How non-EU/EEA spouses of Croatians can apply for residence: Guide for 2024

tick icon
This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer and the ministry that handles immigration

married couple
Couple at the beach in Osor on the island of Cres, Croatia

UPDATED: 3.5.2024.

Want to live in Croatia with your Croatian spouse or significant other? As the spouse of a Croatian citizen, you are entitled to residency in Croatia as long as you meet certain guidelines. Officially, your reason is called family reunification (boravak u svrhu spajanja obitelji).

Your path to residency will vary depending on your citizenship. If you are married to Croatian but also are an EU/EEA citizen, then head over here as this permit is a better match for you. The below post is exclusively for non-EU (third-country) spouses of Croatian nationals.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

All possible relationship scenarios

The Croatian government recognizes a variety of relationships and partnerships for the purposes of family reunification. We will go through each one in greater detail below.

1. You are not yet married or are in a common-law relationship

If you are not yet married but plan to marry in Croatia, congrats! Croatia is an excellent choice to get married. The whole country is beautiful and you will surely enjoy it. Once married, you can proceed with your application for temporary residence.

Alternatively, if you can prove you have been cohabiting (living at the same residence) for at least 3 years, then you can apply for temporary residence based on a common-law marriage.

[Read: How to get married in Croatia (if at least one spouse is a foreigner)]

2. You were married in Croatia

If you were married in Croatia, then your marriage will already be registered with the Croatian Registry of Marriages called Matica vjenčanih. This means you should already have a marriage certificate. You’ll need the marriage certificate as part of your residence application.

3. You were married outside of Croatia

If you got married outside of Croatia but intend to live in Croatia, you will need to register your marriage with the Croatian Registry of Marriages known as Matica vjenčanih. You and your spouse will need to visit the Registrar’s office closest to your address registered in Croatia. A list of all Registrar’s offices according to Croatian counties is available here.

You’ll need to provide:

  • Apostilled/legalized and officially translated copy of the marriage certificate
  • Copy of your passport (if you are non-Croatian)
  • Proof of citizenship (if you are a Croatian)

[Read: Apostille vs full legalization of government documents]

4. You are in a same-sex relationship

Same-sex partners cannot get legally married in Croatia. However, they can form a life partnership called životno partnerstvo. Same-sex marriages that were registered outside of Croatia are recognized as marriages in Croatia.

Common law same-sex couples can access the same rights as heterosexual same-sex couples with regard to family reunification.

[Read: Same-sex life partnership in Croatia]

5. You are in a civil union or life partnership

Civil unions and life partnerships are recognized in Croatia as marriages, in almost every way. If you entered into a civil union abroad or entered into a life partnership in Croatia, the non-Croatian partner will qualify for temporary residence.

[Read: Same-sex life partnerships in Croatia]

6. You are in a polygamous marriage

If you are in a polygamous marriage, temporary residency based on family reunification in Croatia can be granted to only one spouse.

How to apply for temporary residency as the non-EU/EEA spouse of a Croatian

For the purpose of family reunification or a life partnership with a Croatian citizen, a temporary residence permit can be issued with a validity period of up to two years. Time spent on temporary residence under family reunification counts when applying for permanent residence.

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!

Below are all the steps you must go through to apply for temporary residency as a non-EU/EEA spouse of a Croatian citizen.

1. Prepare the required documentation

First, gather all the necessary documents. You’ll need:

  • Application form Obrazac 1a – you can get it in person at MUP/diplomatic mission/consular office; view it here
  • Private health insurance – you will need to sign up for state health insurance once approved for residence – view a guide here
  • Registered address where you reside with your spouse in Croatia – view a guide here
  • Marriage certificate (apostilled/legalized, officially translated if married abroad)
  • Criminal background check and certificate on the length of stay if you are applying for the first time – view more information in our guide available here
  • Passports for both of you, with a period of validity 3 months longer than the period of validity of the temporary stay (if it’s not in English, then you must have a copy officially translated into Croatian)
  • 35×45 mm passport photo

[Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]

Everyone in Croatia must have an address that is registered with the police. You can learn more about this process here.

Please note that the above list of requirements applies to all non-EU spouses who are third-country citizens. Of course, what you need to provide ultimately depends on the person you speak to at the police station and what kind of mood they are in.

Financial means

Proof of financial means is no longer needed for spouses of Croatian citizens.

Article 65 of the Law on foreigners says:

(1) Član uže obitelji hrvatskog državljanina iz članka 64. stavka 1. ovoga Zakona za odobrenje privremenog boravka u svrhu spajanja obitelji ne mora dokazivati osigurana sredstva za uzdržavanje.

Which translates as:

(1) A close family member of a Croatian national referred to in Article 64, paragraph 1 of this Act doesn’t have to prove secured means of subsistence for the purpose of granting temporary residence for the purpose of family reunification.

If you are the spouse of a Croatian and also an EEA/EU citizen, then you should apply based on yourself

[Read: How EU citizens can get temporary residence in Croatia]

2. Apply for a temporary residence

Once you have these materials together, you are ready to apply for a temporary residence.

You can apply at:

  • Police station (MUP office) in the city where your address is registered with your spouse – a full list is available here
  • Diplomatic mission or consular office of Croatia before you move to Croatia – a full list is available here

Contact the police station or consulate/embassy in advance by email or phone to see if you need to set an appointment or if you can provide materials over email.

Provide all the above materials, as they ask for them. Don’t give them anything they do not ask for. Usually, they will provide you with a list of the latest requirements.

At this time, you’ll need to complete an application form, which will be provided to you at the MUP or diplomatic mission or consular office.

