Friday, 6 May 2022

The Lowdown on Croatian Residence Permits and Travel Regulations

May the 6th, 2022 - Croatian residence permits come with certain rules when it comes to travelling outside of the country which vary from case to case, nationality to nationality, and reason for applying.

Once you've received your first temporary residence permit, be it valid for a year, two years, three years, four or the full five year stretch before you can typically apply for permanent residence, you're faced with certain limitations when it comes to how long you can be absent from Croatia without risking the termination of your permit. The same is true for permanent residence holders, albeit far more lenient. Let's look into what those restrictions are and who they apply to.

Temporary residence for EU/EEA/EFTA citizens

If you're a citizen of a European Union, European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association country (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein), then you've got the best deal out of the lot when it comes to Croatian residence permits and the freedom to travel in and out of the country.

Once you've been granted a Croatian residence permit, in this case temporary residence, you can be gone for up to six months per calendar year, and as such you only need to be physically present on the territory of Croatia for the other six months per year in order for your temporary residence permit to remain valid.

This is primarily because as a citizen of one of the aforementioned groups, you are entitled to live and work in Croatia on the same basis as a Croatian national owing to one of the fundamental pillars of the functioning of the European Union - freedom of movement. This pillar also applies to non EU countries which are still part of the EEA or EFTA.

Permanent residence for EU/EEA/EFTA citizens

The same applies to citizens of the above-mentioned group of countries once you're granted permanent residence in Croatia. Permanent residence is precisely that, permanent, and it's rather difficult to lose. As a a citizen of the EU, the EEA or an EFTA country, you're automatically entitled to permanent residence in Croatia after five years and one day of uninterrupted, lawful temporary residence. In some cases, permanent residence can be obtained earlier, and you can click here to learn more about that.

Once you've been approved and granted a new Croatian residence permit, a permanent one, you can be gone for more or less as much as you'd like. The only catch is that you can't be outside of Croatia for more than two consecutive years, which is unlikely in itself.

Temporary residence for third country nationals (non EU, EEA or EFTA citizens)

If you aren't a citizen of any of the aforementioned countries which belong to one of those three blocs, you have more restrictive limitations when it comes to travelling outside of Croatia. Once you're granted a Croatian residence permit (temporary residence), you're only free to be outside of the territory of Croatia on multiple different trips for a period of up to 90 days (three months) or 30 days from the day you're given the green light and your application for temporary residence for one year is granted to you by MUP.

This ''freedom'' time increases as your time approved to be living here does, so you can be outside of the country on multiple different trips for up to 180 days (six months), or a maximum of 60 days in one stretch from the day you're approved for two years of temporary residence. The latter is also the case if you're registered as a Croatian citizen's family member.

There are exceptions to these rules of course, much like with everything else in Croatia, and if you have a valid reason to be outside of the country for a longer period, such as illness, childbirth, military service, etc, you will likely be given permission to remain outside for longer, but you must explain this and ask for permission. If you're found to have been outside of the country for longer than is permitted and you haven't contacted MUP, you could run the risk of your Croatian residence permit and those of anyone connected to you being invalidated.

Permanent residence for third country nationals (non EU, EEA or EFTA citizens)

Once you've reached the time at which you can apply for permanent residence as a third country national, which is typically five years (but it could be three or four, depending on your circumstances), you get much, much more freedom. It's a little bit like serving time and then getting some sort of reward, if you like. 

As a third country national with Croatian permanent residence, you can only have your permit cancelled if you've spent more than 12 consecutive months outside of the European Economic Area, or if you've resided outside of the territory of the Republic of Croatia for longer than 6 years.

Temporary residence for British citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement

British citizens were once also EU citizens until the country voted very narrowly to leave the European Union back in 2016. The process was long, arduous, and frankly a little bit embarrassing. With numerous extensions and with a year-long transition period out of the bloc, heading out of the door took a long time for the UK, one of the EU's then most powerful and wealthy member states. 

