Suddenly a Citizen

It’s been a week of ups and downs here in Arad, but nevertheless incredible all around. This past week has taught me to embrace the whimsical unknown – and my general anxiety that comes with it – to a degree unprecedented. 

I’ve been meaning to write more about my experiences as they’ve been numerous and remarkable. This past week has been filled with university events and acitivites at UVVG (Universitatea de Vest “Vasile Goldiş” din Arad), which I hope to recap in a later post. However, I’ve been quite caught up in a turn of events. 

Last Friday, I presented myself at the local immigration office with all my paperwork in order to obtain a residency permit in Romania only to find out that I am not eligible to obtain a residency permit because my parents are Romanian and this gives me the right to citizenship. This right to citizenship makes me ineligible for a residency permit. In order to legally remain in Romania, I have to either obtain recognition of my Romanian citizenship or leave the country for 90 days before I return. Obviously the latter option is unfeasible, as I would not be able to fulfill my Fulbright grant duties. Effectively, the choice becomes: apply for Romanian citizenship, renounce Fulbright, or stay here illegally until June without leaving the country and pay a fine upon my departure which is assessed by the days that the visa is overstayed. About that – in about 12 days from now, I’ll be an illegal alien here. 

I was born and raised in the U.S. and fully identify as American: I entered the country with no intention of obtaining Romanian citizenship. To say the least, I was caught completely off-guard by the idea of having to suddenly acquire a dual citizenship. To identify as the subject of another country’s laws and owe allegiance to its government is not something I take lightly. Moreover, my Romanian heritage was always something I deeply valued in a rather restrospective manner; while I recognize it has undoubtedly shaped my present interests, I never imagined my present and future identity would be become so wholly intertwined in it. Even more, to find out that I am by Romania’s standards “already a citizen,” left me on the edge of an identity crisis – imagine living your whole life unaware that you’ve been a citizen of another country all along. [Here is where I apologize to all my fellow Romanians for all those accumulated hours spent at border control for my American passport – had I known sooner that I was a Romanian citizen, we would have never had those problems. And the border patrol in Greece wouldn’t have harangued us for not getting my passport stamped in Bulgaria].

That all being said: I’m applying for recognition of my Romanian citizenship. This  was certainly not expected and it still comes with some demurral, but I’m willing and determined to go through with it. I’ve discussed the matter with my Fulbright director, who encouraged me to apply for my citizenship as other Fulbrighters have acquired Romanian citizenship during their grant period; I even called the U.S. embassy, which confirmed that I must obtain citizenship in order to stay here legally (which left me rather distraught at the time). My parents have starting sending over the documents

to obtain citizenship (my birth certifcate and my mother’s birth ceritficate, marriage license, and old Romanian passport), which arrived yesterday; my professors here are completely understanding and accomodoating to help me make the trips to the capital here to sort out my application, even taking me to airport an hour away; and my aunt in Bucuresti has already taken my documents to be translated and legalized.

How lucky am I to be so greatly assisted and taken care of throughout this all. I certainly don’t deserve it.

That all being said, I leave for the capital tomorrow. I’m not sure how long this process will take or when I’ll be returning to Arad: the adventure continues.

In the meantime, as complicated and frustrating as this process may be, I’m beyond grateful for the overall experience and for the people around me.

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