Lifestyle

Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa

By 26 January 2021

January 26, 2021 - An historic day for digital nomad tourism in Croatia - meet Melissa Paul, proud owner of Croatia's first digital nomad visa. Find out how she did it.

It has been quite a day in the world of digital nomads in Croatia. 

After Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic delivered on his promise to introduce a visa for digital nomads in Croatia last year by pushing changes to the tax code and Aliens Act, effective January 1. The final details were imminent, as was the promised online application process, with a timeframe of the first quarter of this year the target for the introduction of the visa.

And then, just before lunch - this from the man whose open letter to Plenkovic asking for the visa to be introduced got the ball rolling 199 days ago - Jan de Jong: US Citizen Gets First Croatian Digital Nomad Visa.

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Jan's news - delightful as it was - was a little thin on detail. Who WAS this successful digital nomad visa bearer, and how did he/she do it?

Some phone calls were made, and our groundbreaking nomad was tracked down to Istria, and the town of Labin. Not only that, but Melissa Paul was more than delighted to tell her story and explain in great detail the process and the documentation required. 

Melissa Paul is a brand storyteller, social media manager, and blog editor for design, travel, and lifestyle businesses.

Raised in Southern California, Melissa she was born craving adventure and kept traveling east to find it. From the mountains of Arizona to the big cities of Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, Melissa managed to get all the way to Croatia, first landing on the island of Krk before falling in love with the hilltop artist town of Labin, Istria. In the six years she’s called Croatia home Melissa has renovated an old stone house and learned the benefits of slowing down to enjoy the beauty of everyday life in Croatia.

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1.      Let's start at the beginning. Why Croatia? What are you doing here and how long have you been here?

I came to Croatia in 2014 with my then husband, seeking a slower lifestyle in his parents’ home country. We divorced in early 2018, but I couldn’t imagine leaving my home, neighbors, and friends in Croatia!

2.      As an American, you obviously have residency issues without the digital nomad visa. What was your particular situation?

Yes, it can be, and has been, challenging for third-country nationals. Originally, as a spouse of a citizen I was granted a 5-year temporary stay visa. Then, the moment our divorce (which was brought here in HR) was final, that visa also terminated. But, with the help of an excellent attorney, the Ministry gave me permission to finish my existing 5-year visa. (there are provisions in the law for this situation if you have been married and have lived in Croatia together for at least 3 years full-time). Next, I applied for an extension on that visa using ownership of my home as the reason. I was granted that extension for one-year.

This past summer, when I read about the potential for a Digital Nomad Visa, I got excited as I realized that not only do I qualify as a digital nomad, but it could be my only way to stay! But this past October, when it was time again for me to reapply for another stay visa, the Digital Nomad Visa was not enacted. I had no options available to me but to apply for humanitarian reasons. The fear was real, with COVID out of control around the globe, where would I be able to go? Even returning to the United States was not comforting. Of course, to find a way to stay in my beautiful, much safer Istra was my ultimate goal!

3.      I understand that the suggestion of you applying for the digital nomad visa came from a rather unusual proactive source - the Croatian police in Zagreb. Tell us about that. 

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I took the suggestion of many local friends, one of whom has a friend in MUP Zagreb, and applied with letters from neighbors, local businesses I had helped, and even my local Catholic church. All to show that I had become a part of the community around me. But to no avail. I learned just days before my current visa expired that this humanitarian reason was not enough. I was denied. But in that “decision” from the Ministry in Zagreb was their suggestion that I reapply quickly (within 36 hours) using the new Digital Nomad Visa option as they could see that I qualified. Sadly, I was not given that letter to show you as it was an internal document from Zagreb to Labin MUP, but I was shown the section that offered the exact paragraphs in the Alien Act that were recommended.

4.      Now - and I want you to give us as much detail as possible as there is a LOT of interest in this (you will forever be known as First Nomad Visa Lady...), take us through the process of what happened when you went to apply. 