British nationals who had exercised their right to freedom of movement when the UK was an EU member are protected by what's known as the Withdrawal Agreement, and they aren't quite EEA citizens, and aren't quite third country nationals either. They have what are known as acquired rights and they enjoy now broadly what they did when the UK was an EU country.

They need a special Croatian residence permit in order to evidence their right to live and work in Croatia, free them from ever needing to pay the upcoming ETIAS, facilitate their entry into Croatia whatever the situation might be, and to separate them from British nationals who moved to live in Croatia after the end of the UK's transition period (31st of December, 2020), who are now third country nationals.

If you're a British national protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and you have temporary residence in Croatia, you are free to be absent from the country for no more than six months per calendar year. Essentially, you have the same rights you would have had as an EU citizen with Croatian temporary residence.

Permanent residence for British citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement

If you're a British citizen and you already have permanent residence in Croatia, you are free to be absent from the country for five consecutive years without losing any of your rights whatsoever.

 

SOURCES: MUP, Sredisnji drzavni portal, Europa.eu, GOV.UK

For all you need to know about Croatian residence permits, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Three, Four or Five Years for Croatian Permanent Residence? It Depends

May the 4th, 2022 - Most people living in Croatia have it firmly stuck in their heads that first they must live with lawful temporary residence (uninterrupted, might I add) for a period of five consecutive years before applying for permanent residence after five years and one day. Is that the only path to Croatian permanent residence, however? No, not quite. Let's take a deeper look.

Croatian permanent residence after five years

Croatian permanent residence is typically obtained after five years and one day of living legally in Croatia with temporary residence. If you're from the EU/EEA/EFTA, that means you must be in the country for at least six months per calendar year while you hold temporary residence, and that logically means you can also be out of Croatia for six months per year without losing your residence or any of your rights here.

If you aren't from an EU/EEA/EFTA country, then your situation is a little more strict. You need to be in the country for much longer each year, with tighter restrictions on your movements abroad until you transition to permanent residence at the end of your five years.

What does that mean, exactly?

You're free to be outside of the territory of Croatia on multiple different trips for a period of up to 90 days (three months) or 30 days from the day you're given the green light and your application for temporary residence for one year is granted to you by MUP.

A little like levels on a game, this ''freedom'' time increases as your time approved to be living here does, so you can be outside of the country on multiple different trips for up to 180 days (six months), or a maximum of 60 days in one stretch from the day you're approved for two years of temporary residence. The latter is also the case if you're registered as a Croatian citizen's family member.

The reason it's worth explaining the ins and outs of that is because many people assume MUP doesn't or cannot check where you are and that once you have legal temporary residence in Croatia, that's it until your next application, that is often the case, but may not be. They might never check up on you, especially if you're an EU citizen, but they can, so it's worth keeping it in mind. There are exceptions to these rules of course, much like with everything else in Croatia, and if you have a valid reason to be outside of the country for a longer period, such as illness, childbirth, military service, etc, you will likely be given permission to remain outside for longer, but you must explain this and ask.

Croatian permanent residence after four years

A little law change came in somewhat recently, making it possible for the spouses and other relatives of Croatian nationals to apply for Croatian permanent residence after four years as opposed to the typical five.

What does that mean, exactly? 

If you're the family member or life partner of a Croatian citizen and you have been granted temporary residence for a continuous period of four years for the purpose of family reunification or life partnership, then you have the right to apply for Croatian permanent residence after four years of uninterrupted residence.

Croatian permanent residence after three years

In certain cases, individuals can apply for Croatian permanent residence after three years, completely removing the need to sit and wait for a further one or two. These cases tend to be a bit more complex, and they only cover quite a small number of people.

What does that mean, exactly?

If you're classed or declared to be a member of the Croatian people with foreign citizenship or you're stateless (you aren't a citizen of any recognised nation) who can prove your status with a certificate issued by the state administration body responsible for relations with Croats outside of the Republic of Croatia, and if you've been found to have returned with the intention of living permanently in Croatia, you can apply for permanent residence after holding temporary residence (uninterrupted) for a three year period.

If, until the day of you handing in your application, you've been granted temporary residence in Croatia for three consecutive years, and you've been classed as a refugee for at least ten years, you can apply for Croatian permanent residence.

