Citizenship in Croatia is an elusive golden goose. For the non-EU nationals, it is Mount Everest, which is an appropriate analogy since such a small fraction of people who even try make it to the summit. By the time they make it, they are certainly weak, beaten down and possibly near death.
I’m not going to mince words here. If you do not have Croatian heritage or are married to a Croatian, it is highly unlikely you will ever qualify to even apply for citizenship.
To be even clearer, do not move to Croatia thinking that you’ll be able to get citizenship one day. Every day, the government is changing laws to prevent foreigners from achieving permanent residency, which is a mandatory requirement for applying for citizenship.
Before you ask, I do not have special powers to get you around any requirements, I don’t know anyone at the Ministry, and I don’t have any secrets to getting through the system other than expressing the importance of kindness, patience, and a calm demeanor. What I can do is connect you to a lawyer that can handle your application.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here is how the chosen few can apply for citizenship in Croatia.
Identify Your Valid Claim to Croatian Citizenship
To apply for citizenship in Croatia, you must prove that you have a claim. You may make a valid claim based on the following situations:
- Special interest to Croatia
- Member of Croatian people
- International treaties
We will now go through each one claim included in the Croatian Citizenship Act.
Citizenship Based on Origin
The following groups of people may have or request citizenship on the grounds of origin:
- People whose parents at the time of their birth were Croatian citizens (there are exceptions to this)
- People born in Croatia, with at least one Croatian parent, but only if they apply for Croatian citizenship before they turn 18 years of age
- People born abroad, if they have one Croatian parent, and one parent without citizenship
- People born abroad, but adopted by Croatian citizens
- Children born and/or found within Croatia without knowing their parents. They will be considered Croatian, if their true origin is not established before they turn 14 years of age.
If a person was born in Croatia, but moved abroad and gained a foreign nationality, they may also apply for citizenship based on origin. However, they must meet the following conditions:
- Hold permanent residence in Croatia at the time of application
- They have given up their foreign nationality, or can show proof that they will once they acquire Croatian citizenship
- Show that they respect the legal order and customs of Croatia
Citizenship Based on Lineage
Croatian emigrants and their descendants in a straight line (e.g. children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc) may apply for citizenship. They are required to show they respect the legal order. The requirement to take the language and culture tests is no longer required for those applying based on origin starting January 1, 2020.
There are exceptions. If your parent, grandparent, etc. left Croatia before October 8, 1991 and moved to another country within Yugoslavia, then their descendants cannot apply for Croatian nationality. If your parent, grandparent, etc. left Croatia after October 8, 1991, then their descendants cannot apply for nationality either.
Citizenship Based on Naturalization
According to the Croatian Citizenship Act, foreigners that fulfill the following conditions may apply for Croatian citizenship:
- They are more than 18 years old and they are able to work
- They no longer hold their foreign nationality, or have submitted evidence that he or she will be released from their foreign nationality if he or she is granted Croatian citizenship
- They have resided in the Republic of Croatia continuously for 8 years and hold the status of a permanent resident
- Passed a test of the Croatian language and culture
- From his or her behavior can be inferred that he or she respects the legal order and customs in the Republic of Croatia.
Underage children can be granted Croatian citizenship on the basis of naturalization:
- If both of its parents are being granted citizenship on the basis of naturalization
- If only one of its parents is being granted citizenship on basis of naturalization AND the child is living in Croatia and has valid residency
- If only one of its parents is being granted citizenship on basis of naturalization AND the other parent has no citizenship, or citizenship is unknown – even if the child lives abroad
Citizenship Based on a Marriage to a Croatian National
Spouses of Croatian citizens whom hold permanent residence in Croatia may apply for Croatian nationality. The primary requirements are permanent residence and that they respect the legal order and customs in the Republic of Croatia.
If a Croatian descendant living abroad wishes to apply for Croatian nationality based on lineage, their spouse may also apply for citizenship at the same time without holding residence in Croatia.
Special Interest to Republic of Croatia
Foreign national whose Croatian citizenship would represent a benefit to the Republic of Croatia may apply for citizenship through naturalization as long as they show, through behavior, that they respect the legal order and customs of Croatia. Their spouse can then apply for residency based on family reunification.
The Department of Internal Affairs is in charge of deciding whether the person applying for citizenship based on special interest to Republic of Croatia has a valid claim to it due to their capabilities or knowledge.
Re-admission to Croatian Citizenship
A person who at some point had Croatian nationality, but had asked to be released from it in order to become a citizen of some other country, can request to be granted Croatian citizenship again.
To qualify, they must show they respect the legal order and customs in the Republic of Croatia AND have valid residency in Croatia at the time of application.
A Member of Croatian People
People who do not have Croatian nationality, but had at some point in their life stated in some type of legal document that they feel affiliation to Croatian people, or they can prove that they were active in the protection of rights and the promotion of the interests of the Croatian people and/or they have participated in Croatian cultural, scientific and sport associations abroad can also request Croatian citizenship. Like all of the above cases, they must show they respect the legal order and customs. They also must have legal residency in Croatia.
Citizenship Based On International Treaties
The Croatian Citizenship Act allows the possibility for the question of citizenship to be regulated on the basis of international treaties. However, at the time that this article was written, no such agreement was mentioned in the law.
How to Apply for Citizenship in Croatia
The application for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship should be submitted in person at the main police station, closest to your place of residence. If you are not physically present in Croatia, you may apply at an embassy or consular office of Croatia abroad. From January 1, 2020, non-residents can no longer apply for citizenship from within Croatia. You must apply at a consular office or embassy abroad closest to your residence.
If the applicant is a disabled person, the claim may be filed by their legal representative or authorized proxy.
In addition to submitting the completed application, you will also need to provide:
- A biography (similar to a CV or resume)
- A birth certificate (apostilled, translated and notarized if it is a foreign birth certificate)
- A marriage certificate, if applying on the basis of marriage (must be apostilled, translated and notarized if married outside Croatia)
- Proof of nationality
- A background check issued by your country of nationality proving you have not been criminally prosecuted. Must not be older than six months. (apostilled, translated and notarized)
- A valid identity document with a visible photo (with a copy apostilled, translated and notarized)
- Proof that you have passed the Croatian language and culture test (if applicable to your situation, as noted above)
- Proof of lineage (if applicable to your situation, as noted above) NOTE: All names MUST match on your documents.
Depending on the basis for the application, other documents may be required.
When submitting the application in Republic of Croatia, there is an administrative fee in the amount of 20 kuna.
If you request is granted, you will need to pay 1.500 kuna if you applied in Croatia. If you applied in a diplomatic mission or consular office of the Republic of Croatia abroad, you will pay in accordance with their consular fees.
If granted Croatian citizenship, the document proving the new status of a Croatian citizen can be acquired at any Registrar’s Office in Croatia. This document is called “domovnica”. Here are instructions on how to get your domovnica.
The application process for citizenship can take a significant amount of time, especially if you are a third-party national applying based on residency and not marriage. Expect to wait a minimum of two years or more.
If you are currently a resident of Croatia, our Expat in Croatia 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
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.