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Okay, these details are spread about here in different answers. The documents I needed to provide:

1)      Completed Form 1A provided by the MUP office, noting the reason of requested temporary stay as DIGITAL NOMAD, and the length of requested stay;
2)      OIB (personal identification number);
3)      Valid Passport that shows it is active beyond the timeframe requested in my visa application;
4)      Written statement from me that I am a Digital Nomad with a company/work/clients outside of Croatia, why I want to stay/work in Croatia, how long I have been a digital nomad and any detail about my services. Specifically, I was told to reference “communications” and “technology” in my statement as services I provide as well as where the company I own is registered; and offering any detail about the names and locations of the companies I work with. This document was written by me in English but professionally translated into Croatian, then my signature was notarized by a local, Croatian notary;
5)      Since I own my company (US-based) servicing clients in Mexico and the US, I was asked to provide a copy of my business registration, articles of incorporation, and proof that the company was active and in good standing. The latter was obtained online from the US state in which I originally incorporated my business in;
6)      Written statement of some form from my employer, in this case, an Employment Agreement from my own company, stating that I work for the company, what role I service, what my annual salary is, and the term of my contract. This agreement needed to be stamped with the official company seal. This document was written by me in English but professionally translated into Croatian, then my signature was notarized by a local, Croatian notary;
7)      Proof of health insurance coverage for the length of the visa term requested. In my case, I went to the HZZO office and got a statement from them that I was paid up. Otherwise, proof of the foreign health insurance coverage is required;
8)      Proof of minimally 28,800 kuna sitting in my bank account at the time of application. Better, of course, if this was shown in a Croatian bank account. Otherwise, a statement from the foreign bank on their letterhead that this amount is in the account.


5. How long did the process last and what did it cost?

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I applied in mid-November 2020 for my Temporary Stay and received a stamped letter from MUP Labin that the application was received and in process. On January 11th, 2021, I received a call at my home telling me I was denied and should come to their office in the police station immediately to discuss other options. I was told to bring a friend who spoke Croatian. I was there in an hour and they saw me immediately. I was shown the decision referenced above and it was read by my friend, and the suggestion to apply as a Digital Nomad was explained in detail. I was told I needed to get all the required documents back to MUP as soon as possible, and before my current visa expired in 4 days. I returned with all documents and ID/Passport photo. It was approved and I was given the decision, fee requirements and tax stamp requests. Tax stamps of 35 kuna were required and I paid 590 kuna for the visa application.

6. Is it actually a visa? Do you have a stamp or piece of paper you could share with us? 

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It is a reason to get a Temporary Stay Visa. So, the only document I have is the Rjesenje (decision) stating it was approved and the tariff stamp (tax stamp) of 35 kuna was due. Once I showed receipts from my bank that I paid the fee and brought back the tax stamps (available at a local Tisak) I was given a temporary white ID card and told to return in 3-4 weeks for the official card with photo.

7. When did you realise that you had become First Nomad Visa Lady - the first person to get the Croatian digital nomad visa?

My dear friend Isabel Putinja told me I must be the first, but I didn’t believe her! And then today I got a call from the Ministry in Zagreb who told me the article in TCN was about me… they asked if I would give them permission to use my name, etc.

8. Tell us how you feel now that you have it, and what are the exact conditions?

How I felt was GREAT RELIEF! To have the chance to stay here in Croatia for another year, and to not have to leave my home, my friends and neighbors, is amazing! Not to mention all the added complications COVID brings… I really have made my home here in Istria, but to have the opportunity to stay here while working remotely, is a gift. Truly! I have been a digital nomad for years and whether or not I own my home doesn’t negate the fact that I work for foreign companies while living on the other side of the world from them.
 
I have a new Privremeni Boravak for 12 months, which is the length of the DNVisa. It cannot be renewed or extended. When it expires, I either must have a stalni boravak (permanent residence) in place, a sexy Croatian or EU husband, or live out of Croatia for six months. (well, 3 months out, 3 months in as a tourist).

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9.  How have your plans changed now with regard to your stay in Croatia?

Getting my new temporary stay with the digital nomad reason means I can continue to write about Istria and Croatia, a personal project in the works for some time now. BUT, it affords me the opportunity to get a permanent stay visa as you must have one while the other is in process!

10. What advice do you have for others who are also looking to apply? What should they take with them to the police station?  

Take a lot of patience with you, each time you go! And, someone who speaks fluent Croatian, as beginner’s Croatian is not enough for when faced with bureaucratic hurdles to jump! The best language is a smile, I found, but when I left frustrated I would be reminded that this is what it is, for everyone, and that it is not personal. I also believe going with everything copied already, translated and notarized is super helpful to speeding things up.

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Fabulous stuff, and thanks, Melissa, for going into so much detail. You can follow Melissa Paul, Croatia's First Nomad Visa lady, on Instagram.

As I wrote in the earlier piece today announcing the first visa, the finishing touches are being applied to the process, including online registration forms. I would expect this all to be in place by the end of the first quarter of 2021, quite probably next month. We will bring you the latest in the dedicated TCN digital nomad section

If you are applying for a digital nomad visa via your local police station and would like to share your experiences, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Nomad Visa.

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