Once the officer confirms that you have provided all necessary documents, they should ask you for your contact phone number. If they do not ask, make sure you give it to them and that it is written on your application (even though there is not a field for it). This is how you will be notified upon approval of your application.

3. Wait for the results

And now, you wait for the answer from MUP or the diplomatic mission. How long? It varies; it could be a few weeks to months. Don’t get agitated or impatient. It will take as long as it takes. You are legal to stay in Croatia while your application is in process, so there is no reason to get anxious.

That being said, if you require a visa to enter Croatia, then you should start your application as soon as you arrive. If you can enter Croatia visa-free, then make sure you apply for residence at least 8 days before the end of your tourist visa. However, MUP doesn’t like when people wait until the last minute, so best to start the process at least 2 weeks before.

Do not wait until the last minute before your tourist visa expires. If you do, there is a high risk the government will make you leave and return after 90 days. This most commonly happens with spouses who require a visa to enter Croatia as a tourist. Learn how tourists are registered with the police here.

[Read: Available visas and residence permits for Croatia]

4. Pick up your residence card

You’ll be called back into the MUP or diplomatic mission or consular office once approved. At that time, your fingerprints and signature will be taken. Your application fee will also be due at this time. The officer will give you a payment slip that you’ll take to a nearby bank to pay. Bring the receipt back to MUP to show proof of payment.

In exchange, the police will give you a white card that you will need to present to pick up your residence card, so DO NOT LOSE IT.

You’ll then need to wait another 3 weeks for your residence card to be made. You may or may not be called to pick it up, so a good rule of thumb is to go 21 days to the day or after.

Administrative fees

Here are the types of administrative fees that you must pay:

  • Administrative fee for issuing a temporary residence permit
  • Preparation of the biometric residence permit
  • Administrative fee for issuing a biometric residence permit

All possible costs for this procedure are available here. Additional information may be found here.

Do not pay the fees until instructed by MUP. The fees can also be paid in tax stamps.

[Read: What is a tax stamp and why do you need them]

Skip the research! Save time and talk to EIC.

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 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 us over video chat.

How does it work?

All first-time clients get 30 minutes with an Expat in Croatia coach PLUS 30 minutes with a vetted English-speaking lawyer from our network that you can use at any time.

Your session will be completely tailored to you and your needs whether it’s bureaucracy, culture, or daily life. All legal advice will be handled by our vetted lawyer network. We can help you with everything else.

In addition, you’ll receive a follow up with additional resources based on your situation, our Croatia Restaurant Guide as well as introductions to vetted professionals like insurance, law, real estate, translation and tax.

We have an extensive FAQ about this service here.

Ready to get started? Click here to jump to the form.

Who will I speak with?

Carol Anne Škorvaga, known to us as “CAM”, is a first-generation Croatian-Canadian living in Jastrebarsko with her family. She grew up entrenched in the Croatian community surrounded by culture and folklore, attended Croatian school in Canada and then returned to Zagreb to attend Filozofski Fakultet. CAM is fluent in Croatian and has firsthand knowledge of being both a Canadian expat and a Croatian returnee, building a home in Croatia and being a parent with children in local schools.

Meet CAM in this quick 2-minute video here.

What is the cost?

The below costs are per 30 minutes and include VAT (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government).

  • First-time clients  |  150 euros (includes 30-min session with lawyer)
  • Repeat clients  |  75 euros

If additional time is requested, it is billed in ¼ hour increments.

We offer a 100% money back guarantee. If your session was not helpful, then you will be refunded – no questions asked.

We vet our information through hands-on, human work. This process includes extensive web research, phone calls to the government, collaboration with licensed Croatian professionals, and visits to government.

Reviews from our clients

“My husband and I are looking to obtain our Croatian citizenship through heritage. CAM was exceptional and was extremely informative about the process required, timelines, contact people, both in Croatia and at home, lawyers and services offered by Expat in Croatia. She was able to easy our anxiety and we felt that we will have solid support and direction going forward. She was professional and friendly. Thank you CAM for your support.” ~ Carol W., Canada, February 5, 2024

“After months of Dr Googling we were left with some ideas but had no confidence in which process to citizenship to follow and if any of it was right. Actually at the time of our consultation the laws had changed and CAM was already on top of them. We left the consultation with a clear path to citizenship and in-depth explanation of everything we needed to do in SA before leaving. On top of this when moving to a new country you don’t know how people may react or approach you. I was apprehensive about this and CAM melted all of that away. On the facts she was professional and serious but when welcoming us, making jokes and telling us about Croatia she was so warm, kind and lifted all my fears of moving. My heart now completely lies in Croatia and we have within 2 weeks a complete plan and working on all the documents we need to gather. Every country needs an expat Croatia with such high integrity.”~ MaryAnn V., South Africa, January 17, 2024

You can view our last few reviews here or all of our reviews here.

Ready to book?

To schedule your personal session, complete the below form.

  • Please tell us about yourself

  • We ask this because rules and requirements differ depending on nationality.
  • When would you like to chat?

  • If you’re unsure of the time difference, please check the current time in Croatia here.
  • Newsletter and Consent

    We will only email you once per week. The newsletter includes a wrap up of our latest posts, a Croatian word and phrase of the week, curated actionable Croatian news plus freebies just for our subscribers.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reviews from our happy clients

Ready to book? Click here to jump to the request form.

View our other related posts

Državljani trećih zemalja
Zakon o strancima

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

Sharing is Caring:

We only send one email a week on Tuesdays. And no spam, we don't like that either!

Subscribe to the Expat in Croatia Newsletter and get our FREE Croatia Starter Kit.
I'm already subscribed.