How Australian citizens can visit and live in Croatia (in 2020)

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Australians living in Croatia
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Many Australians come to Croatia, for both tourism and to live here long term.

Since Croatia’s hot summer aligns with Australia’s cold winters, it is an ideal place for Aussies to get away on holiday and blow off steam. While the cost to visit Croatia has been on the rise, it can still be relatively affordable for Australian citizens making Australian dollars.

Many Australians are also looking to put down long-term roots in Croatia, some because they love its laid back culture, some because they married a Croatian abroad and some because they have Croatian ancestry. There are over 130.000 Australian nationals have Croatian ancestry. These Crozzies are now applying for citizenship. As of January 2020, the language test has been waved for diaspora so it is much easier to apply for citizenship based on ancestry now.

There are a number of ways Australians can settle in Croatia. They are definitely hoops of fire to jump through, but options do exist. We’ve created a guide specifically for citizens of Australia that includes every option available to Australian citizens to move to Croatia long term. If you’re just passing through, we cover tourist visas for too.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Let’s get started…

Tourist visas for Australian citizens to visit Croatia

Australians enjoy visa-free travel to 77 countries around the world. Croatia is one of those countries.

To visit Croatia as a Canadian, you must have negative PCR result of a nasal and throat swab for SARS-Cov-2 that is not older than 48 hours to enter Croatia in addition to proof of your accommodation or reason for visit. You do not have to apply for a travel visa in advance and you do not need to get a visa on arrival or pay any fee to enter. Upon entry, you can stay for 90 days within a 180-day period.

You can always see the latest tourist visa status here, but it’s unlikely to ever change.

How to move to Croatia as an Australian citizen

There are many options for Australian citizens to stay in Croatia long term. It will be easiest for those with Croatian heritage or whom marry a citizen. For everyone else, it will be challenging but not impossible. This guide will cover all of your options as well as what is required of you as an Australian.

Before we get started, we need to cover some vocabulary. In the eyes of Croatia, there are Croatian citizens, EU citizens and everybody else. Those in the “everybody else” bucket are referred to as “third-country nationals”. Nationals of Australia are third-country nationals. This means that the following residence permit schemes apply to all third-country nationals, not just Australians.

Please note that the limited options for residency are consistent with other EU countries. In some ways, Croatia even gives more leeway than The Netherlands or France.

Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started. We will go through each option for temporary residency, starting with the one that allows you the least amount of time in Croatia, moving up to the ones that allow you the most time in Croatia.

Student Permit

Australians can get residence in Croatia to study at one of its many universities. You may also study the Croatian language at certain language schools and qualify for a residence permit as well.

To residence permit to study, you must show proof of acceptance into a qualified Croatian institution of education as part of your residence application. You’ll also need to show you have the financial means to support yourself during your studies as currently foreign students are not allowed to work in Croatia.

Caveats

  • The resident permit will be for the period that you are enrolled, usually a single school year at a time, excluding summer months unless you can prove you need to be here in between semesters.
  • You cannot work for a Croatian company as a student. Although, there is discussion in Parliament to change this.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you for the first 2 years.

Purchasing residential property

Australians are allowed to purchase any property zoned as residential in Croatia. If you purchase residential property, you may apply for temporary residency that will allow you to stay in Croatia for up to 6 months at a time with after which you must leave for 90 days. When the 90 days is up, you can re-enter Croatia again as a tourist for 90 days. During this 90 days as a tourist, you can apply for a new 6-month residence permit based on your property.

Here is the timeline outlined simply:

  • 90 Days – You are in Croatia as a tourist
  • Up to 6 months – You have a legal residence permit
  • 90 Days – You are outside Croatia
  • 90 Days – You are in Croatia as a tourist
  • Up to 6 months – You have a legal residence permit
  • 90 Days – You are outside Croatia

And then it just repeats…

Caveats

  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You cannot bring your spouse with you UNLESS your spouse is also listed as an owner of the property. Kids can only come if both parents have legal residence permits.
  • The property must be zoned residential. A block of land does not count.

If you wish to buy a house or apartment in Croatia, you should hire a solicitor. It is not required by law to have a solicitor when buying an apartment, but it would be reckless to buy a property in Croatia without a solicitor as a foreigner.

The law and requirements are complex, the bureaucracy is a hornet’s nest and there is good chance you will be ripped off, which could seriously cost you in both time and money if you don’t have an experienced local on your side.

The language barrier alone is reason enough to leave it to an expert. If you are interested in this option, contact me and I will refer you to a real estate solicitor.

Here is a post that explains the process of purchasing residential property in Croatia.

Here is a post that explains the requirements and process for applying for a permit based on property.

Work permit

Australians can get residence permits with the option to work in Croatia.

