Repatriation: What Croatian diaspora need to know before returning to Croatia
Many Croats live outside of Croatia including diaspora and national minorities. Some of them have Croatian nationality, some of them do not.
Many moved abroad while Croatia was still under Yugoslavia and now they plan to return to the homeland. We have helped many of their descendants apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent or register for Croatian citizenship, when a person has Croatian parents. Once their descendants gain citizenship, some are relocating to Croatia to start a new life.
Croatia entered the European Union in 2013 which enabled free movement and easier employment. Since then, Croats moved to other EU Member States. While some remain in other parts of the EU, others now wish to come back to Croatia.
Whatever your situation is, if you are a Croatian diaspora immigrating to Croatia from abroad, you will have to go through a process of repatriation. Repatriation to Croatia is not a formal procedure, but is instead made up of lots of different pieces that you’ll need to handle. To make your return to Republika Hrvatska easier, we put together everything you have to do when returning to Croatia as a Croatian diaspora.
In this post, we cover:
- Things to know before your arrival
- Documents you must bring from your home country
- Bureaucratic procedures to solve after moving
- Obligations you shouldn’t forget
- Skip the research and let EIC answer all of your questions
- Read reviews from people we helped repatriate to Croatia
The facts are these…
Repatriation: What Croatian diaspora need to know before returning to Croatia
The bureaucratic system of Croatia and the country you come from probably have significant differences. Whether you are a new citizen or a citizen that left under Yugoslavia, it is important to inform yourself about Croatian bureaucratic procedures.
The best place to start is by browsing our detailed guides related to immigration, citizenship, healthcare, real estate, and language (if you’re not fluent). We also have a lot of articles about Croatian daily life, people, culture, education, history, transportation, and rights.
More information about returning to Croatia and the repatriation process is available at the Central State Office for Croats Abroad (Središnji državni ured za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske) here.
More information on local self-government, i.e. a city or a municipality where you plan to settle is available on their official web sites. A list of all Croatian counties, cities, and municipalities along with their contact information including links to official sites is available here.
How the Croatian bureaucracy works
When you come back to Croatia, you’ll need to deal with papers. Croatia loves papers.
Also, arm yourself with patience since the Croatian bureaucracy is complicated. You will probably spend a bit of time visiting state institutions like MUP and HZZO for different applications and registrations.
Keep in mind that every situation is different which means that your scenario may not be consistent with the experience of others. Bureaucratic procedures usually have certain steps that you must pass to get your official Croatian documents. However, during different processes, some steps may differ according to your case… or the person you speak to… and the city you’re in.
The time frame for solving bureaucratic processes can depend on:
- Whether you are a Croatian returnee/immigrant with or without Croatian citizenship
- Whether you are a returnee from an EU/EEA Member State or a third-country (non-EU/EEA)
- Whether you are immigrating to Croatia for the first time
- When you left Croatia
- Whether you have all the required documentation for acquiring your status and rights
- Status you want to achieve in Croatia
- Retired person
During the immigration procedure, you may come across many bureaucratic words that you do not understand. To make your life easier, we made a list of Croatian phrases and words you might encounter when immigrating to Croatia, which is available here.
The required documentation that you must enclose during different application and registration processes in Croatia varies. [Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]
State institutions may request some of the following:
- ID card or a passport
- Birth certificate or excerpt for the book of births
- Wedding certificate
- Certificate on free marital status
- Certificate on a life partnership
- Decision on divorce from the court
- Decision on adoption
- Decision on name change
- Background check
- Student booklet or primary/secondary school certificates by grades
- Educational certificates, diplomas, and certificates of completed primary, secondary and higher education
- Diploma supplements
- Driver’s license or international driver’s license
- Proof of ownership of a vehicle
- Traffic license
- Purchase contract
- Certificate of residence abroad (for relocation of the items/household furniture when moving from non-EU/EEA countries)
- List of household items/furniture (for exemption from paying customs when moving from non-EU/EEA countries)
- Official vaccination records
- Proof of health insurance validity period
- Medical documentation
- Dental records
- International animal health certificate (veterinary certificate) or pet passport
- Valid travel health insurance policy (for non-EU/EEA nationals with whom Croatia does not have a contract on social-health insurance)
Most of the documents have to be apostilled/legalized and officially translated into the Croatian language. [Read: Apostille versus full legalization of government documents]
Let’s comb through everything you have to do when you come back to Croatia from abroad.
