How Canadian citizens can visit and live in Croatia: Guide for 2021

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Lots of Canadians are coming to Croatia these days. Some are coming here as tourists to experience this magnificent country and others have picked up and moved to Croatia permanently.

Croatia has been popular with Canadians the last few years. While the cost to visit to Croatia is steadily going up, there are still bargains to be had by those making Canadian dollars. Depending on where and when you go, much of Croatia is still undiscovered by tourists and is much safer unlike the mega destinations like London, Paris, and Rome. With the right destination and right time of year, you may find yourself among only locals.

Many Canadians are putting down roots, making Croatia their long-term home. Loads of Canadians have Croatian heritage and are now applying for citizenship now that the language test has been waved for diaspora, with plans to relocate once approved.

Others have married a Croatian abroad and have decided to build their life in an inherited family home. The rest just think it’s nice and are looking for a change of pace that maybe involves living by the sea. It’s the perfect place for snowbirds, eh?

There are several options for Canadians to settle in Croatia. They aren’t all easy, but anyone with determination can make them happen. We’ve created a guide specifically for Canadians that includes every option available for moving to Croatia long term. If you’re only here a short time, we cover tourist visas for too.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Give’r!

Tourist visas for Canadian citizens to visit Croatia

Canadians are allowed visa-free travel to 69 countries around the world right now. 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 because Canada is full of nice people that do not piss other off other countries as a general rule.

How to move to Croatia as a Canadian

While there are nearly a dozen options for staying in Croatia long term, most only offer limited stays and the ones that let you stay the longest are the hardest to get. This guide will cover all of your options as well as what is required of you as a Canadian citizen to apply for residency.

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”. Canadians are third-country nationals. This means that the following residence permit schemes apply to all third-country nationals, not just Canadians.

The ministry that handles immigration is called Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova, although we may refer to it as “MUP” or the police for short.

Now that we’ve finished our schooling, let’s get started. We will go through each residency option in greater detail.

Digital Nomad Permit *NEW FOR 2021*

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. Canadians can now apply for this permit.

We do know that family reunification applies, so one person can apply for the digital nomad permit and their immediate family members can apply for residence based on them.

Caveats

  • This permit is only for up to 1 year and it is not renewable. It is possible that MUP will allow people to apply a second time, but won’t know if that is the case until 2022.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days (if only here a year).
  • You must sign up for state health insurance upon approval of residence, then pay 1 year of premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premiums for the term you live here.
  • You are not allowed to do any work for a Croatian company.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a permit based on being a digital nomad.

Permanent residents of EU/EEA/Switzerland *NEW FOR 2021*

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

Canadians are allowed to study at one of Croatia’s many universities across the country. Their universities offer specialties in a variety of subjects. Many foreign citizens attend medical school here. You can also study Croatian at certain language schools. All of these options give you a basis for temporary residency.

To get a student residence permit, you must include proof of acceptance into a qualified Croatian institution of education with your residence application.

Caveats

  • The term of the permit will be for a single school year, excluding summer months unless you can prove you need to be here in between semesters.
  • As of right now, you cannot work as a student. Although, the Sabor has discussed changing this.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you for the first two years.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a student residence permit.

Purchasing residential real estate

Canadians are allowed to purchase residential real estate in Croatia. With the purchase of a residential property, you can apply for a temporary residence permit that will allow you to live in Croatia for up to 6 months at a time on legal residence after which you must leave for 90 days. When you combine the 90 days you have as a tourist plus the 6 months of temporary residency, you can technically live in Croatia for a total of 9 months each year.

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 and there must be a house. Foreign citizens cannot purchase land.

If you wish to buy real estate in Croatia, you should definitely hire a local solicitor to handle the process. The law and requirements are too complex, there is way too much bureaucracy to navigate and there is too much chance your kind nature will be taken advantage of at some stage in the process.

The language barrier alone is reason enough to farm it out. If you are interested in this option, contact me to be referred to a vetted real estate agent and/or real estate solicitor. Solicitors can also handle your residency application from beginning to end.

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

Canadians can apply for a residence permit with the option to work in Croatia.

Caveats

  • You must have a signed work contract or a valid offer of employment before you will be allowed to apply for a 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 to live with you within the first two 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, start by seeing what jobs are available. Our guide on how to find a job in Croatia will prove useful.

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.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a work permit.

Work permit by opening your own company

If you’d rather start your own company, you can issue yourself a work contract as the owner of the company and therefore qualify for a work permit.

This option involves entangling yourself in an endless tax bureaucracy capable of strangling the life right out of you so it is not recommended if you are only opening the company for the purpose of getting residence. This option should only be used by those who really want to open and run 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 go this route, make sure you educate yourself thoroughly so you know what you are getting yourself into. We have written a heap of posts about opening and running businesses in Croatia, which you can browse through here. You can also read more about the option of 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 option may be best. It’s a good match for digital nomads and retirees whom have the flexibility to move to a new country for a limited amount of time.

