Lifestyle

Residence Permits in Croatia - Welcome to the Minefield

By 21 October 2018

October 21, 2018 - So you've decided you want to move to Croatia, but just how does one go about it? An introduction to residence permits In Croatia.

Maybe it's the sea, maybe it's the climate, the quaint old streets or the stone Dalmatian houses with their red roofs and sun damaged shutters, whatever it is, you're obviously getting serious if you find yourself reading this.

Moving to Croatia can seem daunting, if you're totally ''new'' to Croatia, a new language and an entirely new way of life awaits you, depending on which part of the country you move to, and what type of country you're moving from.

Perhaps the thing that bothers most would-be expats however, isn't the potential of having to learn how to order a cold beer in Croatian, or even the idea of trying to let your phone company know that yes, you did pay last month's bill. It's the idea of permits, paperwork and expressionless officials who spend their lives in claustrophobic rooms behind glass (which usually needs a wipe), in local police stations.

You're not alone. Just what steps you need to take in this regard do vary depending on where you yourself are from. You can save yourself a huge amount of headache by simply researching yourself. And that is often easier to say than to do as the laws in Croatia change with the direction of the wind. Read on, and please note that I will continue to update this article as and when new laws and regulations occur.

First things first, check if you need a visa to enter Croatian territory as a tourist, if you do, then make sure you've got it sorted. If you do need a visa to enter Croatian territory, don't make the mistake of thinking you're all set to jump on a plane and start your new life, you aren't. Those who require visas must make their first residence application in a Croatian consulate located in their own countries. Only in exceptional circumstances can you arrive in Croatia and take the steps a person who doesn't require a visa can take, which is a rather relaxed application procedure in person at a local police station, but more about that later.

Step one is to check whether or not you need a visa to enter Croatia. If you're from an European Economic Area (EEA) country, (this means all of the European Union's 28 member states, as well as Iceland, Norway, the Principality of Liechtenstein, and the Swiss confederation), you definitely do not require a visa to enter Croatia. Nationals of all other countries should make sure to check with their own governments, Croatian consulates, or even just pay Wikipedia a quick visit.

So, just what do you need? While the rules in how one applies are different, the documents you'll need to provide are, give or take, pretty much the same. Let's get the most complicated bit done first.

THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS:

Third country nationals are nationals who come from outside the EEA, and these people have three types of stay in Croatia available to them, and if you're serious about moving to Croatia permanently you must typically go through each, they are as follows: short-term stay, temporary residence, and permanent residence.

Let's get the simplest one of all out of the way first.

Short-term stay

Short-term stay is the right to remain in Croatia for up to 90 days in a 180 day period, regardless of whether you required a visa to enter or not. This can really only be shortened by the specifics of your visa, if you needed one, so make sure to read what it says, then read it again, and again. Typically, however, it is 90 days in any 180 days.

Temporary residence

The request for temporary residence for a third country national who does require a visa to enter Croatia should be submitted in a diplomatic mission, more specifically a Croatian consulate in their country of origin, and, I'll repeat, not in the Republic of Croatia, as is the legal procedure for EEA citizens and those who do not require a visa.

In some circumstances, such as if you're the life partner or the family member of a Croatian citizen, you might be permitted to submit your application for residency within Croatian territory, but do not risk it, if you're a third country national who needs a visa, you run the risk of being refused and told to do so from your own country, before returning again. Save yourself some cash and don't leave this up to fate, it isn't worth it. Do it from home after being granted your visa to enter.

If, however, you manage to be given the green light to apply from within Croatia, make sure you do so at the soonest possible opportunity, and no later than eight days before the end of your permitted 90 days. Failure to do so can result in a fine.

You can apply for your first residence permit within several circumstances. They are: family reunification, life partnership or marriage, work, education, for research purposes, humanitarian reasons, or other purposes.

If you apply under ''work'', your permit will be a stay and work permit. The work of third-country nationals is regulated by a quota, with some freedoms and some limitations, so make sure to ask what this means for you. This will alter depending on whether or not you're self-employed or have been hired by a third party, it will also depend on what type of work you intend to take up.