If you're the child of third country nationals who already hold Croatian permanent residence, you too can apply for Croatian permanent residence after a three year period (of holding uninterrupted, lawful and documented temporary residence).

Croatian permanent residence under more favourable terms (discretion, highly individual cases)

In some cases, Croatian permanent residence can be granted under different rules. This regards highly specific situations involving the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the Homeland War, and the situations which occurred immediately after in an administrative sense and which involved displaced persons.

What does that mean, exactly?

If you hold the citizenship of a third country, so a non EU/EEA/EFTA nation, and you had a registered residence in the Republic of Croatia on the 8th of October, 1991, and if you're the user of a return programme, you can apply for Croatian permanent residence. You will need to provide MUP with an array of documentation proving your right to your claim which will differ from the usual procedure.

 

SOURCES: MUP

For more on Croatian permanent residence, keep up with our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Residence in Croatia: The Approval and Permit Pick Up Procedure

January the 12th, 2020 - I've written extensively on the process of gaining residence in Croatia, citizenship laws and processes, from gaining residence in Croatia to naturalising, to citizenship by marriage, descent, special interest, the latest amendments to the Law on Croatian Citizenship and much more, but what about when your residence application is actually approved? 

It's surprising how often people find themselves in a bit of a pickle (for want of a better word) when their residence is approved and they're given a little white sheet of paper with a government stamp on it and their name, address and other details on it from a kind, friendly and knowledgeable administrative clerk at MUP.

Many questions I see from expats in Croatia are about what exactly needs to be done when they've either been told, or they've managed to work out that their application for residence in Croatia has been approved.

Now that you've jumped through the administrative, bureaucratic hoops, provided every document you didn't even know you had and been given the green light, just what do you do next?

Whether you're applying for temporary residence for the first time or you're a somewhat seasoned ''MUP goer'' and you're applying for your permanent residence status after five years of temporary residence, hearing of your approval and actually getting your hands on that little ID card is another hurdle.

I'm confused, am I applying for a visa or a residence permit?

In Croatia, residence permits are not visas. If you need a visa to enter Croatia as a tourist, then that is an entrance visa. If you want to reside in Croatia and apply to do so and are approved, you will receive a residence permit, or a stay and work permit, depending on the basis of your application. Visas and permits are not the same thing.

I left my phone number and/or my email address when I applied for temporary/permanent residence. Will I be contacted? 

If you're a third country national (from outside of the EEA), you'll be contacted when your application has been approved, if more documentation is required, or if MUP want you to come for an interview in person. If you're an EEA citizen, you will more than likely be approved there and then, but it's worth noting that this isn't always the case. 

MUP have my address as I needed to register it when I applied for temporary/permanent residence in Croatia. Will MUP pay me a visit?

Maybe. There is no definitive answer to this and it varies from person to person, nationality to nationality and situation to situation. Non EEA nationals report being visited by MUP much more than EEA nationals do. These visits take place at random and are often done as part of a residence application before it is approved, however, it has been known to happen when the person already has an approval, it sometimes happens when they already have their residence cards in their hands. As said, there's no definitive answer to this question, nor is there much apparent logic to it.

I applied for temporary/permanent residence weeks ago and have heard nothing from MUP, what should I do?

If you're an EEA citizen, this scenario is much less likely as EU law states that you have a right to residence based on freedom of movement and are therefore usually approved either instantly or very quickly after. For third country nationals, however, things are a bit different as EU law doesn't guarantee you a right to residence because you're not an EU citizen. You're governed by Croatian national law only. Your approval can therefore take a long time to receive, so it's not abnormal if you get radio silence from MUP for weeks, sometimes even longer. If you're concerned, you can always pay them a visit to ask about the progress of your application.

Rest assured, though, you will be contacted eventually.

My temporary/permanent residence was approved and I've been given a piece of white paper with my details and a stamp on it by MUP, what next?

This white piece of paper is your temporary ID while your actual biometric residence permit with your photo, OIB, address and card expiration date is being made. Don't lose this piece of paper as you'll need it when you go to pick up your ID card.

