The situation created by the conflict in Ukraine has generated a wave of migration to Romania and other European countries, as Ukrainians but also citizens of other countries in the region seek for safe areas to settle, at least until the end of the war. Beyond the challenges resulted from crossing borders, many of them will very soon face financial constraints, so it is important for them to be informed about the conditions under which they can work in the countries where they settle. In Romania, there are work opportunities among employers active on the local market, but also for those who operate in other countries, including Ukraine. Occasionally, these procedures are burdensome, but perhaps the unprecedented events that we are witnessing will determine the authorities to make them more flexible.
Firstly, those fleeing the war need information about the routes available to reach Romania, the available means of transport, and the conditions to enter the country. Generally, they must know that they can cross the Romanian border, during this period, with a short-stay status, based on their valid passport or identity card. If they do not have a valid identity document, Ukrainians can enter our country based on an asylum form, submitted to the border police. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that, in these cases, the COVID-19 digital certificate or any other evidence in this regard are not required at the border. For those interested, a non-governmental organization has launched, with the help of the Romanian authorities, a platform which gathers all the necessary information to obtain the right of entry and residence into Romania, as well border crossing details.
Medium and long-term solutions
For the Ukrainians who want to stay in Romania for the medium and long term, there are a number of opportunities on the labor market, which involve both employment at a company in the country and an employment relation with entities from Ukraine or other states, under remote work arrangements.
In order to work on the Romanian market, without the need for a work permit, Ukrainian citizens must conclude a full-time employment contract with a local company, for a period of at least nine months within a calendar year.
At the same time, they can work in Romania as digital nomads, a status recently regulated by the authorities. The digital nomad visa allows an individual to obtain a residence permit in our country while performing remote work. In order to obtain such a visa, the main condition is that the applicant is an employee of a company outside the country or owns a company registered outside Romania for more than three years.
In both cases, the applicant must obtain a long-term visa from a Romanian consulate located in the country of origin (Ukraine in this case) and, in special conditions, the consular offices of other states could accept the applications.
The persons entering Romania based on an asylum application will have free access to the labor market either based on the residence permit, confirming the form of protection obtained, or based on a certificate attesting that the application has been processed (if the application is not completed in three months).
The conditions of access to the labor market must be made more flexible
Therefore, there are work opportunities in Romania for citizens who are forced to leave their country because of the war, either within local companies or remote, for entities from other states, including Ukraine, but immigration regulations are still rigid and should be made more flexible, at least in such situations. For example, the processing of the asylum applications could be accelerated (currently the deadline is 30 days, but it can be extended indefinitely by the authorities), and certain immigration processes could be simplified, at least by removing the requirements for official documents issued by the authorities of origin, which in such circumstances are impossible to obtain. Also, other solutions worth investigating are the abolition of the long-stay visa in these situations or the possibility to apply for a visa in Romania, given the difficulty of traveling.
In the context of such challenges, it is probably a good time for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Inspectorate for Immigration and the Ministry of Labor to analyze the legislation and procedures imposed in the field of immigration and to take the necessary measures to simplify them. In fact, Romania’s case is not unique. Most European states have similar requirements for issuing work permits on their territory for immigrants and, given that many Ukrainians also target other EU countries, there is already pressure to simplify the procedures for acceptance on the labor market, as there are discussions regarding the activation of the EU Directive on Temporary Protection, which is, in fact, a mechanism designed to facilitate such situations. Consequently, it is desirable to activate this mechanism urgently and to supplement this measure with the simplification of the regime applicable to digital nomads, but also with steps related to the infrastructure of the authorities responsible with managing the immigration processes.
In conclusion, given that exceptional situations require exceptional measures, the European states and not only must mobilize to support Ukraine by any means, including by facilitating its citizens’ access to the European Union labor market.