This permit is not “merit” based or tied to work contracts, and instead is tied to prepaying rent for the term you are here. Of course, there are catches…

Caveats

  • It is only for 1 year and it is NOT renewable. There have been individual cases where folks using this scheme have been allowed to apply for and stay a second year, but they were all kicked out at the end of the second year.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days (if only here a year) and 18 months (if here 2 years).
  • You must prove that you’ve prepaid rent (wherever you’re staying) for a year, or the term for which you are applying.
  • You must sign up for state health insurance upon approval of residence, THEN pay for 1 year of premiums for the previous year (~6500 kuna) plus the monthly premiums for the year you live here.
  • You are not allowed to work for a Croatian company.
  • Family reunification does not apply to spouses. If you have a spouse, they must apply separately.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Here are instructions on how to apply for residence based on prepayment of rent.

Scientific research

If you have a scientific research project that you wish to work on in Croatia, you can get a residence permit. You’ll definitely need to provide proof of the research, which will likely involve a detailed plan of what you hope to accomplish, why you need to be in Croatia and the time frame in which you plan to accomplish it. Expect a close review.

Caveats

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

Volunteer

It is possible to gain residency on the grounds of humanitarian or volunteer work. To apply on this basis, you’ll need to provide a contract with a non-profit organization that shows the term of work and that you are not being paid for this work 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 18 months.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.
  • Family reunification does not apply. 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 be paid.
  • You can only work for the non-profit with whom you are contracted.

You can ready more about this permit here.

We have posts on non-profit organizations that may offer long-term contracts to non-EU volunteers here:

Marriage or partnership with a Croatian or EU national

This program is called “family reunification”, which essentially 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).

If you are married to a Croatian or EU national, you are entitled to live in Croatia with legal residency as long as both you and your spouse live together at the same address. This is by far the easiest and fastest permit to get, since there is an automatic trust that is inherent when a Croatian or EU citizen is involved.

You will need to provide an original copy of your marriage certificate that is translated, apostilled, and notarised (if married abroad). If you are not legally married, but have lived together for at least 3 years, then you are considered a common law marriage and must be able to prove this. 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.

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

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

Croatian ancestry

If you have Croatian lineage, you’ve won the lotto. The Croatian government really really really wants Croatians from abroad to return to Croatia to live and work.

To qualify for citizenship, you must have a parent, grandparent, great grandparent, etc. that is Croatian. Lineage must be in a straight line and you must be able to prove connection, which can be done in a variety of ways (usually through birth certificates).

Even though having heritage is the golden ticket, 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 qualify to request your citizenship instead of applying.
  • Applications for citizenship take time, months to years, so be patient.

You can see if you qualify for Croatian citizenship here.

You can see how to apply for citizenship here.

You can read the most important 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 citizens of Canada no matter which basis applies to you. Below is a list of those common requirements, however keep in mind that MUP will request additional items from you depending on your basis for residency as noted above.

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
    • Validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of intended stay.
  • Criminal background check *NEW FOR 2021*
    • Third-country citizens applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check from their country of nationality. This is a brand new requirement that goes into effect January 1, 2021.
  • OIB identification number (like a social security number)
  • Health insurance
    • 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 notarised rental contract OR the owner can come to the police with you to state that you are renting from them along with having a non-notarised rental contract.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
    • Depending on your basis, you can either show you have a big chunk of money on a 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 from you.
  • (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 Canadians living in Croatia

When applying for temporary residence in Croatia as a Canadian citizen, you are required to have proof of health insurance as part of your application. It will need to be some kind of private health insurance policy (or a state health insurance policy if coming from another country within the EU).

Once you are approved for residence, then you must sign up for “obavezno” state health insurance with HZZO. HZZO is the state health insurance fund, which offers both “obavezno” and “dopunsko” health insurance.

Obavezno is the basic 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.

Upon enrollment in HZZO, all non-EU citizens are required to pay 12 months of health insurance premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premium going forward. This is for all 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 Canada driver’s license

If you wish to drive in Croatia, you can exchange your Canada driver’s license for a Croatian one as long as you do it within 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 Canadian driver’s license here.

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

Buying property in Croatia

Canadian citizens are allowed to any purchase property zoned as “residential” in Croatia, depending on the province they are from. A reciprocity agreement exists for the following provinces: Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba, and Yukon.

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 solicitors to help you through the process.

Taxes

Currently, Canada does have a double taxation treaty in place with Croatia. Canadians living more than 183 days in Croatia each year must report their worldwide income and pay taxes in Croatia.

Here are some additional resources from the CRA:

Taxes are complicated, especially when you reside outside of your home country. We’ve provided a 50.000 foot 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 Canada, Zagreb

Contact: Alan Bowman

Telephone:
+385 (0)1 4881 200
+385 (0)1 4881 230

Email: [email protected]

Address:
Prilaz Gjure Deželića 4
10 000 Zagreb
View Map

Conclusion

With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can live in Croatia for at least a year, if not longer. There will be some challenges, but it can totally be worth it in the end. Croatia is a beautiful country with nice people, gorgeous weather, untouched nature and a high quality of life.

It all comes down to 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.

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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