When you are “invisible”

 Every citizen’s identity card serves as a representation of their affiliation with a political and administrative body, typically a state. The ID card serves as a mediator between the individual and the institutions of the relevant state(s), as mentioned by Plájás (2023), and as such, it has a genuine impact on the possessor’s day-to-day activities.

In Romania, you must either have a stable residence or have someone else declare their written acceptance of you into their house before you may obtain an ID card. Due to the causal relationship between an ID card (or equivalent document) and a permanent address, people who typically live on the margins of society in Romania are left without any legal documentation that could serve as proof of their identity to authorities. Numerous drawbacks result from this condition, among which we would list a few:

  • You have a good probability of not being counted in a census – you might only be included as an estimate.
  • Being unobservable to the authorities means that, once you reach the legally set working age, you are no longer eligible for health insurance.
  • Not possessing an ID card, you are not eligible for any official financial assistance. As a result, most aid is provided through NGOs, which is a desirable option only if they have the required financial resources and coverage; otherwise, one risks being excluded from this aid system as well.
  • Without an ID card, you are unable to properly make or sign any contracts, which keeps you from engaging in formal employment and prevents you from contracting for any services (such as running water, electricity, non-prepaid mobile services, etc.).
  • Additionally, the absence of an ID card makes opening a bank account impossible, meaning that transactions could only be made in cash. As a result of their dependence on the gray or black, cash-based economy and their inability to access official money, they frequently turn to loan sharks as their only source of credit.
  • A study also shows that the lack of identity papers plays a major role, in the case of the Roma people, in leaving their healthy children in medical institutions (Stativă, 2005).

As Plájás (2023) mentions, the temporary identity card, introduced in Romania, can resolve some of the above-mentioned problems, but there are constraints, like moving freely within the EU, which means a greater level of control and surveillance by the authorities, as these documents should be renewed annually (above the age of 25, the “normal” ID card must be renewed in every ten year, if there are no major changes in a person’s life).


by Balázs Telegdy, Ede Lázár and Blanka Bálint
Lost Millennials project



Plájás, I. Z. (2023). Permanent Temporality: Race, Time, and the Materiality of Romanian Identity Cards. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 48(1), 68–90. https://doi.org/10.1177/01622439211043200

Stativă, E. (coord.), Anghelescu, C., Mitulescu, R., Nanu, M., and Stanciu, N. (2005) The Situation of Child Abandonment in Romania. UNICEF Romania. Available at: http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/GDD_2005_Romania_Child_abandonment.pdf



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