Background checks and fingerprints for third-country (non-EU/EEA) citizens: Guide for 2024

Background check for Croatia
Image by TheDigitalArtist

UPDATED: 3.4.2024.

Third-country citizens applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the first time must provide a criminal background check. If you are applying for Croatian citizenship, you must also submit a background check, regardless of your citizenship.

In Croatian, a criminal background check is called Uvjerenje da se ne vodi kazneni postupak and it proves you haven’t been convicted of criminal (felony) offenses. This guide covers only foreign background checks, so if you want to get a Croatian one, view this guide.

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

What does the Croatian law say about background checks?

Article 59 of the Croatian Zakon o strancima (Law on foreigners says):

(1) Državljaninu treće zemlje odobrit će se privremeni boravak ako:

  1. uz zahtjev za odobrenje prvog privremenog boravka priloži dokaz da nije pravomoćno osuđen za kaznena djela iz matične države ili države u kojoj je boravio duže od godine dana neposredno prije dolaska u Republiku Hrvatsku, osim ako je upućeni radnik odnosno student, istraživač ili osoba premještena unutar društva koja se koristi mobilnošću iz druge države članice EGP-a.

Which translates as:

(1) A third-country citizen shall be granted temporary residence if:

  1. together with the request for approval of the first temporary residence, encloses proof that they have not been convicted of criminal offenses from their home country or the country where they resided for more than one year before arriving in the Republic of Croatia unless the person is a posted worker or student, researcher or person transferred within a company using mobility from another EEA Member State.

The Law on Foreigners is available here.

Who must have a background check in Croatia?

A background check is MANDATORY for:

  • Third-country citizens applying for temporary residence for the first time
  • Third-country citizens applying for residence even after holding residence already if the residence is non-continuous
  • Anyone applying for citizenship, regardless of their current citizenship

This also applies to students and family members of Croatian/EU/EEA citizens who are third-country citizens.

[Read: Available visas and residence permits for Croatia]

A background check is NOT MANDATORY for:

  • Children younger than 14 when applying for residence
  • Children younger than 18 when applying for citizenship
  • EU/EEA citizens applying for residence

[Read: How non-EU family members of EU/EEA citizens can get temporary residence in Croatia]

Instructed workers, students, researchers, and people relocated within organizations are exempt from providing background checks if they use mobility from another EU/EEA Member State.

A background check is also not required for third-country citizens who are permanent residents of EU/EEA Member States since they have already been “vetted” by the EU/EEA Member State where they already have permanent residence.

[Read: How EEA permanent residents can get temporary residence in Croatia]

In some cases, providing a certificate of the length of stay from the same country is mandatory in addition to a background check. This certificate is required for people who have lived the last 12 months in a country other than the country of their citizenship. Both documents must be in Croatian-related languages and Latin script or English and legalized following special regulations.

As a certificate of the length of stay, you may enclose:

  • Residence permit
  • Visa
  • Other certificates/verifications of the authorities of that state

Note: If you spent the last 12 months in more than one country, you must get a background check from the country of your citizenship, and a certificate of the length of stay in a foreign country is not required. This is a typical case with digital nomads.

[Read: How to apply for the digital nomad residence permit in Croatia]

Where to get your fingerprints taken in/outside Croatia?

Certain countries require you to submit fingerprints to request a background check, including (but not limited to) Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and the United States. Up until recently, it was nearly impossible to get your fingerprints taken if you were already in Croatia.

One of our lawyers made an official request to MUP asking them to offer fingerprinting as a service to US citizens who need them for their background checks. MUP responded and has given all administrative police stations in Croatia the direction to offer fingerprinting. However, it is usually done in cases of justified reasons.

Many of our readers have successfully obtained fingerprints at police stations across the country. Since every police station is different and moves at its own speed, take that with a grain of salt. We know that Zagreb was doing it, but now they aren’t anymore. They are directing everyone to a private detective agency. This is the only station thus far that has discontinued this service.

[Read: How to find administrative police stations in Croatia]

Where to get a criminal background check outside Croatia?

You must provide a background check from your country of citizenship. If you lived in another country for at least 1 year before coming to Croatia, then it should be issued by your last country of residence.

If you are unsure where to get it, check with the competent state institution in your country. You can probably ask the police for help, and they will tell you where to go. In most countries, background checks can be provided by both government and private institutions. The processing time may vary in different countries since each government is different, so you must plan ahead.

Note: The validity of foreign background checks in Croatia is 6 months from the date of issue of the document, not the date of apostille or legalization.

To save you time, we made a list of the government institutions in charge of issuing background checks in the top countries that traffic our site, which you can view in the table in the following section.

After you get your background check, you must prepare it for use within Croatia. This involves two steps.

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

#1 Apostille/Legalization

Foreign government documents you wish to use in Croatia must be legalized before use. Legalization is a method of verifying a document by the issuing government so that it can be used outside the country.

If your country is part of the Hague Apostille Convention, you must obtain an apostille instead of going through full legalization. A complete list of countries that are members of the Hague Apostille Convention is available here.

[Read: Apostille versus full legalization of government documents]

Some countries are exempt from both legalization and apostille due to bilateral agreements with Croatia. We’ve represented the countries from the previous section in the table below and noted which are exempt and which require an apostille or legalization, along with where to obtain it.