Choose which one you choose to go for carefully as this will govern the reasons behind the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) granting you a permit. If you're found to have strayed from the reason(s) provided, you might end up in some hot water or even risk having the permit terminated.

While permit termination is indeed a worst-case scenario and getting a fine is a more likely ''punishment'', my advice would be to apply for ''other purposes'' to give you more freedom while living in Croatia.

When an application is successful, then it's successful, and your worries are over for a year before renewing it, but upon being informed of your success, make sure to ask just what purposes it has been granted for, just to be sure.

Please be aware that many third country nationals have been surprised to be told that they can only apply under ''other purposes'' for their first year of residence in Croatia. After that, you should expect to be asked to provide a concrete reason, such as family reunification, life partnership or marriage, work, education, humanitarian reasons (and be able to prove that your reason is true), to be granted a second year. This is not always the case, but it does happen very often.

What do you need to provide to be approved as a third country national?

Your birth certificate

A copy of your birth certificate

A valid passport 

A scanned copy (its wise to make several copies), of the photographic ID of the page with your details in your passport

A colour 35x45mm photograph (passport style, not passport size - MUP will either take your photo there and then or direct you to a nearby place to have it done to the correct measure)

Proof of health insurance (ask specifically as to how this can be showcased at the consulate)

Proof of funds to sustain yourself for the foreseen length of stay in Croatia (this can be proven with a printed statement from the bank showing and attesting to the amount in the account)

Proof of the justification of the reason behind your request for temporary residency

Proof of having housing (this can be proven in several ways, either with a notarised rental contract, proof of home ownership, or having your landlord or whoever you're staying with come with you in person)

Proof of having paid consular tax if your application has been made in your country of origin, which, as stated several times, it should be

In some cases, a police clearance certificate from the applicant's home country is required, however, this is not always asked for, so make sure to ask if you need this beforehand!

The documents submitted with the correct form you must fill in from MUP must be either originals, or certified copies. These foreign documents are usually required to be translated (with a certified translation) into the Croatian language. The documents must not be older than six months (aside from the obvious documents which will be older than six months, such as your original passport and original birth certificate).

The conditions for approval of your residence permit

As a third-country national, you will be granted temporary residence if you can prove the purpose of your request for temporary residence, if you own a valid travel document/passport, the correct health insurance, and in the case that there are no restrictions on your entrance or stay in Croatia, and that you don't pose a threat to public health or to national security.

In some cases, applicants are told that they do not need to prove that they have health insurance or the means to sustain themselves for the length of their stay if they are the family members of a Croatian national. Don't rely on this, depending on who you speak to, this requirement alters. Make sure you have the means and are ready to prove you have both should you be asked to do so.

The first temporary residence permit for a third country national is typically issued with a validity of up to one year, this isn't always the case and in some situations it can be for longer, but usually it is one year and you should therefore expect it to be. The travel documents of third-country nationals requesting temporary residence must be valid for at least three months longer than the period covered by the temporary residence permit.

The permit is provided first in the form of a white sheet of paper (registration certificate) which acts as your temporary ID, and then, about three or four weeks later, in the form of a biometric residence card which also acts as photographic ID.

If you're applying at a diplomatic mission/Croatian consulate abroad, make sure to ask how the following procedure works. If you have made your application as a third country national within the Republic of Croatia you will be given a slip of paper attesting to the fact that your request has been granted while the card is made. Do not lose this piece of paper!

As previously stated, MUP will either take your photo at the station or direct you to a place in which to have it taken.

If you have managed to apply from within the country, you will be required to come and pick up your biometric permit in person. This is likely the same when having applied at a consulate abroad. Again, ask about the consulate procedure where you are. If you have been allowed to apply from within the country, you will be allowed to stay in Croatia legally until a decision on approval is reached.

Once you are granted your residence permit, you must carry it on your person at all times when in Croatia, you can be stopped and asked to show it by the police, just as any national can. If you fail to produce it, you'll be hit with a 100 kuna fine.

If you change your address, make sure to inform the police. If you move to a different city or jurisdiction, make sure to inform the police in your new city and be ready, if asked to do so, to provide proof of the move. Don't be taken aback or surprised if the police decide to turn up at your door at random to ''make sure you really do live there'', this doesn't happen to everyone, but it can and does occur.

