How to apply for permanent residency

Have you lived in Croatia with a valid temporary residence permit consistently for 5 years or more? Then this post is for you.

Once you hit that 5-year mark, the natural next step is to apply for permanent residency, called “stalni boravak” in Croatian. First, I’ll list the basic requirements then we’ll go over each one in more detail, as not all will apply to every application.

Before we get started: I will make it super clear up front that this post is written from the perspective of a non-EU national with no spousal or lineage ties to Croatia. This post covers the entire process and all requirements. However, EU nationals and spouses of Croatians do not need to meet all requirements, which has been noted below.

Here are the basic general requirements for a successful permanent residency application in Croatia:

  • A valid claim for permanent residency
  • (1) passport photo (35x45mm)
  • (1) copy of your passport
  • Proof of financial means
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of knowledge of the Croatian language
  • Birth certificate
  • A completed application, provided by the police (also known as “MUP”)

A valid claim

If you’ve made it here for 5 years, then chances are you qualify to apply for permanent status, unless you are a student, volunteer or you’ve been outside Croatia for more than 1 month per year. If you are unsure, go to the police and ask well in advance (e.g. 2 months at least) of your current residency expiration.

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 to the right measurement.

how to apply for permanent residency in croatia
Photo by
Paolo Braiuca

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 start your application just in case. Make sure you also have a copy of your national Croatia 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 you are an EU national or the spouse of an EU national, you must show the last (3) pay stubs from a Croatian company or you must show you have enough funds to support you and all dependents for one year in a Croatian bank account.

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):

  • For (1) person (e.g. yourself) = 2000 kuna per month
  • For a married couple = 2750 kuna per month
  • For a married couple with a dependent (e.g. family of 3) = 3250 kuna per month
  • For each additional dependent, add 500 kuna per month

This means if you are a single EU national, you would need to put 24000 kuna in a bank account (12 months x 2000 kuna). If you are married, then you or your spouse need to show a monthly salary exceeding 2750 kuna.

If you are showing funds in a bank account, you can request proof of the account balance from your Croatian bank. Let them know you’ll be providing it to the MUP.

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 you HZZO card and be up to date on payments.

Photo by Thought Catalog

Proof of Knowledge of the Croatian language

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
  • A passing grade on a language test offered by the Filozofski Fakultet in Zagreb, Split, Osijek or Rijeka. 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. In Split, it is 860 kuna. 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
  • have completed primary, secondary or higher education in Croatia
  • unemployed and older than 65 years
  • an EU national

This one is a bit tricky, because there have been situations when spouses of Croatian citizens were exempt from the taking the test, but other cases when they were still required to take the text. There have also been cases where EU nationals without a Croatian spouse have been told they do not need to take the test. There is not straight answer on this, so just see what the police tell you.

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 in to 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 translated into Croatian and notarized.

A completed application

There are two versions of this application, depending on whether you are a third party national or an EU national. The MUP will give you the one that applies to you at the time you start the process.

Interviews

You may be called into the police station multiple times during the application process for an interview. 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?
  • Other questions that you have answered for all of your other permits, but they will ask again

The interview process is generally for non-EU nationals.

Cost

Once you receive the magical call that your permit has been approved, you’ll be called into the station as there will be fees due. At time of this posting, the costs were 240 kn plus 630 kn (two different payment slips). They will provide you with the payment slips to take to a bank or Posta to pay. Then you’ll return to the police with proof of payment.

What next?

After you show proof of payment, your finger prints 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.

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. Croatian spouses will get shuttled through quicker. EU nationals may be approved in as little as three weeks.
  • 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.
  • 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 eventually, you can start that application three years from the date you BEGIN your permanent residency application or after being here for 8 years. .
  • 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!

Have you applied for permanent residency in Croatia? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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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.