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How Canadian citizens can visit and live in Croatia: Guide for 2023

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UPDATED: 30/09/2022

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 cover:

Give’r!

How Canadian citizens can visit and live in Croatia

Tourist visas for Canadian citizens to visit Croatia

Canadians are allowed visa-free travel to 67 countries around the world right now. 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 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. Croatia divvies up citizens into 3 groups: Croatian
citizens, EU/EEA citizens, and everybody else (third-country nationals or non-EU/EEA citizens). Canadians belong to the third-country national group. This means that the residence permit scenarios we cover below 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

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. 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 are instructions on how to apply 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

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 (Parliament) has discussed changing this.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you for the first two years.
  • Time spent on this permit only counts half towards qualifying for permanent residence.

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

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 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, start by seeing which 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 an employer can request your work and residence permit.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a work 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 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 don’t intend to use the company for business. 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 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 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 view 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 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.

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. You can only apply again after 6 months have passed since the expiration of your last permit.
  • At the end of the term, 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 upon approval of residence, then pay for 1 year of premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premiums for the year you live here. You can read more about health insurance here.
  • You are not allowed to work for a Croatian company.
  • Your spouse cannot apply for residence based on you. Your spouse must apply separately.

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

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 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

  • 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.
  • 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 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/EEA 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 apostilled/legalized then officially translated(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.

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, spouses of Croatian citizens qualify for permanent residency. Once you receive permanent residency, 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 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’re the child of a Croatian that qualifies to register).
  • 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.

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

You can read the most important 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 citizens of Canada no matter which basis applies to you. Below is a list of the most 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 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 intended stay.
  • Criminal background check + certificate on the length of stay
    • Third-country citizens applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check and certificate on the length of stay from their country of nationality. This requirement went into effect 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 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 “obvezno” state health insurance with HZZO, unless you’re a digital nomad. HZZO is the state health insurance fund, which offers both “obvezno” and “dopunsko” health insurance.

Obvezno 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 obvezno 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. You can see the latest list of reciprocity agreements in place with Canadian provinces 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 solicitors to help you through the process. If you’d like an introduction, please complete this form and we’ll contact you.

Taxes

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

Currently, Canada does have a double taxation treaty in place with 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 the Canadian embassy in Croatia

Embassy of Canada, Zagreb

Contact: Alan Bowman

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

Email: zagreb@international.gc.ca

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 guidance on transitioning to Croatia?

We crafted this post to be as detailed as possible, but sometimes questions still arise because everyone’s situation is different. If you’d like personalized guidance based on your situation, we can help.

Save yourself the time and uncertainty of trying to navigate the ever-changing rules for living in Croatia by scheduling a private chat with me, Sara Dyson, the creator of Expat in Croatia.

I’ve lived in Croatia since 2012 (before the country entered the EU), opened and operated 2 companies, applied for 5 residence permits as a non-EU citizen and written about Croatia and its bureaucracy extensively since 2013.  I am well-versed in what it takes to make Croatia your home, which obstacles to look out for and how to make as seamless a transition as possible.

During our chat, I will answer all of your questions about Croatia. You can tap into my expertise on anything you want; whether it be residency, citizenship, healthcare, buying property, letting accommodation, operating a business, what it’s like to live here, personal experiences with bureaucracy or cultural nuance. It’s all tailored to you.

To complete the package, I follow up after your session with additional information, links to relevant resources and contact information for local experts personally vetted by me like lawyers, real estate agents, tax advisors, accountants and translators. All recommendations and resources will be specifically curated based on your individual needs discussed in the session.

You can read reviews from people I’ve helped here.

Consulting sessions cost 60 Euros per half hour (including PDV), prepaid in advance. This cost includes:

  • Preparation time before our session
  • Duration of our session
  • Preparation of follow up email after our session with resources and contacts

Meetings can be arranged over video chat, or in person. I’m always happy to meet people in person in Split, but please note the minimum commitment for an in-person session is 1-hour or 120 Euros. Additional time may be charged for intensive research.

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can always introduce you to expat-vetted lawyers, by request.

To schedule a 1-on-1 consulting session, complete the below form. Sessions are usually scheduled at least 1 to 2 weeks in advance due to the high volume of requests we receive.

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

View our other residency by nationality guides

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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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