If you do move to another area of the country, the rule is that you must inform the police in your new area as soon as possible (typically within 15 days). This rule is very loose. When you go to the police in your new area to register your change of address, you will need to have a new ID card made and pay the administration fee (79.50 kuna), and have a new photo taken. This is not a new application and is just a formality.

Third country nationals with temporary residence must not leave Croatia for periods longer than thirty days in continuation unless they have a good reason and are given permission by MUP to do so. This is something that should be discussed with MUP or at your consulate of initial application as you're likely to not be told anything about this unless you ask yourself. If you can read Croatian, you can read more about that here.

Permanent residence for third-country nationals

You can renew your temporary residence permit year on year at the police station should you have been granted a one year permit. As is typical, you must do so several days before the expiry of your current permit, make sure to ask how many days before expiry you need to do so. This is typically 60 days before expiration of the current permit. Failure to adhere to this can result in a fine.

To repeat what I have already written a few paragraphs ago, third country nationals can expect to need to provide a concrete reason (and concrete proof of that reason) for a second year of residence and may find that ''other purposes'' won't be accepted again.

After five years of continuous, legal residence in the Republic of Croatia, you have the right to apply for permanent residence. Permanent residence comes in the form of a similar biometric permit but with a validity period of ten years, which is then simply renewed like a passport would be every decade, without any further questions or requirements from the authorities.

Permanent residence provides almost all of the rights a Croatian citizen enjoys and when granted, you are no longer subject to any conditions as long as you do not leave Croatia for more than two consecutive years. You can access the state's social security system, you can work and carry out services freely, in any manner citizens do without needing any type of special permit or permission for foreigners, and you can leave the country as often as you'd like to.

In some circumstances, you may be allowed to apply for permanent residence before completing five years of temporary residence, I'll provide more detail about that a little later.

The application for a permanent residence permit should be filed with the police responsible for your place of residence as a third country national, and the application is decided upon by the Ministry of the Interior. As a third country national, you're not bound by EU law and therefore your fundamental right to permanent residence is not the same as it is for a person from the EEA, and at the time of the decision on the application, the third-country national must have a valid temporary residence permit.

While not always the case, as Croatian law states that a foreigner can stay in Croatia while awaiting a residence decision from the authorities, it could mean that you'll need to apply for another temporary residence permit while you await the outcome of your request for permanent residence.

Permanent residence will very likely be granted to third-country nationals who have been legally resident for a period of five years (holding temporary residence, asylum or subsidiary protection) up to the date of their application. Continued residence means that in these five years Croatia, the third country national has not been absent from the country for more than ten months in a five year period.
 
In addition to permanent residence after five years of continuous stay, permanent residence can be granted in four other special cases according to Sredisnji drzavni portal:

A third-country national who has been granted temporary residence for a period of three years and who has held refugee status for no less than ten years, as evidenced by a certificate issued by the competent state body for refugees.

A third-country national who resided in the Republic of Croatia on the 8th of October 1991 and who is a beneficiary of the program of return, as evidenced by an appropriate certificate attesting to that fact.

A child living in the Republic of Croatia: whose parents held a permanent residence permit at the time of the child's birth, or with one parent who, at the time of the child's birth, was granted permanent residence (with the consent of the other parent).

A child with a parent who has been granted permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia at the time of childbirth, with the other parent having been unknown, who died, or has been declared deceased.

A third-country national who was born and has, since birth, been living on the territory of the Republic of Croatia, but for justifiable reasons over which they had no influence, they had no type of regulated stay (as evidenced by a birth certificate, proof of attendance of preschool or an educational institution, proof of employment, evidence of the use of healthcare services, evidence of the use of social care).

Conditions for the approval of permanent residence for third-country nationals

The conditions for the approval of permanent residence are the possession of a valid passport, means of subsistence and health insurance, knowledge of the Croatian language and the Latin script (proven via an exam taken in an educational facility which MUP accepts, ask for further information), and that the third-country national is not a threat to public order, national security, or to public health.

The Croatian language and Latin script language exam can be conducted by higher education institutions, secondary schools and adult education institutions that run Croatian language programs approved by the competent ministry. The cost of the exam is borne by you as a third-country national yourself.