How long does it take for my ID card to be made?

Usually around 3-4 weeks.

Why did I have to provide my fingerprints upon approval?

The Republic of Croatia requires every person living there legally to provide their fingerprints to the state to be placed on a database. You will be asked when you're first approved for temporary residence, and then again when you're approved for permanent residence.

MUP have my phone number and my email address, I've been approved and they let me know, but when I went to provide my photo and fingerprints and collect my white sheet of paper/temporary ID, they didn't tell me when to come back for my card...

The time for residence permits to be made is typically 3-4 weeks, as stated above, and you will likely not be told when yours is there and ready to pick up. Sometimes people are called or emailed to let them know it's ready, but do not count on this, it isn't the norm.

How long should I wait before going back to MUP to ask if my ID card is ready/go and pick it up?

Give it about a month or so before going back in person.

Do I need to go back in person to pick up my ID card or will MUP mail it to me?

MUP will never mail you an ID card. You need to go in person to pick it up with your little white piece of paper you were given upon approval, and sign another piece of paper to declare that you have come to collect your residence permit.

Make sure to follow our lifestyle page for more information on residence in Croatia and much more.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Opening a Business to Gain Residence in Croatia, Yes or No?

August the 18th, 2019 - We've explored citizenship through naturalisation, marriagedescent, and special interest. We've delved into the world of Croatian work permits, and we've gone through the list of ways to obtain legal residence for both EU and non EU citizens, but I left one thing out - gaining residence through opening a business in Croatia. That needs an article of its own. Pour yourself a large, strong drink.

I'll preface this by saying that opening a business to gain residence should ideally be a last resort, meaning that you've exhausted all other possibilities. This post is aimed almost exclusively at third country nationals (people who are neither citizens of Croatia or citizens of the European Economic Area), as citizens of the EEA/EU have a right to residence in Croatia based solely on their citizenship of an EU member state.

Croatian bureaucracy is infamous at this point. The phrase uhljebistan is not used without reason, and many people, from your ordinary mere mortals to rich foreign investors with huge capital, have been well and truly put off by the endless reams of red tape the Croatian Government likes to put up. Driving not only those who'd like to invest their hard earned cash away, but potential jobs, too.

With that being said, things are beginning to alter, albeit at a snail's pace, and with the age of digitalisation finally dawning on Croatia, there might be hope on the horizon. Until then, let's assume you've exhausted all your remaining options as a third country national and opening a business in Croatia is your last shot at obtaining that residence permit, or maybe you really do want to open a business here. Let's begin.

In order to gain residence in Croatia on the basis of having opened a business, you'll need to first open that business. You can open a j.d.o.o, a d.o.o., or what's known as an obrt. Once that's all done and dusted (and that's a topic I'll cover in another article), you can begin your application for a residence permit on that basis. The necessary forms will be provided to you when you go in person to MUP to make the application and hand in the appropriate documents.

But, hang on, it isn't all that straightforward. There are currently two situations in which you can legitimately apply for a residence permit as a third country national after having opened a Croatian business (it cannot be what is known as an ''association'' (udruga), which tend to be non-profit and the people involved are commonly volunteers. It has to be an actual business, intended to operate as a business).

The two situations in which you can legally obtain residence in Croatia through opening a business I mentioned above are as follows:

1.) You are a third country national and you own the business.

2.) You own the business, but you want to hire a third country national who does not have a residence permit (but obviously needs one), and the job you're hiring them for is not covered by the quota. You can find out more about quotas from us here and from MUP, the authority which will be granting (or indeed denying) your permit here.

Let's quickly look at some very important differences between EU/EEA citizens and third country nationals before we continue.

EU/EEA citizens:

For EU nationals (and nationals of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), who have a right to reside in Croatia owing to EU law, please let it be understood very clearly that you do not need to open a business to stay in Croatia under any circumstance.

Unfortunately, some would-be advisers and even accountants have wrongly told unknowing EU nationals this. If you're a citizen of an EU/EEA country, your right to reside is based on your nationality, nothing else.

