5 days); short stay visa (for stays not exceeding 90 days) and along stay visa.
Long stay visa
Long stay visa allows the entrance and stay in Romania for a period not exceeding 90 days to conduct the following activities: economic activities, professional activities, trade (investment) activities, religious or humanitarian activities, employment, education, family reunification or scientific research. Right of stay is 90 days, but it can be extended by request to the Romanian Immigration Office of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform in Romania. Requests to extend the temporary stay right shall be submitted personally by applicants, with at least 30 days before the expiry of the term approved for residence, in the territorial formations of the Romanian Immigration Office at the place of residence. Overcoming the term draws aside the visa and must leave Romania. Consular tax is 120 EUR. The right of residence in Romania given to the foreigner through the short-stay visa may be extended. The purpose of foreign visitors who entered Romania on a short stay visa cannot be changed during its presence in Romania.
Long stay visa is granted only with the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform – Romanian Immigration Office. A long-stay visa allows foreigners to enter Romania to seek extension of temporary stay right and obtain a residence permit. This request is addressed to the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform – Romanian Immigration Office. Any foreigner who wishes to request an entry visa in Romania must attach to the application form also a valid travel document accepted by the Romanian state, on which can be applied the visa and legal documents to prove the purpose of the journey, the period of stay, the means of support during his stay and the possibility to return home or continue traveling in another country after the stay in Romania.
Self-emplyment in Romania
A self employed person in Romania is registered as a PFA which stands for ”Persoana Fizica Autorizata”, phrase also commonly translated as a Romanian authorized physical person. This is actually a highly preferred alternative for perfectly qualified individuals who choose to set up their own business. This proved quite a convenient option for Romanians and it is still perfectly functioning for all natural persons seeking for a more approachable way to turn their experience and qualifications into real profit. From the legal point of view, there are certain conditions to be fulfilled in order to qualify for the status of PFA Romania. If you are interested in this opportunity and feel confident in the knowledge and experience you have acquired up until the present moment, then you can start such a project. At this point, you certainly need a team of professionals, who can lead your way into the business world, guiding you through the intricate legal provisions and always providing the necessary support. We can help you start your own business by authorising you as a natural person able to carry out independent economic activities.
In the PFA Romania registration process such essential conditions must be met: you have to be over 18 years old; you either have to be qualified or trained, or you need the professional experience required to conduct the economic activity for which the authorization is requested (depending on specific circumstances); as any other legal entity, you must have a registered office; last, but not least, you must never have been convicted by a final court decision for committing the offenses punished by financial or customs laws, or for those involving financial and fiscal discipline as those that are enrolled in the tax record certificate.
Tax and VAT registration in Romania
The Romanian Authorized Physical Person can register for VAT in two situations: either when incomes exceed certain limits or when the individual voluntarily applies for VAT registration. On the national level, self-employed persons with incomes of up to 65,000 EUR/year are exempted from VAT. But, even if this limit is not surpassed, a self employed in Romania should register for VAT since certain instances may require this registration. In order to register for the intra-Community VAT a Romanian self-employed must be previously registered for Romanian VAT. We are referring here to the situation when a Romanian authorized physical person provides intra-Community services. In this case, the individual must register for VAT in order to report the operations performed. This particular registration would not turn the person in question into a regular VAT payer. The VAT registration code received for intra-Community services cannot be used to issue invoices for economic operation carried out on the Romanian territory and intended for recipients established in this very same country. A highly important aspect of the Romanian VAT regime concerns the legal possibility to regain the non-taxable privileges. Even if exceeding the 65,000 EUR/year threshold for only one year, individuals have the chance to return to VAT-exempt status for the following year, on condition that the annual turnover does not exceed the provided limits. So, at the beginning of the calendar year, a self-employed may request to be removed from the VAT registered persons record.
As you can see, under certain circumstances, the PFA Romania regime can become a little bit confusing. That is why it's best to contact local tax experts who are prepared to assist you concerning a wide range of issues regarding this topic. If you want to be registered as a Romanian authorized physical person you should know that this legal entity can obtain approval to perform all kinds of economic activities that are mentioned in the CAEN Code, of course excepting those that are governed by special laws and that are reserved for a certain category of entrepreneurs.
