How American citizens can visit and live in Croatia: Guide for 2022

This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer and the ministry handling immigration.
Image by Bill Brine

UPDATED: 30/09/2022

Americans make up a significant portion of those coming to Croatia, for both tourism and to live here long term.

With regards to tourism, Croatia has been a big hit with Americans in the last few years. While the cost to visit to Croatia has been increasing, it can still be a bargain with U.S. citizens making dollars.

Also, while it may be quite touristy and busy during high season, it is still more off the beaten track than well-worn Western European destinations like London, Paris, and Rome. It is still possible to visit Croatia and be completely by yourself among only locals, if you pick the right destination and the right time of year.

Many U.S. citizens are also choosing to put down roots and make Croatia their home year-round. In many cases, Americans have Croatian roots and are now journeying back to the homeland and applying for citizenship, now that the language test has been waved for diaspora. Others have married a Croatian abroad and are returning to build their life in the family stead. The rest are just looking for a better quality of life.

There are a number of ways U.S. citizens can settle in Croatia. They aren’t all easy, they definitely involve hoops, but there are options. We’ve created a guide specifically for Americans that includes every option available to American citizens to move to Croatia long term. If you’re just passing through, we cover tourist visas for too.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Tourist visas for American citizens to visit Croatia

Americans have visa-free travel to only 58 countries around the world right now due to coronavirus-related travel bans. Croatia is one of those countries.

Even though a visa is not needed, there are requirements for American citizens to enter Croatia. You can find the latest rules here.

You can always see the latest tourist visa status here, but it’s unlikely to ever change. Americans have big privilege.

How to move to Croatia as an American citizen

There are many options for U.S. citizens to stay in Croatia long term, however unless if you have heritage or marry a citizen, it’s going to be an uphill battle. BUT, by no means is it impossible. This guide will cover all of your options as well as what is required of you as an American.

Before we get started, we need to cover some vocabulary. Croatia divvies up citizens into 3 groups:

  • Croatian citizens
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Everybody else (third-country nationals or non-EU/EEA citizens).

Americans belong to the third-country national group. This means that the residence permit scenarios we cover below apply to all third-country nationals, not just Americans.

It is important to note this so one does not think that the difficulty in the process and limited options are due to prejudice specifically against Americans. They are not. The government carries legal prejudice for all non-EU/EEA countries.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started. We will go through each residency option, starting with the one that allows you the least amount of time in Croatia, moving up to the ones that allow you the most time in Croatia.

Digital nomads

Starting in 2021, digital nomads can be granted temporary residence based on their remote work as long as they are not working for any Croatian companies. American citizens can now apply for this permit.

Caveats

  • This permit is only for up to 1 year and it is not renewable. Six months after the expiration of your permit, you can apply for a new permit.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days.
  • You can’t work for a Croatian company.

Here is a post that explains the requirements and process for applying for a permit based on being a digital nomad.

View frequently asked questions about Croatia’s digital nomad permit here.

Permanent residents of EU/EEA/Switzerland

Canadians who hold long-term residence in another EU/EEA member state may be granted temporary residence in Croatia.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a permit based on your permanent residence in another EU/EEA country.

Student permit

Americans can easily live in Croatia to study at one of the many universities across the country. You can also study Croatian at certain language schools and qualify for a permit as well.

To get a student residence permit, you must include proof of acceptance into a qualified Croatian institution of education with your residence application. You’ll also need to show you have the financial means to support yourself.

Caveats

  • The term of the permit will be for a single school year, excluding summer months unless you can prove you need to be here in between semesters.
  • As of right now, you cannot work as a student. Although, there is legislation in the works to change this.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you for the first two years.
  • Time spent on this permit only counts half towards qualifying for permanent residence.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a student residence permit.

Working for Croatian company

Americans can get residence permits with the option to work in Croatia. Learn how to apply for a work permit in Croatia here.

Caveats

  • You must have a signed work contract or a valid offer of employment before the employer can apply for a work permit on your behalf.
  • Work permits can only be issued for the term of your work contract, up to one year at maximum. If the company wants you to stay on after the conclusion of your contract, then you’ll need to ask for a new work contract and then apply for a new work permit. Work permits cannot be “renewed”.
  • If you get a residence permit with the option to work and decide to leave your job, your permit will be canceled. All work permits are tied to work contracts. Without a contract, you cannot have a work permit.
  • For the first year, your spouse or children can not come to live with you in Croatia.
  • Before a company can offer you a work contract, they must first confirm with the office of unemployment that a Croatian is not seeking that same role.