The Croatian language and Latin script exam doesn't have to be taken by children of preschool age, persons older than 65 if they're not employed, and persons who have completed their elementary, secondary or higher education in Croatia.

Permanent residence will not be granted to anyone who has been denied asylum or subsidiary protection.

What if you're a third country national with approved permanent residence in another EEA country already?

If you're a third country national who has been granted permanent residence in another EEA country, you can apply for short-term stay under the same rules as listed above, and by providing the same documents as listed above, meaning that you can stay in Croatia until the expiry of the visa or the residence card issued by the EEA country which has approved your permanent residence in that country, and for a maximum period of three months from the date of initial entry.

Just as with the normal procedure, if you intend to stay longer than three months (before the expiration of the visa or residence card from another EEA country) you can apply for a temporary residence permit at your local police station in Croatia, or in the Croatian consulate of the EEA country which approved your permanent residence there.

If you're successful, you'll be given a biometric residence permit for Croatia.

As a third country national who has been granted temporary residence in Croatia, a member of your family shall also be granted temporary residence for the purpose of family reunification, if that family member also holds a valid residence permit in another EEA country, or if he or she has been resident in a shared household with you, as a third country national, in the EEA country in which you hold permanent residence.

Family members in this case are spouses and partners, underage biological children and underage adopted children.

Permanent residence in this case is also dealt with in exactly the same way as stated above for third-country nationals.

Unlike in the case for EEA citizens, for third-country nationals, it can take a while before you hear of the outcome of the ministry's decision when it comes to whatever application you've submitted, and you might need to follow up to see how things stand. Don't worry if you don't hear much, but make sure to follow up regularly. Ask questions if you're unsure, no matter the attitude of the person answering, and seek a second opinion should you feel the need to do so. 

You can email MUP in Zagreb at any time, responses might not be quick, but you'll get one in any case: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

With apologies to third-country nationals, people from the EEA have things a lot easier, in most cases anyway.

Since Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, freedom of movement was adopted and therefore EEA citizens can live in Croatia with some, but very few restrictions. Applications for temporary residence can be applied for from within Croatia, it comes in the form of a five year biometric residence permit as opposed to a yearly one, EEA citizens do not need work permits unless they are from countries which impose labour market restrictions on Croatian nationals, and they also face much less potential pitfalls and restrictions, with their treatment (theoretically) being equal to that Croatian citizens receive.

The United Kingdom, Malta, and Austria once applied full labour market restrictions on Croatian nationals, they have since been dropped in the UK and in Malta, and on the basis of reciprocity, Croatia dropped work restrictions for nationals of those countries in Croatia, too. This means, in layman's terms, that if you're Maltese or British, you now no longer require any type of work permit to work in Croatia. Austria has chosen to keep its restrictions up, at least partially, therefore Croats still require work permits in Austria, and Austrians in Croatia require the same. For now.

CITIZENS OF THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA:

Good news, you've got things a lot easier. Yes, this still includes you Brits.

As stated, the EEA includes the 28 European Union member states and Norway, Iceland, the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein.  Just like third-country nationals, as an EEA citizen, you can be in Croatia on a short-term stay, or obtain temporary and then permanent residence in Croatia. When granted a permit, you're obliged to carry that permit with you at all times or face a possible 100 kuna fine.

Short-term stay: 

As a citizen of the EEA, you have the right of entry into the Republic of Croatia without a visa, you also enjoy the right to reside in the Republic of Croatia for up to three months from the date your initial entry into the country if you hold a valid travel document or government issued identity card.

Temporary residence:

Contrary to popular belief, the type which fuelled Brexit, you do not have the right to simply stay in another EEA country without providing several things. Freedom of movement is exactly that, movement, it is not the right of residence unless you are able to fulfil certain requirements that the host country seeks from you. You must register no later than eight days before your initial 90 days of free stay come to an end in Croatia. You can do so by submitting your application for temporary residence with your local police station which is responsible for the area of your residency in Croatia. Failure to do this will result in a fine, typically of 100/200 kuna, this can vary.