Basic things to do after moving
#1 Register Croatian address
Registering your Croatian address is the first thing that you and your family have to do after moving to Croatia. A permanent Croatian address is called “prebivalište” and a temporary address is called “boravište”.
You must register your Croatian address within 15 days from the day of moving to that address. Learn everything about the registration of addresses in our detailed guide available here.
If you have immediate family members that are not Croatian citizens, other rules may apply to them. In this case, check out the following guides:
- How EEA permanent residents can get temporary residence in Croatia
- How EU citizens can get temporary residence in Croatia
- How non-EU family members of EU/EEA nationals can get temporary residence in Croatia
- How non-EU spouses of Croatians can apply for residence
- How third-country (non-EU) citizens can apply for temporary residency in Croatia
#2 Get Croatian OIB
OIB (osobni identifikacijski broj) is a unique personal identification number that is assigned to Croatian residents and citizens (like a social security number in the US or NHS number in the UK). You can get your OIB through Porezna uprava (tax office). OIB is needed in certain situations, usually financial, such as registration for state health insurance, opening a bank account, or buying a property.
If you are a citizen, then you were automatically assigned one already. If you own property, then you’ll have one as well.
#3 Get ID card (osobna iskaznica)
A Croatian ID card (called “osobna iskaznica”) is the most important document needed for functioning in everyday life in Croatia. This is what you’ll show the “system” anytime you need to do something.
Croatian nationals can get a Croatian ID card even if they live abroad. If you don’t have one, visit the MUP police administration office that is closest to your new Croatian address and apply for one. The “osobna” also allows you to travel within the EU without your passport. An osobna is only for citizens.
#4 Sign up for health insurance
Croatian mandatory health insurance called “obvezno” is required for Croatian residents with permanent residence (prebivalište) or temporary residence (boravište) in Croatia. After moving, you have to sign up for obvezno at the HZZO administration office according to your Croatian address.
Obvezno gives you the right to subsidized healthcare treatment from doctors or facilities that are in the HZZO system. You also have the right to financial compensation related to medical issues. [Read: How to sign up for state health insurance in Croatia]
Please note that everyone who registers for state health insurance for the first time is required to pay 12 months of back pay. This includes children. However, EU and Croatian citizens can get out of this payment if they can prove they have been insured for the previous 12 months under another EU/EEA state policy.
Additional things to do after moving
#1 Apply for Croatian citizenship
If you still don’t have your Croatian citizenship or your family members are planning to apply for it or request it, now is the time. The following articles will help you to go through the application process:
- How children of Croatians can register their citizenship
- How to apply for Croatian citizenship (hrvatsko državljanstvo)
- How to apply for citizenship based on descent
To apply for citizenship from within Croatia, you must first obtain legal residence.
If you would like to get professional help with citizenship or obtaining residence, contact us anytime and we’d be glad to jump in. We have in-house citizenship and immigration experts as well as an extensive network of expat-vetted lawyers who specialized in citizenship. No matter what, you’ll be in good hands. Read our reviews here.
#2 Open bank account
Just because you live in Croatia, doesn’t mean you must open a Croatian bank account. However, a Croatian bank account is useful in many situations including:
- Applying for housing or a mortgage loan from a Croatian bank
- Working for a Croatian employer
- Opening your own business
If you’re considering it because of paying bills, this is easy to do without a bank account. Learn how to pay bills here.