If you want to seek a work permit to live in Croatia, then start by looking for a job. Our guide on how to find a job in Croatia will prove useful.

EU Blue card

If you have received higher education or qualifications such as ISCED 1997 levels 5a or higher, or an associate’s degree or higher, you may qualify for an EU Blue Card.

Once you have been hired or given a binding work offer for a highly qualified position within Croatia, the company that intends to hire you may apply for a temporary residence that will allow you to work based on a Blue Card.

Things to know:

  • You must be in a managerial position.
  • You must be paid an elevated salary.
  • The EU Blue Card will be issued for a term of 2 years.
  • Your family can join you immediately.
  • The hiring company does not have to perform a labor market test.

Our detailed guide on how How to apply for a Blue Card in Croatia is available here.

Starting your own Croatian company

If you’d rather start your own company, you can issue yourself a work contract as the director of the company and therefore qualify for a work permit.

This option involves entangling yourself in an endless tax bureaucracy capable of strangling the life right out of you so it is not recommended if you don’t intend to use the company for business. This option should only be used by those who legit want to open and run a company in Croatia.

Caveats

  • You are required to invest 200.000 kuna of start-up capital.
  • You are required to hire 3 full-time Croatian nationals whose “bruto” salary must be equal to at least the average “bruto” paid salary in Croatia in the previous year.
  • You are required to pay yourself at least 1,5 times the average bruto salary for the previous year – View the latest minimum wages here.
  • All these things we’ve noted about opening a business in this post and this post and this post.

If you plan to go this route, make sure you educate yourself thoroughly so you know what you are getting yourself into. We have done a heap of posts about opening and running businesses in Croatia, which you can view here. You can also read more about the option of getting a work permit by opening your own company here.

Prepayment of rent

If you only want to live in Croatia for one year, then this option could be the right fit. It’s a great option for retired people and frequent travelers who have the flexibility to move to a new country for a limited amount of time. [Read: How to retire in Croatia]

This permit is not “merit” based or tied to work contracts and instead is tied to prepaying rent for the term you are here. Of course, there are catches…

Caveats

  • It is only for 1 year and it is not renewable. You can only apply again after 6 months have passed since the expiration of your last permit.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days.
  • You must prove that you’ve paid for rent 1 year in advance.
  • You must sign up for state health insurance upon approval of residence, then pay for 1 year of premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premiums for the year you live here. Learn more about mandatory health insurance here.
  • You are not allowed to work for a Croatian company.
  • Your spouse cannot apply for residence based on you. Your spouse must apply separately.

Here are instructions on how to apply for residence based on prepayment of rent.

Learning Croatian language

A residence permit can also be granted if you study the Croatian language at certain language schools. To get this permit, you must enroll in a Croatian language study program (like Croaticum). [Read: Biggest Croatian language schools in Croatia]

This permit falls under “other purposes” under the law.

Caveats

  • You can get a residence permit for up to one year.
  • You cannot work for a Croatian company.
  • If you wish to apply again for this purpose, you must leave for 90 days at the end of the permit period.
  • You can apply again 6 months and 1 day from the expiry date of your previous permit.

Our detailed guide on how to apply for temporary residence based on language study is available here.

Scientific research

If you have a legit scientific research project that you wish to work on in Croatia, you can get a residence permit. You’ll definitely need to provide proof of the research, which will likely involve a detailed plan of what you hope to accomplish, why you need to be in Croatia, and the time frame in which you plan to accomplish it. Expect it to be scrutinized.

Caveats

  • You cannot work for a Croatian company.

Volunteering

It is possible to gain residency on the grounds of humanitarian or volunteer work. To apply on this basis, you’ll need to provide a contract with a non-profit organization that shows the term of work and that you are not being paid for this work among other requirements.

Caveats

  • The term is limited to one year only.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.
  • Your spouse cannot apply for residence based on you. Your spouse must apply separately on a volunteer or some other basis.
  • You cannot work in exchange for money.
  • You can only work for the non-profit with whom you have your contract used as the basis for your permit.

You can read more about this permit here.

We wrote articles on non-profit organizations that may offer long-term contracts to non-EU/EEA volunteers here:

Marrying Croatian or EU/EEA national

This program is called “family reunification”, which essentially means that spouses and children of Croatians and EU/EEA citizens can come to live in Croatia with their spouse or parent (if they are a minor).