What you'll need as an EEA citizen:

Your birth certificate

A copy of your birth certificate (this isn't a legal requirement anymore, but many smaller administrative police stations still ask for it, so it's better to have it than to not have it)

A valid passport 

A scanned copy (its wise to make several copies), of the photographic ID of the page with your details in your passport

A colour 35x45mm photograph (passport style, not passport size - MUP will either take your photo there or direct you to a nearby place where it can be done to the correct measure)

Proof of health insurance (this can be obtained by going to a HZZO office or by showing you have an EU health card. In some circumstances, EEA nationals are not asked to provide proof of health insurance. Please note that due to the EU's double taxation laws, you cannot be publicly insured in two EU countries at the same time, and should you be required to show proof of health insurance, you'll need to provide proof of release from your old EU provider in your country of origin. Once again, EEA nationals are being asked to provide proof of health insurance less and less frequently). An EHIC should be sufficient.

Proof of funds to sustain yourself for the foreseen length of stay in Croatia (this can be proven with a printed statement from the bank showing and attesting to the amount in the account. Please note that you must open a Croatian bank account in order to do this. You'll need an OIB (personal identification/tax number) to do this, this can be easily obtained at the local tax office (porezna uprava).

Proof of the justification of the reason behind your request for temporary residency

Proof of having somewhere to stay (this can be proven in several ways, from proof of having purchased property, to a notarised rental contract, to the friend, partner or family member you're living with coming with you to the police station)

In some cases, a police clearance certificate from the applicant's home country is required, however this appears to be being asked for less and less from EEA citizens

As an EEA citizen, you'll be approved for temporary residence in Croatia if:

You're coming to work or carry out your activities as a self-employed person

You have sufficient means of subsistence for yourself and your family members (if applicable) so as not to become a burden on the social welfare system during your stay in the Republic of Croatia

You have health insurance (again, this may not even be asked of you)

If you're attending higher education or vocational education and you have adequate health insurance, and by means of a bank statement, you can prove that you have sufficient means to support yourself and any of your dependents should that be applicable in your case

If you're the non-EEA family member who is joining an EEA citizen who meets the above conditions, you can get temporary residence granted to you, too

You can get the form you'll need to fill in from MUP when you go there. When you provide this and all of the documents listed above, you'll need to show your original passport or travel document which you entered Croatian territory with. The scanned copy of it will be verified by the official dealing with your case upon seeing that it matches the original.

Once approved, you'll be given a slip of paper (registration certificate) attesting to that fact. Don't lose it as you'll need to present it when coming to pick up your card. It can take a few weeks, but you'll be contacted to come to the police station and pick up your card, which will have a validity of five years. 

As an EEA citizen, you're afforded many more travel opportunities than third country nationals. You aren't tied into the 30-day rule and there is a much more relaxed approach. EU law, by which Croatia is bound, states that EU citizens can leave for up to six months in any one year without endangering the validity of their residence. This, however, seems to be interpreted in many ways for different people, depending on who they talk to. Flash this piece of Union law if you want to make sure this applies to you with MUP, as the administrative clerk may not know (and yet be confidently wrong and profess to be all-knowing, of course).

Once again, don't be surprised if a police officer or an official from MUP comes to check that you truly do live at the provided address and that the information you've provided is correct. These people are typically friendly enough, with all the warmth of an arctic breeze. Offer them a drink and be nice, they don't want to be there either. These checks don't always occur, and are less and less common for EU citizens.

If you move, make sure to let the police in both your former place of residence, and your new place, know. You'll need to get a new ID card with your new address on it. You're not applying for anything, and this is merely a formality. You'll therefore need to bring a photo or have another one taken, and pay the administrative fee (79.50 kuna) for a new card, which usually takes about three weeks to make.

Technically speaking, you're supposed to notify the police in your new city/area as soon as possible, but this is a very loose requirement and you're unlikely to be asked too much about how long you've been at your new address unless you bring it up yourself. A word to the wise - unless you're asked specifically, don't volunteer that information.

What if you're the family member of an EEA citizen who wants to stay for longer than three months?

If you're a family member of an EEA citizen and you intend to stay for more than three months, you need to notify the police station of the place of your residence and apply for temporary residence no later than eight days before the expiration of your 90 days, if you don't do so, you'll be fined.