Being employed, setting up a company and running a business in Romania
Romania became a member of the EU in 2007. As such, the laws governing immigration and work permits are similar to most European Union member states. Expats who are not EU citizens will need to obtain a long-stay visa and a work permit to work in Romania. In order to obtain a work permit, expats will need to find a suitable employer and obtain an offer of employment. The Romanian government has begun to put a quota system in place, which regulates the number of foreign employees allowed in the country each year. Work permits are granted according to the quota system and upon presentation of a number of documents. In order to hire an expat, Romanian employers must prove to the government that they are a legitimate business in Romania. They will also need to show that the company is not in debt, and that they have made every effort to find a Romanian national to fill the position that they are now offering to an expat. Romanian employers must also prove that the proposed employee has had suitable training for that specific position, and that they have suitable work experience in the relevant field. This is usually done through presentation of a CV and reference documents. Expats will need to obtain a medical check and a criminal clearance certificate.
Once a work permit has been granted, expats have 30 days to apply to the Romanian embassy in their home country for a long-stay visa for work purposes. Expats will need to submit a number of documents in order to get a long-stay visa. These include: work permit; proof of funds and means of support during the proposed period of stay (or the first few months at least); medical insurance for the period of stay. Upon arrival in Romania, expats (except EU citizens) need to register with the Romanian Ministry of Finance, and get a Cod de înregistrare în scopuri de TVA, or Cod de Identificare Fiscala, which is similar to a personal identification number. This is a relatively hassle-free process, requiring a passport and visa, work permit, address and copy of the employment contract. Some companies do this on behalf of their employees. Long-stay visas cost 120 EUR. Expats travelling with their families will have to apply for separate visas for each family member. Family members are not allowed to work in Romania unless they also have a work permit.
Healthcare and health insurance
Expats moving to Romania are required, for visa purposes, to have private medical insurance. It is strongly advised that this medical insurance is comprehensive, and makes allowances for the use of private medical facilities. Expats are expected to pay for medical facilities, consultations and services in cash, and then claim back from their health insurance company at a later date. Expats who have health insurance have the option of using either private or public healthcare in Romania. Expats should visit their local private hospital's website to find out which services are covered by health insurance at that specific hospital.
EU Citizens can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in Romania. This card will give you free access to state hospitals and treatment facilities, but not private doctors or private hospitals. Because state facilities are not up to the standards experienced in most Western countries, it is advisable to take out extra health insurance when moving to Romania. Although healthcare in Romania is universal, it may not be up to the standards that expats are familiar with, or have come to expect in their home countries. Hospitals in the larger cities are equipped with basic medical and emergency necessities; however, rural areas and smaller towns often have limited or no medical supplies. The quality of care in government hospitals is sub-standard, and patients’ families often have to help their in-patient relatives with basic necessities and assistance.
Most common over-the-counter and prescription medications are available in Romania; however, if you prefer a specific brand name it is recommended that you bring a supply with you, as the generic may be your only option once you have arrived in Romania. When Romania joined the EU in 2007, there was a boom of private hospitals in the country. Private hospitals have increased in popularity among Romanians and are the best option for expats looking for world-class healthcare in Romania. Private clinics are also a good option for less serious medical conditions. Staff are well-trained and can usually speak English. MedLife and Regina Maria are the two largest networks of private healthcare clinics in Romania.
Freelancing in Romania – The costs of living
Romania may still seem relatively cheap country to live in for any expat coming fro Western Europe or North America. Even though Romania is now in EU and the prices went up ever since, they are still quite acceptable for most expats living there. Those things that contribute to everyday spendings like food, eating out, clubbing are far from the high prices of most European states. But don't expect that it will stay this way forever. However if you want to find out more about the cost of living in Romania, here are the things to consider.
Renting an appartment in Romania
The cost of accommodation in Romania is not as low as expats may expect. It varies obviously depending on the region. A two-bedroom flat near the city centre goes for roughly 400 EUR per month while a two bedroom house goes for roughly 800 EUR per month. When looking for a flat, remember that many of the blocks of flats in central Bucharest are old and in need of repair, so expat families with kids often prefer to live in gated communities of new-build houses on the outskirts of town. Expats of each respective nationality tend to live in close proximity to their corresponding international school – German expats tend to group around Chitila, the French around Herastrau and English speakers around Pipera and Pantelimon.
