How Australian citizens can visit and live in Croatia: Guide for 2022

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Australians living in Croatia
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UPDATED: 10/6/2022

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 who 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 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.

Even though a visa is not needed, there are requirements for American citizens to enter Croatia. You can find the latest rules here.

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. Croatia divvies up citizens into 3 groups: Croatian
citizens, EU/EEA citizens, and everybody else (third-country nationals or non-EU/EEA citizens). Australians belong to the third-country national group. 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.

Digital Nomad Permit

Starting in 2021, digital nomads can be granted temporary residence based on their remote work as long as they are not working for any Croatian companies. Australian citizens can now apply for this permit.

Caveats

  • This permit is only for up to 1 year and it is not renewable. Six months after the expiration of your permit, you can apply for a new permit.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days.
  • You are not allowed to do any work for a Croatian company.

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

View frequently asked questions about Croatia’s digital nomad permit here.

Permanent residents of EU/EEA/Switzerland

Canadians who hold long-term residence in another EEA member state may be granted temporary residence in Croatia.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a permit based on your permanent residence in another EU/EEA country.

Student Permit

Australians have the possibility to study at one of Croatia’s many universities and get residence. 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.
  • Time spent on this permit only counts half towards qualifying for permanent residence.

Work permit

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

Caveats

  • You must have a signed work contract or a valid offer of employment before the employer can apply for a work permit on your behalf.
  • 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.
  • For the first year, your spouse or children can not come to live with you in Croatia.
  • 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 an employer can request your work and residence permit.

EU Blue card

If you have received higher education or qualifications such as ISCED 1997 levels 5a or higher, or an associate’s degree or higher, you may qualify for an EU Blue Card.

Once you have been hired or given a binding work offer for a highly qualified position within Croatia, the company that intends to hire you may apply for a temporary residence that will allow you to work based on a Blue Card.

Things to know:

  • You must be in a managerial position.
  • You must be paid an elevated salary.
  • The EU Blue Card will be issued for a term of 2 years.
  • Your family can join you immediately.
  • The hiring company does not have to perform a labor market test.

Our detailed guide on how How to apply for a Blue Card in Croatia is available here.

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 don’t intend to use the company for business. 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 whose “bruto” salary must be equal to at least the average “bruto” paid salary in Croatia in the previous year.
  • You are required to pay yourself at least 1,5 times the average bruto salary for the previous year – See minimum wages here
  • 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 only want to live in Croatia for one year, then this option could be the right fit. It’s a great option for retired people and frequent travelers 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. You can only apply again after 6 months have passed since the expiration of your last permit.
  • At the end of the residence permit period, you must leave Croatia for 90 days.
  • You must prove that you’ve paid for rent 1 year in advance.
  • 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.
  • Your spouse cannot apply for residence based on you. Your spouse must apply separately.

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

Learning Croatian language

A residence permit can also be granted if you study the Croatian language at certain language schools. To get this permit, you must enroll in a Croatian language study program (like Croaticum). [Read: Biggest Croatian language schools in Croatia]

This permit falls under “other purposes” under the law.

Caveats

  • You can get a residence permit for up to one year.
  • You cannot work for a Croatian company.
  • If you wish to apply again for this purpose, you must leave for 90 days at the end of the permit period.
  • You can apply again 6 months and 1 day from the expiry date of your previous permit.

Our detailed guide on how to apply for temporary residence based on language study is available 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 scrutinized.

Caveats

  • 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.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.
  • Your spouse cannot apply for residence based on you. Your spouse must apply separately 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 read 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/EEA 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 will need to provide an original copy of your marriage certificate that is apostilled/legalized then officially translated(if married abroad). You’ll also need to show that you as a couple have the financial means to support yourself in certain cases. I will cover this in more detail below in the “Requirements” section.

If you are the spouse of a Croatian, you’ll be granted a 2-year permit. If you are the spouse of an EU/EEA national, you’ll receive a 10-year permit.

After 4 years of temporary residency, you’ll qualify to apply for permanent residence. Once you receive permanent residence, you can apply for citizenship. Hooray!

Spouses of EU/EEA citizens can apply for permanent residence after 5 years of continuous temporary residence.

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 (unless you’re the child of a Croatian that qualifies to register).
  • 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.

Learn how to apply for citizenship specifically based on descent here.

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

Check out all of our citizenship resources 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 the most 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 form Obrazac 1a
    • The police will provide you with the right application. You can view it here.
  • A valid passport
    • Validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of the intended stay.
  • Criminal background check
    • People applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check from their country of nationality. This requirement went into effect on January 1, 2021.
  • Health insurance
    • This is usually private health insurance unless you have state health insurance from another EU/EEA state.
  • Registered address in Croatia
    • Proof of accommodation is sufficient for the purposes of applying for residence. After approval, you’ll need a rental contract.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
    • There are several ways to show this, depending on your purpose for applying. The financial minimums you’ll need as well as how you can show the funds are available here. However, MUP will tell you exactly what they need.
    • Those applying for family reunification with a Croatian spouse are exempt from this.
  • (1) passport photo 30×35 mm
    • 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.

Note: Everyone in Croatia must have an address that is registered with the police. You can register the address in several ways:

  • Notarized rental contract
  • Notarized landlord statement that states you are allowed to live on the premises
  • Landlord statement submitted through e-Građani

If your landlord statement is not notarized, then the owner will need to provide you with a confirmation from the tax office that the contract has been registered with them.

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 “obvezno” state health insurance with HZZO (unless you’re a digital nomad). HZZO is the state health insurance fund, which offers both basic (obvezno) and supplemental (dopunsko) health insurance.

Obvezno 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 obvezno 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 any purchase property zoned as “residential” in Croatia, depending on the state they are from. You can see the latest list of reciprocity agreements that Croatia holds, including Australia, here.

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. If you’d like an introduction, please complete this form and we’ll contact you.

Taxes

Australians living more than 183 days in Croatia each year must report their worldwide income and pay taxes in Croatia.

Currently, Australia does not have a double-taxation treaty in place with Croatia. Due to a lack of double taxation treaty, you may 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 lawyer 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.

Have you ever applied for residency in Croatia? On which basis?

View our other residency by nationality guides

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. 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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