Along with your application form, which can be obtained from MUP, you'll need the following:

A copy of your valid identity card, passport or travel document after the original has been inspected and verified to be real and a match by the officer

A document proving that you're a member of the EEA citizen in question's family

A marriage certificate attesting to your marriage to the said EEA citizen (or certified copy no older than six months) if applicable in your case

If you're in a relationship but not married, or in a common-law marriage, you'll need to prove the genuineness of your relationship, show you've been living together for the last three years prior to the submission of the application, provide witness statements attesting to the existence and the duration of the relationship, and any other evidence to act as proof of the relationship

If a child is born outside of marriage, an original birth certificate and/or a certified copy must be provided

A fine of 100/200 kuna shall be imposed on you as a member of an EEA citizen's family if you haven't applied for the "residence permit for a family member of a Union citizen" within the prescribed time limit. As usual, you can pick the necessary form up at MUP in person.

Permanent residence in Croatia as an EEA citizen:

Once you've racked up your five years of temporary residence, you can get permanent residence. As an EEA citizen, unlike a third country national, this is your right, even if the person behind the glass makes you feel like it isn't. You might get lucky and be dealt with by a friendly face, but if you aren't, remember it's them and not you. Just provide what they ask for and you'll be fine.

Typically, you'll need to prove your five years of continuous, legal residence, this is done simply by presenting your temporary residence card and any documents given to you such as one from the tax office about your OIB. The year will be written on both. 

You'll need to provide proof of enough funds to sustain yourself, proof of address, proof of health insurance (again, you might not even be asked for this), and proof of your identity.

The key requirement is that you have held residency for a continuous period of five years in Croatia, absences of six months or less every year are permitted. As opposed to third country nationals, permanent residence for an EEA citizen is an automatic right under EU law. You're simply asking MUP for a confirmation of those rights. You therefore do not need a valid temporary residence permit when registering your permanent residence, unlike third country nationals.

EEA citizens do not need to take an exam in Croatian language and the Latin script, this was confirmed by MUP in Zagreb via recent email correspondence. Despite this, some EEA nationals report being told they need to do so, and some portals and websites with outdated or confusing information claiming they need to. If you need to be certain, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the question, stating that you are an EEA citizen and are unsure.

Email correspondence with MUP in Zagreb: ''EEA citizens do not need to pass an exam in Croatian language and the Latin script''

As stated just above, some officials claim that you must submit this application before the validity of your five-year permit runs out, however, this is not the case for EEA citizens as your right to permanent residence is automatic under EU law, meaning that you actually seek confirmation of your rights after five years and one day. Make sure to ask about your situation. The same rules apply to family members of Croatian nationals who are not nationals of an EEA country.

You'll be given the correct form once you go in person to apply at the police station.

As opposed to the case with third-country nationals, MUP is required to provide a decision on the permanent residence application of an EEA national in the shortest time period possible, so you'll likely hear of your approval quite quickly. Once again, if you don't hear anything or have questions, make sure to call your case worker (ask for a contact number upon registering) or send them an email.

Once your permanent residence is approved, you'll go to pick up a new biometric permit with a validity of ten years. As stated previously, permanent residence provides almost all of the rights a Croatian citizen enjoys and when granted, you are no longer subject to any conditions as long as you do not leave Croatia for more than two consecutive years. You can access the state's social security system, you can work and carry out services freely, in any manner citizens do without needing any type of special permit or permission for foreigners, and you can leave the country as often as you'd like to. You simply renew it as you would a passport every decade. You will not be subject to any more conditions or questions.

If you commit a crime that lands you with six months or more in jail, or you're deemed and proven to be a threat to national security, then your permanent residence can be revoked and you can, in some cases, face deportation.

With thanks to EUROPA, MUP, Sredisnji drzavni portal, a dose of EU law and more web pages than I'd like to admit I've ever opened, I'd like to say thanks for managing to get through this. My headache is worse than yours is, trust me. 

We at TCN were aware that this process is extremely confusing and that there is a hell of a lot of conflicting information out there, being provided by not only outdated web pages and sites, but by official persons themselves. While this is no less than a novel in length, we can only hope it helps you in some way or another to feel more secure in what you need to do.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for more.

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