Caveats

  • You MUST be offered a work contract from a Croatian company BEFORE you can apply for a residence and work permit. You cannot get a work permit, THEN go find a job.
  • Work permits can only be issued for the term of your work contract, up to 1 year at maximum. If the company wants you to stay on after the conclusion of your contract, then you’ll need to ask for a new work contract and then apply for a new work permit. Work permits cannot be “renewed”.
  • If you get a residence permit with the option to work and decide to leave your job, your permit will be cancelled. All work permits are tied to work contracts. Without a contract, you cannot have a work permit.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you within the first 2 years.
  • Before a company can offer you a work contract, they must first confirm with the office of unemployment that a Croatian is not seeking that same role.

If you want to seek a work permit to live in Croatia, then start by looking for a job. We have a guide specifically on how to find a job in Croatia.

All of the above also applies to approved EU Blue Card holders. Even with the Blue Card, you still need to have a work contract or employment offer before you can apply to live in Croatia based on work.

Work permit by starting your own company

If you are self-employed, you can issue yourself a work contract as the director of a Croatian company and therefore qualify for a residence and work permit.

This option involves a lot of bureaucracy, taxes and overhead costs so it is not recommended if you are only opening the company to get temporary residence. This option should only be used by those who want to actually open and operate a company in Croatia.

Caveats

  • You are required to invest 200.000 kuna of start-up capital.
  • You are required to hire 3 full-time Croatian nationals
  • You are required to pay yourself at least the minimum wage for directors
  • All these things we’ve noted about opening a business in this post and this post and this post.

If you plan to open your own company, educate yourself on what operating a business in Croatia actually means. We have written many posts about opening and running businesses in Croatia, which you can view here. You may also read a detailed post on all the requirements associated with getting a work permit by opening your own company here.

Prepayment of rent

If you’re only looking to live in Croatia for just 1 year, then this permit scheme may be a great choice. It is ideal for digital nomads and retirees whom have the flexibility to move to a new country for a limited amount of time.

Another benefit is that it is not “merit” based or tied to work contracts. One of the biggest catches is that there are some financial hoops.

Caveats

  • This temporary residence permit is only for 1 year and it is NOT renewable. There have been cases when people with this type of permit have been allowed to apply for and stay a second year, but they were all told to leave at the end of the second year.
  • At the end of the residence permit period, you must leave Croatia for 90 days (if you stayed 1 year) and 18 months (if you stayed for 2 years)
  • You must prove that you’ve paid for rent for your apartment for 1 year in advance. Some people have been granted exceptions if they are staying with a friend or family member, but you still need to be able to register yourself at that address.
  • You must sign up for state health insurance once approved for your permit and pay 1 year of premiums for the previous year in addition to premiums for the current year. You can read more about health insurance here.
  • You cannot work for a Croatian company.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you. If you have a spouse, they must apply separately.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.

You can read more about how to apply for this permit scheme here.

Scientific research

If you are working on a scientific research project for which you need to live in Croatia, you can apply for temporary residence. You’ll definitely need to provide proof of the research and how long it will take. Expect it to be heavily scrutinized.

Caveats

  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You cannot work for a Croatian company

Volunteer

You may apply for temporary residence on the grounds of humanitarian or volunteer work. To apply on this basis, you must provide a contract with a non-profit organization (called “udruga”) that shows the term of work and that the role is unpaid among other requirements.

Caveats

  • The term is limited to 1 year only. In some specific cases, you can get the same permit again for a second year, after which you must leave for a period of 18 months.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you. If you wish to bring your spouse, they will need to apply for their own residence permit on a volunteer or some other basis.
  • You cannot work in exchange for money.
  • You can only work for the non-profit with whom you have your contract used as the basis for your permit.

You can ready more about this permit here.

Marry a Croatian or EU national

This program is called “family reunification”, which means that spouses and children of Croatians and EU citizens can come to live in Croatia with their spouse or parent (if they are a minor).

For clarification, I do not encourage or recommend anyone to marry someone they are not in a relationship with just to live in Croatia. Technically that is fraud and you would be lying to the government, which is a risk.

If you are married to a Croatian or EU national, you may get temporary residency in Croatia if both you and your spouse are registered at the same address in Croatia. This is by far the easiest and fastest permit to get, since Croatians or EU citizens have certain rights and entitlements that third-country nationals do not have.

You must provide an original copy of your marriage certificate that is translated, apostilled, and notarized (if married abroad). You’ll also need to show that you as a couple have the financial means to support yourself. I will cover this in more detail below in the “Requirements” section.

In reality, there have been discrepancies in the term of spousal permits. Some spouses have received 5-year permits, while others have had to get a new permit after each year. There does not appear to be a pattern, so you’ll just need to see what the police say in your situation.

After 5 years of temporary residency, you’ll qualify to apply for permanent residence. Once you receive permanent residence, you can apply for citizenship. Hooray!

You can read more about how to apply for a temporary residence permit based on marriage here.

Croatian citizenship by descent

If you’ve got Croatian blood, then ignore everything you’ve read up to this point. The Croatian government has made it a lot easier for diaspora to gain citizenship by doing away with the language and culture test.

To qualify for citizenship, you must have a parent, grandparent, great grandparent, etc. that is Croatian. Ancestry must be in a straight line and you must be able to prove ancestry, which can be done in a variety of ways.

Even though having heritage is the ultimate option, there are still catches.

