How to apply for citizenship in Croatia

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.

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 apply for citizenship in Croatia, you must prove that you have a claim. You may make a valid claim based on the following situations:

  • Origin
  • Lineage
  • Naturalization
  • Special Interest to Croatia
  • International treaties

We will now go through each one.

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
  • 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:

  1. Hold permanent residence in Croatia at the time of application
  2. They have given up their foreign nationality, or can show proof that they will once they acquire Croatian citizenship
  3. Show that they respect the legal order and customs of Croatia
Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Citizenship Based on Lineage

Croatian emigrants and their descendants to a 3rd degree of kinship in a straight line (e.g. children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren) may apply for citizenship as they show respect for the legal order and cultures of Croatia. Previously, the were required to also take the language test, but this requirement has been removed as of 2019.

Citizenship Based on Naturalization

According to the Croatian Citizenship Act, foreigners that fulfill the following conditions may apply for Croatian citizenship:

  1. They are more than 18 years old and they are able to work
  2. 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
  3. They have resided in the Republic of Croatia continuously for 8 years and hold the status of a permanent resident
  4. Passed a test of the Croatian language and culture
  5. 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 that at the time of application hold permanent residence in Croatia only need to show that they hold permanent residence and that they respect the legal order and customs in the Republic of 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. The same would apply for their spouse.

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.

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.

Image by sheilaahmadi

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.

Please note that it will take much longer to be approved if applying through a consular office rather than in person in Croatia. In one such case, a child of a Croatian citizen applied at an embassy abroad. After 2 years of waiting, still had not been approved. This person came to Croatia and applied again in person. She was approved in 2 weeks.

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.
  • A valid identity document with a visible photo

Depending on the basis for the application, other documents may be required.

Fees

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.

More Information

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”.

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.

Has anyone applied for citizenship as a non-EU national AND is not married to a Croatian citizen? If so, please share your story.

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Expat in Croatia

Sara is an American expat based in Split. After globetrotting between New York, Amsterdam and California, she moved to Croatia in 2012. Sara's blog Expat in Croatia is a guide for foreigners living and traveling in Croatia.