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How third-country citizens can apply for permanent residency in Croatia: Guide for 2023

This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer and the ministry handling immigration.
how to apply for permanent residency in croatia
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Paolo Braiuca

UPDATED: 10/06/2022

If you are a third-country citizen that has lived in Croatia with a valid temporary residence permit consistently for a few years,  then you might qualify for permanent residence.

A third-country citizen refers to anyone with nationality outside the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

This post is intended for all third-country citizens and third-country family members of permanent resident third-country citizens. We will have another post for third-country family members of EU/Croatian citizens and EU citizens who wish to apply for permanent residence soon. The rules governing permanent residence have changed so much in 2021, that we decided to split our post on permanent residence into multiple posts for the different scenarios. This is the first.

Once you hit a certain mark based on your situation, the natural next step is to apply for permanent residency, called “stalni boravak” in Croatian. First, we’ll list the basic requirements then we’ll go over each one in more detail.

That being said, it is always good to check the requirements with the local MUP. Sometimes requirements may vary depending on your case.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How third-country citizens can apply for permanent residency in Croatia

Who qualifies to apply for permanent residence in Croatia

It used to be pretty simple to know who qualified for permanent residence. Everyone had to be here 5 years, that was it. From 2021, the rules on who qualifies vary depending on your situation.

Some groups of third-country nationals can get permanent residence under more favorable terms. Let’s find out which group you belong to.

Types of permanent residence

There are 2 types of permanent residence that you can get in Croatia. They are actually the same, but each of them can be granted under different terms.

As a third-country national you may be granted:

  1. Dugotrajno boravište (long-term residence)

OR

  1. Stalni boravak (permanent residence)

Dugotrajno boravište and stalni boravak are both granted for an indefinite period. The main difference between the two is that stalni boravak can be obtained on more favorable terms.

Third-country nationals who receive either dugotrajno boravište or stalni boravak have the same rights in Croatia.

They both have the right to:

  • Work and self-employment
  • Professional development
  • Education and student scholarships (state scholarships are excluded)
  • Social welfare
  • Child allowance
  • Tax reliefs
  • Access to the market of goods and services
  • Freedom to associate and be members of organizations that represent workers or employers, or organizations whose members perform particular occupations, including fees paid to them by such organizations

Long-term residence (dugotrajno boravište)

If you are a third-country national, you must have legal residence in Croatia for 5 years continuously and meet certain conditions before you can apply for permanent residence.

Continuous stay means that within this 5-year period, you are not absent from Croatia for more than 10 months in total or once for more than 6 months.

By legal residence, we mean one of the following:

  • Temporary residence
  • Asylum
  • Subsidiary protection

Permanent residence (stalni boravak)

As we already mentioned, some third-country nationals can get permanent residence under more favorable conditions.

To qualify for stalni boravak, you must meet one of the below qualifications:

  • Family members, spouses, and life partners of Croatian citizens can apply for permanent residence after 4 years of temporary stay in Croatia
  • Members of Croatian people with foreign nationality or without nationality who returned to Croatia can apply for permanent residence after 3 years of temporary stay in Croatia
  • People who have the status of a refugee for at least 10 years can apply for permanent residence after 3 years of temporary stay in Croatia
  • Children of third-country nationals who hold permanent residence can apply for permanent residence after 3 years of temporary stay in Croatia
  • Third-country nationals who had prebivalište (residence) in Croatia on October 8, 1991 and are users of the program of return or renovation or housing can apply for permanent residence
  • Children who have at least one parent with permanent stay or long-term residence in Croatia (with the approval of other parent) can apply for permanent residence
  • Children who have at least one parent who has permanent stay or long-term residence in Croatia whose other parent is unknown, has died, has been declared dead, deprived of parental care, or completely or partially deprived of the business ability in relation to parental care can apply for permanent residence
  • Third-country nationals who are born and live in Croatia but don’t have a regulated stay in Croatia for justified reasons can apply for permanent residence

How third-country nationals can apply for permanent residence in Croatia

Step #1 Contact MUP administration office

To apply for permanent residence, you must visit the administration police office nearest to your address of stay, the same as you did for all of your temporary residence applications. You can find a full list of all police stations in Croatia here.

Some police stations may require that you make an appointment before you visit. Our advice is to call them and ask for a service desk that works with foreigners. Explain that you would like to apply for long-term residence. They will provide you with the latest information.

Some police stations allow applications to be sent via email. However, after you make a call, you will be 100% sure whether you need to go to the police or not. For permanent stay applications, there will always be at least 2, possibly more, in-person visits with the police.

Step #2 Prepare the application

Prepare your application according to the requirements.

