8 things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship

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Croatian waving flag of Croatia at World Cup

Since the Croatian government eliminated the language test as a requirement for those with Croatian lineage, many many many people are applying for Croatian citizenship. Croatia is becoming a very desirable location for those who want to escape their home country to find a better life where their family came from. Some just want to reconnect with their heritage.

If you are planning to apply for Croatian citizenship because your parent or grandparent or great grandparent is Croatian, it’s important to understand the process and all potential roadblocks you may encounter before getting started.

Since we vet all of our resources with immigration lawyers within Croatia and because we have spoken to hundreds of people applying for citizenship, we are well versed in the possible complications one might encounter during the application process.

Before you get started, check out our list of 8 things you should know before applying for Croatian citizenship.

#1 Where to apply

If you are not a legal resident of Croatia, then you must apply for citizenship at the closest embassy or consulate to where you live.

This rule was implemented from January 1, 2020. You can find the closest embassy or consulate to you here.

#2 Your spouse can apply too

The rules on citizenship for spouses of Croatians and spouses of non-Croatians with Croatian heritage are different. We’ll go over both situations so that the differences are made clear.

When a non-Croatian is married to a Croatian, they must live in Croatia with their Croatian spouse to get on the path to citizenship. They must live in Croatia for 5 continuous years and achieve permanent residency before they qualify to apply for citizenship.

When a non-Croatian is married to someone who qualifies for Croatian nationality but does not yet have citizenship, then both spouses can apply for citizenship at the same time as long as the person with Croatian heritage is applying for citizenship under Article 11. There are no residency requirements at all for a spouse in this situation.

#3 What can and cannot be on your background check

As part of your application, you must provide a criminal background check from the national authority in your home country. In some countries, misdemeanors will appear on this background check. A misdemeanor is not a barrier to Croatian citizenship.

However, you cannot have any criminal charges on your background check. If you do, your application for citizenship will be denied.

#4 Families need less paperwork

If you have a spouse and children, it is best that you apply for citizenship as a family all at once. It will be much easier since so much of the paperwork overlaps. It will also save time as the applications will be processed at the same time.

Since much of the documentation you need to provide will be the same, the government will allow you submit 1 set of originals (in triplicate, of course) for your entire family for any overlapping paperwork as long as you all apply together.

An example of overlapping paperwork would be a marriage certificate or a birth certificate for your Croatian ancestor. If you need help finding a birth certificate, we can help.

#5 Names need to match

When Croatians emigrated to English-speaking countries like Canada, the United States, and Australia, it was common for the governments of those countries to modify their last names. Volić became Volich.

This can create a problem when it comes to making a claim for citizenship. As part of the application, you must prove proof of your connection to your Croatian ancestor. That is usually done through birth records linking you to the relative.

If your grandfather’s name was Nejašmić on his birth record from Solin, but is listed as Nejasmich on your mother’s birth certificate from Chicago, you may not be allowed to apply for citizenship. To get around this, you must either fix the records in the foreign country to match the records in Croatia or provide some kind of document from the foreign country explicitly stating the name change.

#6 Where did your relative go

Croatia has specific rules about who can and cannot apply for citizenship and several of these rules are rooted in patriotism and politics.

If your relative left Croatia for another country within the former Yugoslavia, then the right to citizenship is negated for all of their descendants (by law).

If your relative left Croatia for another country outside of the former Yugoslavia, then the right to citizenship is preserved. HOWEVER, for some reason in practice this is not always the case.

The ministry is giving a hard time to descendants of Croatians who left Croatia for another country within Europe. Technically, the law is clear on this. Those in this situation should have a right to apply for citizenship.

There is nothing in the law that says the right to citizenship is negated for European descendants of Croatian nationals. Regardless, they are rejecting application requests to some people.

If this situation applies to you, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. You still should. If they deny your claim on this basis, raise hell about it! There is no legal basis for them to deny your claim. Until enough people get in the government’s face about this discrimination, it will not be addressed.

#7 When did your relative leave Croatia

Your claim to citizenship can also be affected depending on when your ancestor left Croatia.

If your ancestor left Croatia before October 8, 1991 (the start of the war for independence), then your claim to citizenship is still intact.

If your ancestor left Croatia after October 8, 1991, then all claims to citizenship for their descendants are cancelled. In this case, it doesn’t matter where they went, only that they left after this date.

The reason is that if a person left after the start of the war, it implies that they abandoned Croatia.


#8 For those naturalizing, there is a BIG catch

If you are applying for citizenship simply because you’ve lived in Croatia long enough, then you have the opportunity to naturalize. To be clear, naturalization doesn’t apply to people with Croatian spouses, people with Croatian heritage or EU nationals.

Those in this situation represent a very small sliver of people, including yours truly. Unfortunately, those naturalizing are required to give up their other nationality before they can be granted Croatian citizenship. This group is the only one that Croatia requires to relinquish their other citizenship. It’s kind of crap.


Need help with your Croatian citizenship application?

If you are currently a resident of Croatia, our vetted lawyer network can take care of your application from beginning to end. We have excellent English-speaking lawyers across the country that specialize in immigration.

If you live abroad, you must apply for citizenship at an embassy or consulate. While our attorneys cannot file applications on behalf of those abroad, they can:

  • Validate your claim to citizenship
  • Collect documents needed to prove your right to citizenship including birth records, domovnica, etc.
  • Write your CV biography (in Croatian)
  • Review your application and identify any gaps or risks
  • Check to see if you have inherited land

Having a lawyer review your application will increase your chances of approval on the first try. To get help with your application for citizenship, complete the form below and will match you with an expert.

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3 thoughts on “8 things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship

  1. From the Diaspora
    July 23, 2020 @ 2:19 am

    #5 is wrong. I asked the Los Angeles consulate about this before applying and they said that name changes are fine as long as the names are recognizable from certificate to certificate. I also got my Croatian citizenship through that consulate in 2019.

    I do not know where you are getting your information from on name changes, but I can tell you that legally, to change your name, or the name of a deceased ancestor (let alone a living relative/ancestor—which likely would be impossible) in America is really a gargantuan task. All the things you have to do afterwards, after changing your name, is more than would be required than executing a very complicated will after someone’s death.

    Name changes or corrections may be no big deal in other countries, but in the US, it is quite a big deal legally, including on certificates.


    • Expat in Croatia
      July 24, 2020 @ 1:33 pm

      Hi person from the diaspora,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the LA consulate!

      The information in this article was vetted with an immigration lawyer in Croatia that is deals with MUP (who processes citizenship) every day and has helped many apply for and gain citizenship.

      Ultimately, it is not the LA consulate who approves your citizenship, it is MUP in Zagreb. I’ve spoken to many people who have been told at other consulates and embassies that name change differences are an issue unless the link is made through documentation. One gentleman in New York had to go through the laborious name change process to which you refer. He sent me a novel explaining what a nightmare it was for him, but that is what the NY consulate required.

      It is great that the LA consulate did not make you jump through those hoops, like others have dealt with.

      In Croatia, literally everyone’s situation is different. It all depends on who you talk to, when you talk to them and what your circumstances are. Two people with identical situations could be told completely different things. This happens frequently. What is most important when dealing with Croatian bureaucracy is that you prepare for the worst case scenario if you can, because you might end up being the one who pulls the short straw as many have.

      Thank you for reading. 🙂




      • From the Diaspora
        July 24, 2020 @ 8:40 pm

        Thank you for the friendly , wonderful, and thoughtful response, Sara.


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