Caveats

  • From January 1, 2020, you can only apply from an embassy or consulate abroad if you are a non-resident.
  • If your ancestor left Croatia at any point and moved to an ex-Yugoslavia country, then your right to citizenship is negated.
  • If your ancestor left Croatia after 1991, then your right to citizenship is negated.
  • Applications for citizenship take time, months to years, so be patient. You won’t be here next week.
  • Without citizenship, ancestry is on its own is not a valid basis for residency.

You can see if you qualify for Croatian citizenship here.

You can see how to apply for citizenship here.

You can read 8 things you need to know before applying for Croatian citizenship here.

Requirements that apply to all situations

There are common requirements that apply to all Australians no matter which of the options you choose from above. Below is a list of those common requirements across all temporary residence permit applications, however keep in mind that MUP (the police) will request additional items from you depending on your basis for residency.

Everyone must provide:

  • A completed application
    • The police will provide you with the right application. You can also download the application here.
  • A valid passport
    • Expiration date must be more than 6 months out
  • OIB identification number (like a social security number)
  • Health insurance
    • For some permits like volunteering or the 1-year permit, you will need to have your own private travel health insurance for the application process. Once approved, you’ll need to get state health insurance.
    • For some permits like family reunification and work permits, you must get state health insurance during the application process.
      • Here is how to get state health insurance.
      • Here are the costs of state health insurance.
  • Registered address in Croatia (where you live, whether you own or rent)
    • If you are renting, you will need a notarized rental contract OR the owner can come to the police with you to state that you are renting from them.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
    • Depending on your basis, you can either show you have a big chunk of money on a Croatian bank account or show a work contract or show salary payments from a Croatian company. Here are the financial minimums you’ll need, but the police will tell you what they need.
  • (2) passport photos
    • Usually there is a photo studio right by MUP where you can get these in the right size.
  • Application fee
    • This is due upon approval of your application. In some cases, you must pay an administrative fee earlier in the process using tax stamps.

Health insurance for Australians living in Croatia

You must have proof of private health insurance as part of your application for residence as an Australian citizen.

Once your temporary residence is approved, you have 8 days to sign up for “obavezno” state health insurance with HZZO. HZZO is the state health insurance fund, which offers both basic (obavezno) and supplemental (dopunsko) health insurance.

Obavezno is the standard state health insurance that all residents must have. Dopunsko is the optional supplement health insurance. You can read the specifics about what is included and costs for obavezno here and dopunsko here.

After signing up for HZZO, you will need to pay 12 months of health insurance premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premium going forward. This goes for all non-EU citizens, children and adults alike. Meaning that if you are a family of 4 with 2 children, you’ll need to pay these fees for all 4 members of your family.

The monthly premium changes year to year. The current amount is always updated in this post.

Exchanging your Australian driver’s license

If you plan to drive in Croatia, you can exchange your Australian driver’s license for a Croatian license during your first year of residence. If you wait longer than one year, you may be fined 500 kuna and/or required to start from scratch with driving school.

You can read about the process to exchange your Australian driver’s license here.

You can read about the process to get a Croatian driver’s license from scratch here.

Buying property in Croatia

Australian citizens are allowed to buy any property zoned as “residential” in Croatia. If you’re interested in purchasing a house or apartment in Croatia, we’ve got a step-by-step guide that explains the process. Check it out here.

We can also connect you to vetted real estate agents and lawyers to help you through the process to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Taxes

Currently, Australia does not have a double-taxation treaty in place with Croatia. This means that Australians living more than 183 days in Croatia each year must report their worldwide income and pay taxes in Croatia. Due to a lack of double taxation treaty, you’ll also need to report your income to Australia. Whether you need to pay tax to Australia depends on a variety of factors.

Here are additional resources from the Australian Taxation Office:

Taxes are complicated. This is a very high level view of the tax situation. If you ever want a detailed review of your tax liability while living in Croatia, contact us and we’ll connect you with a tax expert.

How to find your embassy in Croatia

Embassy of Australia, Zagreb

Contact: Elizabeth Marianne Petrovic

Telephone:
+385 (0)1 48 91 200
+385 (0)1 48 91 216

Email: [email protected]

Address:
Kaptol Centar
Nova Ves 11, 3rd Floor
10 000 Zagreb
View Map

Conclusion

While it may not be straightforward to live in Croatia legally long-term as an Australian citizen, there are several options that will allow you to live here for at least 1 year. It all depends on how badly you want to live here and how much patience you have.

Need help figuring out your best option for residency?

We recommend that everyone use a solicitor when applying for residency in Croatia, especially non-EU nationals. Solicitors have connections within immigration, are able to skip common roadblocks and can identify any risks with your application. In addition, it is rare that the police (who handle immigration) will speak English to applicants.

A member of our expat-vetted network can review your situation and quickly determine if you qualify for residency, all in English. If you do qualify, they can also handle your residency application from beginning to end. This service includes:

  • Personalised 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 solicitor to find out if you qualify to live in Croatia long term, please complete the form below and we’ll contact you as soon as possible.

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