Here are the general requirements for a long-term residency:

  • Completed application form Obrazac 1a, provided by the police (view it here)
  • Passport photo 30×35 mm
  • Copy of your foreign passport (if your passport is not in the English language, you must provide a copy that is notarized and translated into Croatian)
  • Proof of financial means
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of knowledge of the Croatian language

Note: Persons without nationality and third-country nationals under asylum or subsidiary protection don’t have to enclose a valid foreign travel document.

Here are the general requirements for a permanent residency:

  • Completed application, provided by the police – Download the form here
  • Passport photo 30×35 mm
  • Copy of your foreign passport (If you are unable to obtain a valid foreign travel document, you will have to enclose a certificate of the diplomatic mission or consular post of the foreign state in Croatia that you cannot be issued the document, with previously issued documents with a photograph, school book and other documents from which you can be identified in order to establish your identity)

In some cases, certain additional documents are required:

  • Member of the Croatian people with or without foreign citizenship shall enclose a certificate from the state administration body responsible for relations with Croats outside Croatia
  • Refugee also encloses a certificate from the state administration body responsible for housing
  • Third-country national who resided in Croatia on 8 October 1991 and is a beneficiary of a return, reconstruction, or a housing program, encloses a certificate from the state administration body responsible for housing and proof that he has not been convicted of criminal offenses
  • Minor who was born outside of Croatia and had been granted temporary residence for three consecutive years for the purpose of family reunification with one of the parents having been granted permanent residence or long-term residence encloses a birth certificate
  • Third-country national who was born and lives in Croatia, but for justified reasons which they could not influence does not have a regulated residence, they need to give a statement and enclose, for example, proof of attendance at preschool and school, previous employment, as well as other evidence that can support the fact of living in Croatia

Let’s go over the basic requirements in detail.

A valid claim

If you meet the threshold listed at the top of this post, then chances are you qualify to apply for permanent status, unless you are a student, volunteer or you’ve been outside Croatia for too long. Time spent on a student or volunteer permit does not count towards the permanent residence in the same way as other types of temporary residence.

Depending on your nationality and situation, there are limitations on how long you can be gone from Croatia. Time outside Croatia is taken into consideration when applying for permanent residence. You can view these restrictions here.

If you are unsure whether you qualify, go to the police and ask well in advance (e.g. 2 months at least) of your current residency expiration.

Here is a guide on how to prepare for the transition to permanent residence.

Copy of Passport

Sometimes they will make a copy at the MUP, but it is best if you bring a copy of your passport with you the day you file your application just in case. Make sure you also have a copy of your national Croatian identification card.

Proof of Financial Means

This requirement has variations depending on your situation. If you are a non-EU national, you must show (3) pay stubs from a Croatian company. If applying based on marriage, your spouse can show their proof of salary payment from a Croatian company.

Regardless of your situation, these are the minimum amounts you need to have based on your family situation according to MUP (but do not be surprised if they tell you to have more). Here are the current minimums.

That being said, don’t do anything until the MUP tells you exactly what you need to provide for your situation.

Proof of Health Insurance

If you’ve made it this far, you already have this. You’ll need to provide a copy of your HZZO card and be up to date on payments.

Proof of Knowledge of the Croatian language

Third-country citizens must take a language test as part of their permanent residence application. There are several ways to fulfill this requirement:

  • Certificate from a higher education institution, secondary education institution, or an adult education institution that is running a program in the Croatian language. The qualified institutions are:
    • Čakovec:
      • Centar stranih jezika Studio Žerjav, Carinski odvojak bb
    • Dubrovnik:
      • Šibenska privatna gimnazija s pravom javnosti, Sustjepanska 4
    • Karlovac:
      • Pučko otvoreno učilište Pouka, Bogoslava Šuleka 29
    • Rijeka:
      • Narodno učilište-ustanova za obrazovanje i kulturu, Školjić 9
      • Ustanova za obrazovanje odraslih Dante, Pomerio 23
    • Split:
      • Edukacijski centar, Ustanova za obrazovanje, Domovinskog rata 46
      • Šibenska privatna gimnazija s pravom javnosti, Ulica Marina Držića 8
    • Šibenik:
      • Šibenska privatna gimnazija s pravom javnosti, Andrije Kačića Miošića 11
    • Varaždin:
      • Škola stranih jezika-Žiger, Stanka Vraza 37
    • Zadar:
      • Šibenska privatna gimnazija s pravom javnosti, Ulica A. G. Matoša 40
    • Zagreb:
      • Sova jezično učilište, Ustanova za obrazovanje odraslih, Varšavska 14
      • Svijet jezika, Ustanova za obrazovanje odraslih, Vodnikova 12
  • A passing grade on a language test offered by the Filozofski Fakultet in Zagreb, Split, Osijek, Rijeka, Pula, or Zadar. This test is B1 level. To schedule the test, bring a copy of your passport to the fakultet. You’ll be asked to complete an application and pay the fee for the test at a local bank or post office. The cost of the fee may vary. Once paid, return to the fakultet with your application and proof of payment. You’ll be given a test date at that time. For the test with the fakultet, you must schedule the test at least 10 days in advance as they are only given once a month.