To be clear, I’m not suggesting or encouraging anyone to marry someone they are not in a relationship with just to live in Croatia. Frankly, I don’t recommend it either. Divorce is too big of a headache, especially in Croatia. There are other, better ways. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive in.

If you are married to a Croatian or EU/EEA national, you are entitled to residency in Croatia as long as both you and your spouse live in Croatia together at the same address. This is by far the easiest and fastest permit to get, since there is an automatic trust that is inherent when a Croatian or EU citizen is involved.

You will need to provide an original copy of your marriage certificate that is apostilled/legalized then officially translated (if married abroad). You’ll also need to show that you as a couple have the financial means to support yourself in certain cases. I will cover this in more detail below in the “Requirements” section.

If you are the spouse of a Croatian, you’ll be granted a 2-year permit. If you are the spouse of an EU/EEA national, you’ll receive a 1-year permit.

After 4 years of temporary residency, spouses of Croatian citizens qualify for permanent residency. Once you receive permanent residency, you can apply for citizenship. Hooray!

Spouses of EU/EEA citizens can apply for permanent residence after 5 years of continuous temporary residence.

You can read more about how to apply for a permit based on marriage here:

Citizenship by Croatian descent

If you’ve got Croatian blood, you’ve hit the ultimate jackpot. Seems like every day, the Croatian government is making it easier for the diaspora to gain citizenship in an effort to get them to come to live here.

To qualify for citizenship, you must have a parent, grandparent, great grandparent, etc. that is Croatian. Lineage must be in a straight line and you must be able to prove lineage, which is usually done with birth certificates.

Even though having heritage is the golden ticket, there are still catches.

Caveats

  • From January 1, 2020, you can only apply from an embassy or consulate abroad if you are a non-resident.
  • If your ancestor left Croatia at any point and moved to an ex-Yugoslavia country, then your right to citizenship is negated.
  • If your ancestor left Croatia after 1991, then your right to citizenship is negated (unless you’re the child of a Croatian that qualifies to register Croatian citizenship).
  • Applications for citizenship take time, months to years, so be patient. You won’t be here next week.

You can see if you qualify for Croatian citizenship in 60 seconds here.

You can see how to apply for citizenship here.

Learn how to apply for citizenship specifically based on descent here.

You can read the most important things you need to know before applying for Croatian citizenship here.

Learn how children of Croatians can register their citizenship here.

Check out all of our citizenship resources here.

Requirements that apply to all situations

There are common requirements that apply to all Americans no matter which basis applies to you. Below is a list of the most common requirements. However, keep in mind that MUP will request additional items from you depending on your basis for residency as noted above.

Everyone must provide:

  • Completed application form Obrazac 1a
    • The police will provide you with the right application. You can view it here.
  • Valid passport
    • Validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of the intended stay.
  • Criminal background check + certificate on the length of stay
    • People applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check and certificate on the length of stay from their country of nationality. This requirement went into effect on January 1, 2021.
  • Health insurance
    • This is usually private health insurance unless you have state health insurance from another EU/EEA state.
  • Registered address in Croatia
    • Proof of accommodation is sufficient for the purposes of applying for residence. After approval, you’ll need a rental contract.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
    • There are several ways to show this, depending on your purpose for applying. The financial minimums you’ll need as well as how you can show the funds are available here. However, MUP will tell you exactly what they need.
    •  Those applying for family reunification with a Croatian spouse are exempt from this.
  • (1) passport photo 30×35 mm
    • Usually, there is a photo studio right by MUP where you can get these in the right size.
  • Application fee
    • This is due upon approval of your application. In some cases, you must pay an administrative fee earlier in the process using tax stamps.

Note: Everyone in Croatia must have an address that is registered with the police. You can register the address in several ways:

  • Notarized rental contract
  • Notarized landlord statement that states you are allowed to live on the premises
  • Landlord statement submitted through e-Građani

If your landlord statement is not notarized, then the owner will need to provide you with a confirmation from the tax office that the contract has been registered with them.

Health insurance for Americans living in Croatia

When applying for temporary residence in Croatia as a U.S. citizen, you are required to have proof of health insurance as part of your application. It will need to be some kind of private health insurance policy (or a state health insurance policy if coming from another country within the EU).

Once you are approved for residence, then you must sign up for “obvezno” state health insurance with HZZO (unless you’re a digital nomad). HZZO is the state health insurance fund, which offers both “obvezno” and “dopunsko” health insurance.