CountryBackground check issuance bodyWebsiteApostille/legalization issuance bodyWebsite
ArgentinaMinistry of Justice and Human RightsWebsiteArgentina Government (apostille)Website
AustraliaAustralian Federal PoliceWebsiteAustralian Government; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (apostille)Website
BrazilMinistry of Justice and Public SecurityWebsiteNational Council of Justice (CNJ) (apostille)Website
CanadaRoyal Canadian Mounted PoliceWebsiteGlobal Affairs Canada Authentication Sector (legalization)Website
ChileThe Civil Registry and Identification ServiceWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs (apostille)Website
ChinaeeVoicesWebsiteThe Ministry of Foreign AffairsWebsite
ColombiaMinistry of Justice and LawWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia (apostille)Website
CroatiaGovernment of the Republic of CroatiaWebsiteMunicipal courts or the Ministry of Justice and Administration (apostille)Website
FranceMinistry of JusticeWebsiteLegalization or apostille is not needed due to bilateral agreements
GermanyFederal Office of JusticeWebsiteFederal Office of Justice/Federal Office of Administration (apostille)Website
IndiaNational Crime Records BureauWebsiteMinistry of External Affairs (apostille)Website
IsraelIsrael PoliceWebsiteThe Branch for Certification of Public Documents (apostille)Website
JapanOsaka Prefectural PoliceWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo (apostille)Website
MalaysiaRoyal Malaysian PoliceWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs (legalization)Website
MexicoSecretariat of Security and Civilian ProtectionWebsiteGovernment of Mexico (apostille)Website
MoroccoMinistry for JusticeWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs (apostille)Website
NetherlandsJustis Ministry of Justice and SecurityWebsiteDistrict courts (apostille)Website
New ZealandMinistry of JusticeWebsiteDepartment of Internal Affairs (apostille)Website
North MacedoniaMunicipal courtWebsiteLegalization or apostille is not needed due to bilateral agreements
NorwayPoliceWebsiteCounty Governor (apostille)Website
PeruNational Police of PeruWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs (apostille)Website
PhilippinesNational Police ClearanceWebsiteDepartment of Foreign Affairs (apostille)Website
RussiaInformation Centre of the Ministry of Internal AffairsWebsiteLegalization or apostille is not needed due to bilateral agreements
SerbiaMinistry of Internal AffairsWebsiteLegalization or apostille is not needed due to bilateral agreements
South AfricaSouth African Police serviceWebsiteDIRCO (apostille)Website
SpainMinistry of Foreign AffairsWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs (apostille)Website
SwitzerlandFederal Office of JusticeWebsiteFederal Chancellery (apostille)Website
ThailandRoyal Thai PoliceWebsiteThailand is not a part of the Hague Convention.
TurkeyMinistry of JusticeWebsiteMinistry of Justice (apostille)Website
UkraineMinistry of Internal Affairs of UkraineWebsiteMinistry of Foreign Affairs (apostille)Website
United Arab EmiratesMinistry of Interior UAEWebsiteUnited Arab Emirates are not a part of the Hague Convention.
United KingdomPolice certificatesWebsiteLegalisation Office (apostille)Website
United States of AmericaFBIWebsiteOffice of Authentications (apostille)Website

United States of America

The US has two levels of an apostille. If a state issues your document, it can be apostilled by the Secretary of State in that state. This applies to marriage, death, and birth certificates. If the federal government issued your document, it must be apostilled by the Department of State. This applies to FBI identity history summaries (background checks).

Here is the federal government apostille information: Office of Authentications – website

For state government apostille, google YOUR STATE + SECRETARY OF STATE + APOSTILLE.

#2 Official translation

Once you have an apostilled/legalized background check, it must be officially translated into Croatian. Any official translator within Croatia can do this. They will translate both an apostille and a background check itself. If you need a recommendation, contact us.

After finishing all these steps, you can submit your background check to the Croatian government as part of your residence application.

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Frequently asked questions

What can fingerprints tell you about a person?

Because of their uniqueness, fingerprints can serve various purposes, including background checks, biometric security, mass disaster identification, and, notably, criminal investigations.

Can fingerprints tell identity?

Fingerprinting belongs to the realm of biometrics, a field that relies on individuals’ physical or biological traits for identification purposes. Each person’s fingerprints are unique, even for identical twins.

Who invented fingerprinting?

A Croatian Ivan Vučetić invented the fingerprinting technique in the 19th century. Ivan Vučetić is the most popular Croat to have ever worked for a foreign police force. You can learn more about him in this article.

What does apostille mean?

An apostille is a way to make it easier to use your official documents internationally. It’s like a special stamp that makes your paperwork valid in countries that are part of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

How do I get an apostille in Croatia?

In Croatia, the people responsible for handing out apostilles are either the Municipal Courts or the Ministry of Justice and Administration. The Ministry of Justice sets the fee for each apostille, as dictated by Croatian administrative tax regulations.

What documents have an apostille?

Apostilles are relevant for various public documents, including birth certificates, marriage certificates, affidavits, court documents, degrees, death certificates, etc.

Do EU documents need an apostille?

Public documents like birth certificates, marriage notarial acts, or judgments issued by authorities in an EU country should be recognized as genuine by authorities in another EU country, even without an authenticity stamp like an apostille.

Legalization of documents by e-Građani
Legalization of documents by MVEP

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.

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