#3 Find a family doctor
We recommend you find a family doctor as soon as possible. A family doctor is necessary for everyone on state health insurance, as they serve as your first point of contact in healthcare matters.
Family doctors with a good reputation who speak English are often occupied, so it might take a while until you find one. The best way to find an English-speaking doctor is to get a referral from a friend, colleague, or other English-speaking local.
#4 Get driver’s license
In Croatia, you can drive with a foreign driver’s license depending on where it was issued. If you have a driver’s license that is issued by a member of the EU/EEA, you can use it until its expiration date and then extend it at MUP.
If you have a driver’s license from a non-EU/EEA country, you may use it for a period of one year after the arrival. After it expires, you must replace it with a Croatian one.
#5 Enroll children into kindergarten
In Croatia, children don’t have to go to kindergarten before they start elementary school. However, enrolling them is a good way for them to socialize and begin their education earlier. If they don’t attend kindergarten before the age of 6, they must go to preschool for one year before they can start elementary school.
#6 Enroll children into school
In Croatia, elementary school children are usually enrolled in elementary schools according to their address of residence, i.e. the closest school. If you have high-school students, they can enroll in any high school if they meet the requirements. Children must be enrolled in school 30 days after arriving in Croatia.
#7 Enroll in Croatian language school
If you want to learn or renew your knowledge of the Croatian language, you can do it via:
- Croatian language schools in Croatia
- Online courses for learning the Croatian language
- Studying the Croatian language as a means of residence
- Expat in Croatia’s weekly Croatian language lessons
- This weekly lesson can be delivered to your inbox once per week on Tuesdays. Subscribe here.
- Expat in Croatia’s vocabulary articles
#8 Enroll in higher education institution
If you want to enroll in a faculty or other higher education institution, you are required do to so if you meet the enrollment requirements.
Every year, several higher education institutions in Croatia provide special enrollment quotas for members of Croatian national minorities and Croatian emigrants. More information is available here.
#9 Sign up for dopunsko
Dopunsko is a supplemental health insurance policy above and beyond your regular health insurance. If you have only mandatory health insurance obvezno, but not dopunsko, you will have to pay additional fees in some situations including visiting a doctor, filling prescriptions, and certain hospital treatments and diagnostics. So, having dopunsko is beneficial in many situations.
#10 Find a job
The easiest way to find a job in Croatia is through word of mouth or to keep up to date on open jobs. You can track open applications online through Facebook groups, company sites, or job portals. There are also recruitment agencies that can help you to connect with Croatian employers.
[Read: How to find a job in Croatia]
#11 Open a Croatian business
If you prefer to be self-employed, you should know that there are 5 types of businesses in Croatia that you may consider opening. To decide which one is the best choice for you, explore our detailed guides:
- Everything you need to know about Croatia’s pension system
- How to open and close a d.o.o. (LLC) in Croatia
- How to open and close a simple limited liability company (j.d.o.o.) in Croatia
- How to open and close an obrt in Croatia
- How to open and close a non-profit udruga
- How to open and close OPG (family farm)
- Types of business in Croatia
- How to set up a Croatian company online using START
We also write extensively on what you should know before opening a Croatian company in our ongoing series. Find it here.
#1 Pay taxes
Croatia’s income tax system is residence-based. Once you have lived in Croatia for 183 days, you are considered a tax resident. After that threshold, you are obligated to report and potentially pay tax on your worldwide income to Croatia.
If you want to get an idea of what your liability might look like, contact us. We can introduce you to an expat-vetted tax advisor who can go over your situation in detail.
There are three types of elections in Croatia:
- Presidential – every 5 years
- Parliament – every 4 years
- Local – every 4 years
In Croatia, people have the right to vote from the age of 18. Voting is not mandatory, but it is a civic duty of every adult person. Being an active citizen who is informed about the state policy and involved in a local community is important. By voting, you affect your life and the lives of other Croatian citizens.