On top of rent, you will need to add the cost of utility bills, roughly 18 EURcost of utilities in romania per month for electricity, to their budget. On the upside, most foreigners can afford a cleaner and/or a babysitter; domestic help is relatively plentiful and cheap (700 EUR per month, depending on the number of hours worked). However, if you have school-age children, you will also need to budget for private international schools, with annual fees averaging at about 12,000 EUR per child per year. Insurance (health, car and home contents) can all add up significantly, but it is wise to be fully covered.
Food & eating out in Romania
Romanian food might not be one of healthiest in the world, but it’s certainly worth sampling. Fatty meat, cheese, double cream and oily sauces are staple parts to a local diet, and those who plan to indulge will definitely need to discover an effective way of keeping rising cholesterol levels at bay. Romanian most recognised specialties are: Mici (grilled meat balls), Sarmale (forcemeat roles in cabbage leaves) and Papanasi (a kind of sweet dumpling with double cream and cherry comfiture). You should also most certainly try the Romanian beer and wines, red or white. Before ordering your dinner, don’t shy away from the very strong and smelly plum brandy known as “tuica”. On a slightly different note when you are going out and you are a non-smoker, you may have some trouble adjusting to the seemingly pious Romanian devotion to smoking. Romania seems to be holding out determinedly against the European-wide trend to ban smoking in public places. Restaurants, cafes and pubs in Bucharest are toxic places for non-smokers, and non-smoking eatery options are extremely limited as most restaurant owners would rather go for the “full smoking” section, and appeal to a wider audience.
If you however decide to stay home and enjoy some home-cooked meals you will find most Romanian grocerries quite well stocked with most things you need. Obviously the larger the city and the better the shop the higher are the chances you'll find exactly what you need to do your kitchen magic. The prices are again relatively low when it comes to most popular products, yet if you plan something exotic, it may cost you a bit more. We've gathered some most popular products and average prices from the supermarkets in Bukarest.
Food and Drink Prices
- Milk (1 litre) 1.5 EUR
- Cheese (350g) 3 EUR
- White bread (loaf) 0.75 – 2 EUR
- Rice (1 kg) 2 EUR
- White sugar (1 kg) 2 EUR
- Coca Cola 0.75 EUR (can), 1.5 EUR (2 litres)
- Still mineral water 1+ EUR
- Tomatoes (per kg) 1 EUR in summer, 3+ EUR in winter
- Apples (per kg) +/- 1.5 EUR
- Fresh beef filet (250g) 3+ EUR
- Olive oil (1 litre) 5 EUR
- Fresh white fish (250g) 3+ EUR
- Milk chocolate bar 0.5 EUR
- Table salt (1 kg) 1 EUR
Driving around and fuel costs
Romania might be the part of EU but honestly the road system is still very much the sad witness of the former communist times. You must be prepared that driving in Romania can be hazardous. Expats should be on lookout for horse-drawn carts, potholes and stray livestock on the roads. The driving laws in Romania are very strict, even though most of the population doesn’t abide by them. However, police do carry out frequent checks and expats should ensure that they adhere to the speed limit and follow all rules and regulations. This includes having all the correct documents in the car at all times. Romanians do not always adhere to road signs so expats should be careful when driving down one-way roads as someone might very well be driving up the wrong way. Pedestrians should also be extra cautious even when they have right of way. Speed limits in Romania are set at 50kph in cities, 90 kph on open roads, 100kph on four-lane roads and 130kph on highways (autostrada). The legal alcohol level in Romania is zero; therefore expats should never drive under the influence, even if they have just had one drink. A GPS is recommended if driving longer distances or even to navigate cities in the beginning. It is Romanian law that cars have their lights on at all times. Expats driving in Romania will need:
- A valid driving licence from their home country (if there is no photo on the licence then expats will also need an International Driving Permit)
- A sticker with their country’s initials on the back of their car if driving their own car
- Their car insurance certificate and registration or car hire paperwork
- A warning triangle in the boot
- A first aid kit
- A fire extinguisher
Public transport in Romanian cities
Parking can be a problem in cities in Romania. Even if you manage to find a parking space it is going to be very expensive, so you might consider commuting if you live in a larger city. Public transport in Romania is very good, especially in Bucharest, the capital city. Metro, bus, tram and train networks are available and tickets are very affordable. Trains are an excellent, inexpensive way to get around in Romania. The rail network covers most of the country. InterCity (IC) trains are the best option; they are fast and modern and have dining facilities. InterRegio (IR) trains are also good. Avoid Regio (R) trains as they are much older and slower, these trains are not recommended for late-night or overnight travel.
