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Immigration and Emigration since 1990 | Romania (2007) |

Romania Background Information Historical Trends Immigration/ Emigration Citizenship Refuge and Asylum Irregular Migration Current Issues Future Challenges References

Immigration and Emigration since 1990

István Horváth

/ 6 Minuten zu lesen

Immediately after the fall of the Communist regime, passport administration and international travel were liberalised. Although some measures to curb the international travel of certain categories (those engaged in speculative migratory movement and possessing limited resources) were taken during the 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium.

Institutional and legal developments

For example, taxes were imposed on border crossings and those leaving had to prove that they were in possession of a certain amount of money. However, none of these measures drastically reduced the international mobility of Romanian citizens.

At the very end of the 1990s, as in other states, Romanian authorities started to implement a set of acts meant to regulate the international mobility of the labour force (both outflows and inflows). One major step was the creation of a specialised public institution to oversee this activity (Labour Force Migration Office) in 2002. This office is in charge of administering the inflows of foreign workers as well as providing information and guidance to Romanians wishing to work abroad. It is also active in the field of recruitment and work placement. To this end, Romania has signed bilateral agreements on labour migration (as well as contracts with private job agencies, in some cases). Though some private firms are active in worker recruitment and placement, the Labour Force Migration Office organises the majority of job placements abroad. In 2006 it provided 53 029 Romanian workers with foreign jobs (up 137% from 2002), mainly as seasonal workers in Germany (the major destination for this type of migration), Spain and Hungary. In contrast, private firms made only 14 742 placements, many of them involving summer work in the United States for students.

In 2004 the Romanian authorities adopted a new policy in the field of immigration: the National Strategy on Migration. The major goal of the initiative is to provide a coherent legal framework for labour migration, asylum cases and naturalization. In addition, it is meant to promote institutional coherence by coordinating the activities of institutions active in the field of immigration, asylum and integration. Its stated objectives are to control and manage inflows, to prevent and combat illegal immigration, to improve protection for vulnerable migrants, to assist the social integration of alien residents, etc. The effectiveness and outcomes of this framework will only become clear when (and if) – as anticipated by the authorities – immigration to Romania increases.


In the first three years after the fall of Communism 170 000 persons legally emigrated from Romania. In 1990, emigration reached its peak, with 96 929 Romanians moving abroad. This emigration was the result of the liberalisation of travel as well as the turbulent economic and political environment in the country.

Again, ethnic minorities (especially Germans and Hungarians) where over-represented in the legal emigrant population; for example, 60 000 out of a total of 97 000 emigrants registered in 1990 were Germans. In the case of ethnic Germans, this emigration was encouraged by the assistance offered by the Federal Republic of Germany. Nevertheless, the main motivation for emigrating during this time was economic. At the beginning of the 1990s, highly qualified, young emigrants obtained long-term, legal residence in various European countries, the USA and Canada. Thereafter, more and more unskilled or poorly qualified persons from rural areas began seeking (mostly temporary) migratory arrangements.

During the process of transition and the restructuring of the Romanian economy (which took place roughly from 1990 to 2002), the employed population declined by 44%. More than 3.5 million jobs vanished, with the most dramatic decreases being registered in industry, where the number of jobs declined by half. In this context, a considerable number of Romanians left to seek economic gains abroad. In the last 17 years, the main countries of destination for Romanian labour migration have changed considerably, but three rather distinct phases can be outlined.

In the first phase (roughly between 1990 and 1995), when entry to various Western European countries was severely limited, Romanian workers headed mainly to Israel, Turkey, Hungary (mostly ethnic Hungarians) and Germany. In the second period (1996-2002), westward migration prevailed, with large numbers of workers going to Italy and, increasingly, Spain. The third phase of labour migration was symbolically inaugurated on 1st January 2002 when countries included in the Schengen space removed visa requirements for Romanian citizens, making a valid passport sufficient for entry. Major destinations since then have included Italy, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen how Romania's accession to the EU (on 1st January 2007) will affect the volume of outflows or the countries of destination of Romanian labour migrants. It should be mentioned that eleven EU member states have granted full and unrestricted access for Romanians to their labour markets. Others have imposed transitional arrangements barring Romanians (for periods of two to seven years) from entering their labour markets. Nevertheless, it is estimated that 3.4 million Romanians were working abroad in mid-2007, approximately 1.2 million of them legally.