You are exempt from taking this language test if:

  • you are of pre-school age
  • you have completed primary, secondary, or higher education in Croatia
  • you are unemployed and older than 65 years

My personal experience with the test

I took this exam in March 2018 with the Filozofski Fakultet in Split. It was composed of two parts: written and oral. For the written, there were about 25 multiple choice questions that involved selecting the appropriately conjugated word to fill in the blank.

There was also an essay section where you write about yourself for half a page. For the written, only 20 minutes were allotted. Personally, I felt rushed. The other 40 people in the room all were native speakers from neighboring Balkan countries.

After the written, everyone had to wait while the tests were graded. Then people were called back into the room, in groups of 4, in order of who finished the written first. Each person is then asked questions related to their essay in speedy complex Croatian, which they then must answer in Croatian.

You’ll need to be prepared to have a two-way conversation for about 5 minutes. After the discussions for everyone in my group were complete, we each found out if we passed and could pick up our certificate at the Filosofski Fakultet where we scheduled the test after one week.

Some caveats and learnings

I was told by the woman who I scheduled the test with that there would be NO oral section. She also told this to my Croatian teacher who called before I scheduled the test. This turned out to not be true, so be prepared for an oral discussion regardless of what the fakultet tells you.

You’re probably wondering, so how hard is the test? At the time of the test, I’d been taking Croatian lessons for 2 years and had been in Croatia for 6 years. I work from home, do not have Croatian heritage, and am not married to a Croatian so am not super integrated into the community. I do live in a neighborhood where nobody speaks English so I get some practice, but not as much as someone working in a business with locals.

The written was challenging. I have a decent scope of vocabulary and a good grasp of all cases and past, present, and future tenses. Nevertheless, I didn’t understand most of the words on the test. My understanding of cases and tenses is what got me through the test. Honestly, there wasn’t enough time to even translate the sentences. I only had enough time to figure out what should go into the blank based on context clues.

Personally, I felt like I fell on my face during the oral, and thankfully, the two gentlemen from Kosovo in my group didn’t snicker at my embarrassing display. I did really well on the written, so overall I passed. Thankfully.

In summary, this is not a test that can be crammed for. If you plan on being here for the long haul, start learning and speaking Croatian now. There will be another test as part of the citizenship application, which will definitely be harder.

Birth Certificate

This requirement primarily applies to children. If it is requested that you provide a birth certificate, it must be apostilled/legalized, translated into Croatian, and notarized.

A completed application

MUP will give you the application at the time you start the process. You can also download the form for third-country nationals/non-EU nationals here.

Step #3 Submit the application

When you have prepared all of the requirements, visit the police station and submit them. The police will let you know if there are additional documents for your situation that are needed. Once they accept your application for processing, the next step is to wait.

Step #4 The interview(s)

Third-country citizens applying for permanent residence usually must meet in person at MUP at least once, but sometimes as many as 3 times (this was my situation). It all depends on your basis for permanent residence and nationality.

At some stage, you will be called in for an interview (or several) either by phone call or a summons that you receive by mail.

During this interview, they will review your documents and ask you questions like:

  • How do you support yourself, and how have you supported yourself since living in Croatia?
  • Do you work?
  • Are you married?
  • Where do you live and where have you lived since being in Croatia?
  • Do you have children?
  • Why do you want to live in Croatia?
  • Tell us about your family, where they live, and what they do
  • Other questions that you have answered for all of your other permits, but they will ask again

The purpose is to reconfirm you meet the requirements and get a clearer understanding of your motivations for applying for permanent residence. They may also review with you the time of your total absence from Croatia.

Step #4 Get boravišna iskaznica (residence card)

Once you receive the magical call that your permit has been approved, you’ll be called into the station. You will get the document called “Rješenje o odobrenju stalnog boravka” which is a decision on your approval of permanent residence. The administrative fee for this document is 630 kuna.

They will provide you with the payment slips to take to a bank, FINA or Pošta to pay. Then you’ll return to the police with proof of payment.

If you want to pay for this document via internet banking, here is the payment information:

Državni proračun RH
IBAN: HR1210010051863000160
Model: HR64
Poziv na broj: 5002-713-OIB (if you have Croatian OIB) OR 5002-713-number of passport or ID card (if you don’t have Croatian OIB).

