Repatriation: What Croatian diaspora need to know before returning to Croatia

Small village in Istria, Croatia

UPDATED: 15.09.2022.

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:

The facts are these…

Repatriation: What Croatian diaspora need to know before returning to Croatia

Things to know before you return 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
    • Student
    • Employee
    • Employer
    • Retired person
    • Other

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.

Which documents you should bring from your home country

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
    • Invoice
  • 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
    • Prescriptions
    • Reports
    • Opinions
    • X-rays
    • 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]

Bureaucratic procedures you have to solve after moving

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:

#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.

[Read: How to get an OIB Croatian Identification Number]

#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.

[Read: How to apply for a national ID card (osobna iskaznica)]

#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:

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:

If you’re considering it because of paying bills, this is easy to do without a bank account. Learn how to pay bills here.

[Read: Do I need to open a bank account in Croatia]

#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.

[Read: How to find an English-speaking doctor]

#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.

[Read: How to exchange a foreign driver’s license for 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.

[Read: How to enroll kids in kindergarten (vrtić)]

#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.

[Read: How to enroll (or transfer) your child in a Croatian school]

 #7 Enroll in Croatian language school

If you want to learn or renew your knowledge of the Croatian language, you can do it via:

#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.

There is also a scholarship program for students of the Croatian people outside of Croatia. Additional information is available here and 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.

[Read: What is “dopunsko” and why you should have this health insurance]

#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:

We also write extensively on what you should know before opening a Croatian company in our ongoing series. Find it here.

Don’t forget that you will be obliged to…

#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.

[Read: All the taxes you might pay in Croatia]

#2 Vote

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]

Government help

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.

Contact information
Središnji državni ured za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske
Ured dobrodošlice
Address: Palmotićeva ulica 24, 10 000 Zagreb – view map
Phone: +385 (1) 6444 661

[Read: Office for Croats Abroad]

Skip the research! Save time and talk to a member of the Croatian diaspora.

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 over video chat.

How does it work?

All first-time clients get 30 minutes with an Expat in Croatia coach PLUS 30 minutes with a vetted English-speaking lawyer from our network that you can use at any time.

Your session will be completely tailored to you and your needs whether it’s bureaucracy, culture, or daily life. All legal advice will be handled by our vetted lawyer network. We can help you with everything else.

In addition, you’ll receive a follow up with additional resources based on your situation, our Croatia Restaurant Guide as well as introductions to vetted professionals like insurance, law, real estate, translation and tax.

We have an extensive FAQ about this service here.

Ready to get started? Click here to jump to the form.

Who will I speak with?

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.

What is the cost?

The below costs are per 30 minutes and include VAT (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government).

  • First-time clients  |  150 euros (includes 30-min session with lawyer)
  • Repeat clients  |  75 euros

If additional time is requested, it is billed in ¼ hour increments.

We offer a 100% money back guarantee. If your session was not helpful, then you will be refunded – no questions asked.

We vet our information through hands-on, human work. This process includes extensive web research, phone calls to the government, collaboration with licensed Croatian professionals, and visits to government.

Reviews from our clients

“My husband and I are looking to obtain our Croatian citizenship through heritage. CAM was exceptional and was extremely informative about the process required, timelines, contact people, both in Croatia and at home, lawyers and services offered by Expat in Croatia. She was able to easy our anxiety and we felt that we will have solid support and direction going forward. She was professional and friendly. Thank you CAM for your support.” ~ Carol W., Canada, February 5, 2024

“After months of Dr Googling we were left with some ideas but had no confidence in which process to citizenship to follow and if any of it was right. Actually at the time of our consultation the laws had changed and CAM was already on top of them. We left the consultation with a clear path to citizenship and in-depth explanation of everything we needed to do in SA before leaving. On top of this when moving to a new country you don’t know how people may react or approach you. I was apprehensive about this and CAM melted all of that away. On the facts she was professional and serious but when welcoming us, making jokes and telling us about Croatia she was so warm, kind and lifted all my fears of moving. My heart now completely lies in Croatia and we have within 2 weeks a complete plan and working on all the documents we need to gather. Every country needs an expat Croatia with such high integrity.”~ MaryAnn V., South Africa, January 17, 2024

You can view our latest reviews here or all of our reviews here.

Ready to book?

To schedule your personal session, complete the below form.

  • Please tell us about yourself

  • We ask this because rules and requirements differ depending on nationality.
  • When would you like to chat?

  • If you’re unsure of the time difference, please check the current time in Croatia here.
  • Newsletter and Consent

    We will only email you once per week. The newsletter includes a wrap up of our latest posts, a Croatian word and phrase of the week, curated actionable Croatian news plus freebies just for our subscribers.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reviews from our happy clients

Ready to get started? Request your personalised session here.

View other useful sources

Before arriving in Croatia by e-Građani
What documents to take with you? by e-Građani
First steps by e-Građani

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.

Sharing is Caring:

We only send one email a week on Tuesdays. And no spam, we don't like that either!

Subscribe to the Expat in Croatia Newsletter and get our FREE Croatia Starter Kit.
I'm already subscribed.