Update 29/9/14: it seems that Americans (and possibly other countries but I have no idea which) are allowed to apply for 5 year visas instead of just 1. This was conveyed to us by one of the branches of government tasked with approving our visas. We are trying to alter the documents post-submission but are unsure if it will succeed. Stay tuned.
So if you're not a Moldovan and you're going to try and start a business in Moldova you will need a visa. This is an interesting process and by "interesting" I mean basically horrible. Firstly, here are the top-level requirements:
If you are from a country that has visa-free entry to the Republic of Moldova (like America and Most of Europe - a list is provided here but I have no idea if it's up to date)
If you require a visa to enter the Republic of Moldova - good luck. I encountered a lot of the paperwork for this process and while it seemed straightforward it's a fair bet that it's anything but. Anyhow, I have no experience with it (if you do please comment below)
Ok, so you need a visa. How hard can that be? You're an entrepreneur after all! you have money you want to invest in the economy! you are an engine of change that will help Moldova by employing people and paying taxes! surely they want you to be here.
Well actually their attitude is more like...
...and you are nothing.
Sooo.. our adventure first begins with figuring out the requirements for applying for such a visa. This brings us to the always exciting topic of government IT. Now I know that probably caused anyone in the US with a familiarity with the government to chuckle because we all know things are bad in that sector. Here in Moldova someone once had the intention to build a lot of great websites. They built them in Russian, Romanian and English. Wonderful! So we start at the homepage for the Bureau of Migration. You first notice that whatever language you have selected recent postings to the site are in Romanian. Understood, it's the state language but there are literally no other updates in the past few years. Troubling. So we go to the top to site items - the search bar and the "Questions and Answers" (FAQ) section. The FAQ doesn't exist (in any language) and we don't have privileges on the site to search. Not a good start.
So you stumble through the menu items for a while to try and find the visa requirements and eventually find the application for the "Temporary residence right for immigrants workers" which helpfully says that it applies to migrant workers, border workers (?) and heads of economic units (me!). I quickly review the list and see that most of it is pretty easy. Some things like proving higher education don't apply to "heads of economic units" and much of the other work is just filing the company's papers. That said, I've been in Moldova a while so I decided to go to the office, helpfully (or comically?) referred to as "One-Stop Shop," to see get a consultation. There a very helpful woman goes through your documents, tells you if they are correct and eventually refers you to the appropriate counter. My documents were not correct. It turns out that that English version of the list online is old. She gave me a new Romanian version which I immediately noticed only had 11 items instead of the previous 14. I explained that I don't speak Romanian and she handed me a Russian copy with has 14 items on it - but they are different from the English copy. Hmmmm. I retreat to my house to look over my documents and figure this out.
I decided that the best option is to get back on the website and use google translate to translate each language and see where the discrepancies are. This is a problem because the site creator maintainer utterly failed at cross-linking pages. That means that when you are on the page you want in one language and change the site language it redirects you to the homepage. I was able to blunder about in Russian to find the same information (in a totally different spot of course) but without the benefit of search the Romanian page eluded me. Since then I've become convinced that it doesn't actually exist on the site at all.
So then. I've already made the mistake of giving my landlady my only copy of the Romanian documents so she can use it to go get a proof of residency for me. I decided to follow the Russian list and hope it just had some extra stuff. It took almost a month to get all of this figured out for reasons I'll explain below. When I finally applied, proudly holding all of my documents in hand the immediate reaction was - this is totally wrong. It turns out, the Romanian list is ALSO WRONG. There is no correct listing in any language. Furthermore the nice woman who consults you and sits day in and day out 20 ft from the application window is more or less fluent in the requirements as listed by law but as those are evidently designed to give you a sample of what is eventually required this is not enough.
facepalm or crying? I'll let you decide
I won't go through the rest of this process here play by play as it was too tedious. On my second trip to the actual application window (my 6th trip to the office) there was a wonderful woman there who helped to explain exactly what we needed. She even spoke some English and really did her level best to help us understand what she needed. Like so many other things in Moldova an accurate brochure would have been a lot easier than stumbling about blindly hoping to find the correct person to ask. That said, it's wonderful to find such a person.
Ok, I'm going to list the English Language version of things below and correct it. Before I can do that though I need to explain a critical caveat to this whole mess. As I said above you can found a company before you get your visa. For people who read previous posts here that is what we did. That makes me a founder / investor in the company. It does NOT make me an "Administrator" of the company. This title cannot be held by someone without a work visa. Therefore when Matt and my visas are awarded we will join Vlad as "Administrators" in the company by altering our registration. It therefore stands to reason that as an Investor / Founder I am by default a "head of an economic unit." If not, why in the world would there be exemptions in visa law for them? they literally could not exist?! Can you guess where this is going? Yup. It turns out I am NOT a "head of economic unit" until AFTER I receive the visa.