Within a period of 8 days after your permanent residence has been approved, you must submit a request for boravišna iskaznica (residence card).

To get the residence card, you need:

  • (1) passport photo (30x35mm)
  • Valid foreign travel document

Passport Photo

Usually, the police ask for this once your application is approved (if applying for temporary residency), but in my experience they wanted this photo as part of the application itself before it went to Zagreb for approval. If you don’t already have some stockpiled, there is usually a photo studio by the MUP that will take your photo and prepare them for the right measurement.

You will have to pay the administrative fee for a residence card which is 240 kuna. The police will provide you with the payment slips to take to a bank, FINA, or Pošta to pay. Then you’ll return them a proof of payment. You can also pay this fee via internet banking. Here is the payment information:

Državni proračun RH
IBAN: HR1210010051863000160
Model: HR65
Poziv na broj: 7005-485-OIB (if you have Croatian OIB) OR 7005-485-RKP-number of request (if you don’t have Croatian OIB).

By the way, if you want to get a certified transcript of a permanent residence permit, the administrative cost for this is 105 kuna.

After you show proof of payment, your fingerprints and signature will be taken. You’ll then be given a white card, which will function as your temporary identification card. You’ll need to bring this with you to get your new identification card, so DO NOT LOSE IT. At this time, they will order your ID, which takes 3 weeks, the same process as is with temporary.

Step #5 Enjoy the security of knowing you can stay forever

Yaaay! You are permanent! This affords you additional privileges. With permanent stay, you can be gone from Croatia for longer periods without losing your status. You can learn more about this here.

Termination of the permanent residence of third-country nationals

Termination of the long-term residence

There are several cases when the long-term residence of third-country nationals can be terminated.

The long-term residence will be terminated if:

  • A third-country national has submitted a request for the termination of their permanent stay
  • A third-country national is banned from entering and staying in Croatia
  • SIS has issued a warning for the purpose of banning the entry of a third-country national
  • A third-country national has resided outside the EEA territory for a continuous period of 12 months
  • A third-country national has resided outside of Croatia for more than 6 years
  • There are reasons of protection of public order, national security, or public health that require termination
  • A third-country national who received long-term residence status in another EEA member state
  • Third-country nationals’ asylum or subsidiary protection has been terminated

Termination of the permanent residence

There are several cases when the permanent residence of third-country nationals can be terminated.

Permanent residence will be terminated if:

  • A third-country national has submitted a request for the termination of their permanent stay
  • A third-country national is banned from entering and staying in Croatia
  • SIS has issued a warning for the purpose of banning the entry of a third-country national
  • A third-country national has moved outside of Croatia
  • A third-country national has resided outside of Croatia for more than a year
  • There are reasons of protection of public order, national security, or public health that require termination

More things you should know

    • If you are a non-EU national, this process will take a minimum of one year, but most likely closer to two years. Spouses of Croatians will get shuttled through quicker.
    • You MUST have a valid temporary residency permit during the entire application process. If you are nearing your expiration, you must reapply for temporary residency alongside your permanent application at least 2 months prior to the expiration of your current residency permit. Here is a post just about transitioning from temporary to permanent.
    • For applications related to a child, consent and signatures from both parents are required.
    • Don’t be surprised if the requirements change mid-process. Laws change all the time.
    • If you plan to apply for citizenship through naturalization, you can start that application three years from the date you BEGIN your permanent residency application or after being here for 8 years. If you are married to a Croatian, you can apply for citizenship after you are approved for permanent residence.
    • For rare cases (such as mine), I was approved for permanent residency before my current temporary residency was up. As a result, they would not order my permanent residency ID until my temporary residency ID expired.

Good luck!


Sources:
Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o strancima
Državljani trećih zemalja
Long-Term Residence and Permanent stay

Need help getting permanent residency?

The permanent residency application can be a bit of a beast, especially if you are a non-EU national with no Croatian family ties. There will be MANY interviews. Due to this, we recommend using a lawyer for the process. Lawyers have connections within immigration, are able to skip common roadblocks and can identify any risks with your application.

Our expat-vetted lawyer network can review your situation and quickly determine if you qualify for permanent residency. If you do qualify, they can also handle your permanent residency application from beginning to end. This service includes:

  • Personalized consulting on your specific situation
  • Confirming latest immigration requirements for your nationality and basis
  • Assistance with putting together necessary documents
  • All communication with the police on your behalf
  • Assembly, submission and monitoring of your application
  • Answering questions and assisting you throughout the process

To consult with an immigration lawyer about your case for permanent residency, please complete the form below and we’ll contact you as soon as possible.

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Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. It is important to understand that Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change and each personal case is individual and different rules may apply. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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