Obvezno is the basic state health insurance required for all residents. Dopunsko is the optional supplement health insurance. You can read the specifics about what is included and costs for obvezno here and dopunsko here.

Upon enrollment in HZZO, all non-EU citizens are required to pay 12 months of health insurance premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premium going forward. This is for all citizens, children and adults alike. Meaning that if you are a family of 4 with 2 children, you’ll need to pay these fees for all 4 members of your family.

The monthly premium changes year to year. The current amount is always updated in this post.

Exchanging your American driver’s license

If you wish to drive in Croatia, you can exchange your US driver’s license for a Croatian one as long as you do it within your first year of residence. If you wait longer than one year, you may be fined 500 kuna and/or required to start from scratch with the driving school.

You can read about the process to exchange your American driver’s license here.

You can read about the process to get a Croatian driver’s license from scratch here.

Learn how to take driving school (autoškola) in Croatia here.

Buying property in Croatia

American citizens are allowed to purchase property zoned as “residential” in Croatia, depending on the state they are from. You can see the latest list of reciprocity agreements that Croatia holds, including the US, here.

If you’re interested in purchasing a house or apartment in Croatia, we’ve got a step-by-step guide that explains the process. Check it out here.

We can also connect you to vetted real estate agents and lawyers to help you through the process. If you’d like an introduction, please complete this form and we’ll contact you.

Taxes

US citizens living more than 183 days in Croatia each year must report their worldwide income and pay taxes in Croatia.

Currently, the US does not have a double-taxation treaty in place with Croatia. Due to a lack of a double taxation treaty, those living in Croatia may also report their worldwide income and pay taxes in both Croatia and the United States.

You may also need to submit an FBAR annually depending on how much money you hold in foreign bank accounts at any given moment. Please note that a foreign pension counts as a foreign bank account. You can read more here.

Taxes are complicated, especially when they involve the United States. This is a 50.000-foot view of the tax situation. If you ever want a detailed review of your tax liability while living in Croatia, contact us and we’ll connect you with a tax expert.

How to find the U.S. Embassy in Croatia

Embassy of the United States of America, Zagreb

Contact person: William Robert Kohorst

Phone: +385 (0)1 66 12 200; +385 (0)1 66 12 371
Email: [email protected]
Web site: hr.usembassy.gov

Address: Ulica Thomasa Jeffersona 2, 10 010 Zagreb – View map

Conclusion

While it may not be easy to live in Croatia legally long-term as a US citizen, there are a variety of options that will allow you to live here for at least a year, if not longer.

I’m an American who has lived here since 2012 and currently holds permanent residency. It was by no means easy or cheap, but from my perspective, all the hoops of fire were worth it. It all depends on how badly you want to live here and how much patience you have.

Need guidance on your transition to Croatia?

We crafted this post to be as detailed as possible, but sometimes questions still arise because everyone’s situation is different. If you’d like personalized guidance based on your situation, we can help.

Save yourself the time and uncertainty of trying to navigate the ever-changing rules for living in Croatia by scheduling a private chat with me, Sara Dyson, the creator of Expat in Croatia.

I am an American that has lived in Croatia since 2012 (before the country entered the EU), opened and operated 2 companies, applied for 5 residence permits as a non-EU/EEA citizen, and written about Croatia and its bureaucracy extensively since 2013.  I am well-versed in what it takes to make Croatia your home, which obstacles to look out for, and how to make as seamless a transition as possible.

During our chat, I will answer all of your questions about Croatia. You can tap into my expertise on anything you want; whether it be residency, citizenship, healthcare, buying property, letting accommodation, operating a business, what it’s like to live here, personal experiences with bureaucracy, or cultural nuance. It’s all tailored to you.

To complete the package, I follow up after your session with additional information, links to relevant resources, and contact information for local experts personally vetted by me like lawyers, real estate agents, tax advisors, accountants, and translators. All recommendations and resources will be specifically curated based on your individual needs discussed in the session.

You can read reviews from people I’ve helped here.

Consulting sessions cost 60 Euros per half hour (including PDV), prepaid in advance. This cost includes:

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Meetings can be arranged over video chat, or in person. I’m always happy to meet people in person in Split, but please note the minimum commitment for an in-person session is 1-hour or 120 Euros. Additional time may be charged for intensive research.

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can always introduce you to expat-vetted lawyers, by request.

To schedule a 1-on-1 consulting session, complete the below form. Sessions are usually scheduled at least 1 to 2 weeks in advance due to the high volume of requests we receive.

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