If you're an EU/EEA citizen and you want to open a business in Croatia, things are much easier for you as you can do so on the same basis and with equal treatment as a Croatian national. This means you do not need to follow many of the rules placed on third country nationals, and it's much less expensive for you to open and operate a business here.

Third country nationals, at whom this article is aimed:

SCENARIO 1: You own the business, and you yourself are a third country national:

If you'te a third country national and you've opened a business in order to gain residency, here is what you need to submit about your business:

1.) You must hire at least three Croatian citizens as full time employees.

2.) You must invest an eye-watering 200,000 kuna into your business if it is a j.d.o.o or a d.o.o., 300,000 kuna if it's an obrt (craft).

3.) You need to hire yourself, employ yourself, and pay yourself a salary which meets the current average Croatian wage, or is higher.

You may need to prove that your new business is not operating at a loss, but this may not be asked of you when you first apply. You'll also need to show proof of you having paid your taxes in Croatia, properly and correctly. This includes the necessary contributions, too (pension and health insurance). If you have had any debts to the Republic of Croatia at any point (tax debts), you'll need to prove you've paid them off.

In addition to that, you'll need to provide other documents for your residence permit, such as a valid passport and a copy of it, click here and scroll down to third country nationals for the list of documents you'll typically need to provide the police with.

SCENARIO 2: You own the business, and you want to hire and employ a third country national 

If you are a business owner and you want to hire a third country national who does not already have legal residence in Croatia, then here's where quotas come into the mix again. These can be a bit confusing, but the links I provided (where I mentioned quotas previously) will give you some guidance, as will the police. Make sure to ask them as they may not provide this of their own accord.

If the third country national you're hiring will be doing a job that is in the quota, then there's less of a fuss surrounding this process. If they're going to be doing a job that is outside of the quota, then you'll need to provide additional documents and prove additional things. Here is a list of those things:

1.) You'll need to hire or already employ three Croatian citizens on a full time basis and be able to provide proof of that

2.) You'll need to have invested a minimum of 100,000 kuna into your business, and be able to provide proof of that

3.) You'll need to be able to prove that your business doesn't operate at a loss

4.) You'll need to have hired yourself as an employee in your business and be paying yourself the equivalent of the average Croatian wage, or above it

5.) You'll need to submit proof you don't owe anything to the state (tax debts), have paid anything you have previously owed, and you're paying your taxes and contributions in Croatia

Helpful information:

In Croatia, there is an excellent organisation called HITRO.hr, who work to help in quicker and better communication between business/companies and the administrative bodies of the state. Thanks to digitalisation slowly but surely creeping up on Croatia, this allows for certain things to be done online. Please note that this only regards certain types of companies and businesses and their registration.

Their services are available in English as well as in Croatian, and they detail the procedure of opening different types of businesses, what the costs are, and what you should watch out for. Not to mention contact numbers. Pay them a visit here and select the English language option if you need to.

In addition to that, Fina (Financial Agency) can provide for faster, more efficient and much more secure access for company/business owners to certain services and information. These include ePayment, eTax, eVAT, and ePension.

The requirement of having employed three Croatian nationals as full time employees in your business may be deemed fulfilled even if you hire three Croatian nationals on a part time basis, but there are other requirements you must fulfil for this to be considered the same as full time employment. Ask when you apply what this means for you.

The law currently states that for each additional permit, you need to provide double the requirements listed above, or triple (and so on) for each additional permit you want to be issued as a business owner wanting to employ third country nationals who are gaining residence in this manner.

This is an extremely bureaucracy filled process which will not only cost you a lot of money, but a lot of time, patience and nerves along with it. Unless you are genuinely wanting to open and run a business here in Croatia, I would strongly recommend that you avoid this way of gaining residence as a third country national.

For EU citizens, things are far cheaper and far less complicated, but as I stated previously, if you're from the EEA, you absolutely do not need to open any sort of business to be granted residence in Croatia. Please be very wary of anyone who tells you otherwise. EU citizens can review their rights covering everything from their right to reside to opening a business here.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

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