Ok, on to the list:
|regarding number of documents / copies|
1.Application form; --- the version on the website is only for workers. If you are an investor you need to get another copy (only available at the office) that is a little more tailored --- 2 original versions - no xerox
2.Approach of the company / organization / institution; --- 2 original versions - no xerox. Company stamp required
3.Passport in original and a copy of it, with corresponding entries applied by the control body of the state border (which confirms the date and place of the border crossing), and a copy of the long stay visa (for foreigners entering based on visa); --- 2 original versions - no xerox
4.Favorable note regarding the invitation of applicant to work from the State Register of enterprises and organizations (except heads of economic units); we did not need this
5.Copies of constituent documents of the company (registration certificate, statement from the State Register of enterprises and organizations, license on the type of activity);
6.Individual labour contract for workers (except heads of economic units); we did need this despite being the company's owners. Basically we hired ourselves as "Administrators." This turned out to be unacceptable as we are not yet Administrators under Moldovan Law. We were told to use literally any other word. We chose "Director." When we returned with new contracts a different woman was working there and was very concerned about this. She wanted to know what we were directors of. I replied "the company" but she was unsatisfied. She eventually let it go but only after trouble. It seemed a bit like she was unconcerned about it from an application standpoint but was trying to keep us from shortchanging ourselves by not having a good enough title. --- 2 xerox copies. The original has to stay with the company
7.Documents confirming the activity of the company (certificate issued by the State Tax Inspectorate on lack of debts to the government budget, a copy of financial report for the last reporting period); -
8.Copy of studies or other evidence that confirms the qualification of the specialist invited to work, tranlated in the state language and legalized/apostil according to the legislation in force (except heads of economic units); we did not need this
9.Evidence of living space (the owner’s place agreement drawn up by the notary/tenacy/contract of sale (donation) of the home); this is a notarized declaration by your landlord, or whoever you are staying with that you stay there --- 2 xerox copies. For some reason they won't take the original
10.Criminal record from the country of origin, legalized / apostilled (as established), translated into language and legalized by the notary or consular; This was hilarious. The US Embassy doesn't help you get FBI Background checks. I called the FBI and they reluctantly insinuated that I *could* fingerprint myself and mail it to them. They would then do the check and I would have to figure some way to then get it from them to the Department of State for an Apostille. Whole process? ~$50 and over 1 month. Before doing this I decided to ask some friends here. Turns out there is another way. If you go to the US Embassy and swear an affidavit that you are not a wanted criminal they will certify the statement. The Moldovan government accepts this.--- original + 1 xerox
11.Medical certificate showing that the applicant does not suffer from diseases that may endanger public health (m. Chişinău, av. Grigore Vieru, 22/2); This is stipulated as an HIV/AIDS test online. The Romanian and Russian versions do not have it however and only require a blood typing be done. It turns out this is the real version. The address they give is rather hard to find though and after wandering haplessly through a large complex for a while where absolutely no one had any idea what the hell I was talking about I found a small room with a bored woman in it who did blood tests. Total time: 3 min. Total cost: 35 lei ($2.40) or 54 lei (3.50) if you are Matt for who knows what reason.
12.Copy of health insurance valid for at least three months; At the desk the woman made it quite clear that my international insurance was no good here after those three months they mention (it is) and that I need to go by Moldovan insurance (which is good nowhere, especially here). Anyhow, I will clarify when I pick it up but I believe that this is legally required.
13.Evidence of maintenance funds in the amount corresponding to the category right of residence requested; we did not need this
14.Two coloured photos, size 3x4;
So what didn't they mention here? That you need to also go to the bank and deposit a ~140 lei in one account and ~1400 lei in another. That seemed kinda suspect but the bank knew exactly what was going on and gave us the appropriate receipts to return to the office. Around $110 bucks is a bit steep for all the "getting screwed" that it seemed to buy me but at least the papers are in.
Oh yeah - and here's a major disclaimer. Probably none of that is really true. It was true for the woman I applied with. Funny how these things seem to change based on which deity is behind the desk. Anyhow, please take this as a statement of what they finally accepted from us. Not as "the real requirements." As to those...
I am quite confident that the information you request does not exist.
I'll update this on October 9th when we hear our results.