At the beginning of the 1990s Romania had a relatively modest level of immigration. Those immigrating to Romania during this time were mostly entrepreneurs, especially from Turkey, the Middle East (Syria, Jordan) and China. By 1996 only several hundred foreigners had been issued work permits; by the end of 2000 this number had grown to 1 580. Since then the number of foreigners with work permits has increased, from
3 678 in 2005 to 7 993 at the end of 2006.

The rise in the number of foreign workers is attributed to Romania's economic revival and partially to the opening of Romania's labour market in the context of the country's EU accession. Starting in 2004, the Romanian labour market began expanding, and in 2006 certain sectors (e.g. the clothing and construction industries) were facing labour shortages. It was under these circumstances that entrepreneurs started to import foreign workers.

The top five source countries of temporary foreign workers in Romania

1. Turkey1.4811.721
2. China5291.129
3. France155310
4. Germany55200

Ministerul Internelor si reformei Administrative (MIRA) (2007)

In 2006 the major countries of origin of foreign workers were Turkey and China. A total of 82% of the foreign workforce in Romania was male, and 63% were registered in the capital city of Bucharest and the surrounding areas. Given the expected future growth of demand for labour (and the ageing of the Romanian population) it is predicted that the stock of foreign workers integrated into the Romanian labour market might reach 200 000 – 300 000 in 2013-2015.

As regards the future, Romanian authorities are expecting a considerable increase in immigration. It is estimated that between 2007 and 2010, 15 000 to 18 000 immigrants will arrive in Romania annually. This forecast is based on last year's slow but steady increase of foreign residents in Romania. In the last two years alone, the total stock of foreign residents in Romania increased from 45 900 at the end of 2005 to 48 200 in 2006.

Immigration from the Republic of Moldova

Total number of immigrants and immigrants from the Republic of Moldova, 1991-2005 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Starting in the second half of the 1990s, immigration from the neighbouring Republic of Moldova increased significantly. Building on historical ties , mobility processes between the two countries were greatly enhanced by the 1991 Romanian Citizenship Law, which practically defined the migration of Moldovan citizens as a form of repatriation, stipulating that the descendents of former Romanian citizens can "reacquire Romanian citizenship by request even if they have another citizenship and they do not settle their domicile in Romania." It is estimated that, as a consequence of this law alone, more than 250 000 Moldovan citizens might have received Romanian citizenship during the 1990s. In these circumstances, the numbers presented in the figure might under-represent Moldovan immigration to Romania, since many Moldovans have moved to Romania as Romanian citizens (and therefore might not appear in the statistics as part of the immigrant population).

It seems that immigration from the Republic of Moldova has not reached its end; a continuation of this movement (or even an increase in its volume) cannot be ruled out. In the context of its accession to the EU, Romania introduced mandatory visas for Moldovan citizens. This has resulted in an exceptional increase in the number of applications by Moldovan citizens for Romanian citizenship. According to the latest reports, 500 000 Moldovan citizens (with accompanying children, approximately 800 000 persons) have applied for Romanian citizenship since the beginning of 2007, and it is predicted that this figure might increase to 1.8 million by the end of the year. This is extraordinary, considering that the Republic of Moldova has only 3.8 million inhabitants.



  1. See MMSSF (2007a).

  2. See Lăzăroiu (2004) and Sandu (2006).

  3. These are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Sweden.

  4. Tudorica, I. and Lucian, D. (2007): "Treimilioane de romani muncesc in strainatate." Cotidianul, 18 June.

  5. See Lăzăroiu (2004).

  6. See SOPEMI (2003).

  7. Se MMSSF (2007b).

  8. See MIRA (2007).

  9. See MIRA (2007).

  10. Though Moldovans had been subjects of the Russian empire between 1812 and 1918, they became Romanian citizens in the period between the two World Wars. Based on historical and linguistic ties, many Romanians consider the Romanian-speaking Moldovan population to be part of the Romanian nation, although this idea is disputed by considerable segments of the Moldovan elite. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Moldova became an independent state, and Romanian authorities initiated a process that is effectively bringing the two countries into a closer relationship (as the first step toward a possible reunification). One of the major components of this approach was to facilitate the movement of persons between the two countries as much as possible.

  11. See Iordachi (2003): 29.

  12. See Iordachi (2003).

  13. See Ciobanu, C. (2007): "Un milion de moldovenii vor cetăţenia română." Cotidianul, 5 February. Bucharest.

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