[Read: Voting in Croatia]
Welcome office (Ured dobrodošlice) of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad (Središnji državni ured za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske) offers assistance to Croatian returnees and descendants of Croatian emigrants who are immigrating to Croatia for the first time. You can ask them a question from the domain of the bureaucracy, administration, immigration, and anything else that you need.
Središnji državni ured za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske
Address: Palmotićeva ulica 24, 10 000 Zagreb – view map
Phone: +385 (1) 6444 661
[Read: Office for Croats Abroad]
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 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 us.
How does it work?
All first-time clients get 30 minutes with an Expat in Croatia consultant PLUS 30 minutes with a vetted English-speaking lawyer from our network.
Repeat clients can book a 30-minute session with an EIC consultant as a stand-alone appointment.
During your chat with us, we will answer all of your questions about Croatia. You can tap into our 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.
In addition, you’ll receive a follow up with additional resources based on your situation, Sara’s Croatia Restaurant Guide as well as introductions to vetted professionals like insurance, law, real estate, translation and tax.
All legal advice will be handled by our vetted lawyer network. We can help you with everything else.
Appointments will be scheduled over Zoom.
We have an extensive Frequently Asked Questions about this service here.
Who will I speak with?
Expat in Croatia has two experienced consultants, Sara Dyson and Carol Anne Škorvaga. You may choose your consultant.
Carol Anne Škorvaga, known to us as “CAM”, is a first-generation Croatian-Canadian living in Jastrebarsko with her family. She grew up entrenched in the Croatian community surrounded by culture and folklore, attended Croatian school in Canada and then returned to Zagreb to attend Filozofski Fakultet. CAM is fluent in Croatian and has firsthand knowledge of being both a Canadian expat and a Croatian returnee, building a home in Croatia and being a parent with children in local schools.
Meet CAM in this quick 2-minute video here.
Sara Dyson is the founder of Expat in Croatia. She has lived in Split, Croatia as a US citizen since 2012 and experienced first-hand applying for temporary residence, long-term residence and Croatian citizenship. She’s also operated 2 companies, purchased a home, and written about Croatia and its bureaucracy extensively since 2013. Her application is citizenship is based on her work through Expat in Croatia. Read Sara’s full bio here.
Meet Sara in this quick 2-minute video here.
What is the cost?
The below costs are per 30 minutes and include VAT (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government). If additional time is requested, it is billed in ¼ hour increments.
First-time clients automatically get an extra 30 minutes with an English-speaking lawyer from our vetted network.
Carol Anne Škorvaga
- First-time clients | 150 euros (includes session with lawyer)
- Repeat clients | 75 euros
- First-time clients | 250 euros (includes session with lawyer)
- Repeat clients | 150 euros
It takes a tremendous amount of hands-on, human work to research and vet our information that we provide during sessions. This process includes extensive web research, phone calls to the government, collaboration with licensed Croatian professionals, and visits to government, collaboration with licensed Croatian professionals, and visits to government offices.
It’s not something that ChatGPT can do. We must employ skilled, full-time employees who live in Croatia and that comes with a cost.
Reviews from our clients
“Sara’s knowledge of Croatia is nothing short of encyclopaedic. I achieved so much more clarity in just a single session, and I would not hesitate to another if needed. Invaluable.” – Todd, United Kingdom
“During our call, Sara patiently answered all of my questions and provided me with invaluable information that would have taken hours to sort through elsewhere. She was thorough, professional, and incredibly helpful throughout our entire conversation.” – LeAnn, United States
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View other useful sources
- How to bring your pet to Croatia (and care for them once you arrive)
- How to buy residential real estate in Croatia
- How to find an apartment to rent in Croatia
- How to get married in Croatia (if at least one spouse is a foreigner)
- How to import your car and belongings to Croatia
- How to register a person in the book of births (Matica rođenih)
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.