For expats who want to travel to Romania’s bordering countries, trains are the best way to go. There are four trains per day to Budapest; however, trains to Belgrade, Sofia, Chisinau and Kyiv are less frequent. Expats can buy tickets at train stations or online but no tickets are sold on the trains. Buses in RomaniaRomania’s bus system is extensive, especially in Bucharest where bus routes serve the entire city and surrounding suburbs. Night buses are also available throughout the night. Expats should buy tickets before boarding the bus and can purchase them at any of the yellow kiosks around Bucharest. It is essential that travellers validate their tickets on the bus otherwise they could face on-the-spot fines. Expats can use the same ticket on the bus, tram and trolleybus. Buses can be very crowded during peak hours and theft is common so expats should guard their valuables at all times.
Mobile phone contracts cost about 30 EUR a month, depending on your needs. All the big providers are represented and occasionally have special deals, so shop around. Internet and cable TV packages (sometimes including phones) are available and cost around 15 EUR a month, although most TV stations will be in Romanian. International calls can be very expensive, but there are deals offering a set amount of free minutes.
Freelancing in Romania – Culture and society
Romania is a European country and even though we strongly are against any stereotypes, there are certain things you should probably know before chosing it as your expat destination. While expats from Western Europe or North America may hold a romanticised view of the group of people known as ‘gypsies' or Romas, locals do not share this attitude. Expressing positive or even neutral attitudes toward the Roma people will often garner stern looks or even flat-out hostility. Many Romanians would attribute their distaste towards the Roma to the perceived high levels of criminality among this group. However, it is important to bear in mind that crime exists in all communities, and that sometimes it is more prevalent among socially-excluded or disadvantaged groups.
In general though it is safe to say that Romanians are friendly people and their attitudes towards strangers are quite normal. Understanding their history, the long years of a very harsh communist regime will help you understand some of their acts better. It is not to say that those acts will be scary or bizarre all the time, but as even Madonna once fond out the Roma issues are still quite difficult. While giving a show in Bukarest she called for more tolerance for Roma and was booed by majority of the audience of Romanians.
The largest degree of culture shock in Romania however mostly comes from the country’s absurd bureaucracy, high levels of corruption and poor infrastructure. One old, communist joke mockingly states that “it’s forbidden to use your hand when opening up the door of a public institution in Romania”, meaning that your hands must be full of presents or bribes for civil servants if you want to achieve anything. Corruption comes in layers, and can be as nonchalant as a “little nothing” to the nurse in the hospital (manifested as a large bouquet of flowers or a brand new fragrance), or can be as pointed as a small envelope filled with green notes delivered to the doctor to prevent negligence. Regardless, expats, especially investors or those navigating the channels of the business world, often struggle to accept and conform to this age-old institution. It’s recommended that expats negotiating deals or regularly interacting with government engage in some cross-cultural training to become more adept at managing and acclimating to Romania’s corruption and bureaucracy.
Freelancing in Romania – Not an obvious choice
Romania may not seem the most exotic choice like Thailand and India, it is also most definitely not a stable and safe choice like Denmark (ranked as the happiest country in the world) or Canada. And even if it is not as popular as Portugal that we've covered recently it still is an amazing country that you should visit. It has amazing ladscapes, historical heritage, not to mention the Dracula stories that originate from the Transylvania – one historical province of Romania. The food, the people and that possibilities may make you want to stay. Especially if you are not the one making more obvious life choices.
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