How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent (prirođenje): Guide for 2024

tick icon
This post has been verified by the ministry that handles citizenship as well as immigration lawyers specializing in citizenship.
croatian citizenship descent
Image by tjstudio

UPDATED: 13.10.2023.

There are multiple paths to Croatian citizenship. Each path has different requirements and milestones you must achieve to qualify.

This guide is solely focused on applying for Croatian citizenship based on descent (lineage). In Croatian, we call it stjecanje hrvatskog državljanstva prirođenjem or prirođenje in short.

To be extra clear, we are referring to people with Croatian ancestors in a straight line, such as parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. This path also applies to Croatians who were born on the territory of Croatia before Croatia gained its independence in 1991 and permanently moved abroad.

If you are interested in obtaining Croatian citizenship under another scenario, check out our full citizenship guide here.

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent (lineage) – prirođenje

Setting the stage for Croatian citizenship based on descent

The Croatian citizenship act called Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu defines citizenship, preconditions for its acquisition, and its termination.

[Read: How to relinquish Croatian citizenship]

To get Croatian citizenship based on descent, you must meet certain requirements defined by this act. View the Croatian Citizenship Act here.

The process of obtaining citizenship is carried out by the Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova (Croatian Ministry of the Interior). They are usually referred to as MUP or policija (police). Learn more about MUP here.

To become a Croatian citizen, MUP will evaluate your application based on its merit. If you receive a positive decision, then you will gain citizenship. After that, you qualify to get your proof of citizenship called domovnica and other Croatian documents.

[Read: How to get Croatian proof of citizenship (domovnica)]

Jump to this section to learn more about obtaining your Croatian documents after receiving citizenship.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Croatian Citizenship Act – Article 11

When applying for Croatian citizenship, you must define the article of the Croatian Citizenship Act under which you are applying. For example, if you’re applying based on marriage, then Article 10 is likely what you need. If applying based on descent, then the applicable article is Article 11.

This article outlines all the rules and requirements that are considered when the ministry reviews your application.

Article 11 of the Croatian Citizenship Act says:

Iseljenik i njegovi potomci mogu prirođenjem steći hrvatsko državljanstvo iako ne udovoljavaju pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točaka 2. – 4. ovoga Zakona.

Stranac koji je u braku s osobom iz stavka 1. ovoga članka može steći hrvatsko državljanstvo iako ne udovoljava pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točaka 2. – 4. ovoga Zakona.

Iseljenik iz stavka 1. ovoga članka je osoba koja se prije 8. listopada 1991. godine iselila s područja Republike Hrvatske u namjeri da u inozemstvu stalno živi.

Iznimno, iseljenik iz stavka 1. ovoga članka je i pripadnik hrvatskog naroda koji se iselio s prostora u sastavu bivših država u kojima se, u vrijeme iseljenja, nalazilo i područje današnje Republike Hrvatske.

Iseljenikom se ne smatra osoba koja je iselila s područja Republike Hrvatske na temelju međunarodnog ugovora ili se odrekla hrvatskog državljanstva, osoba koja je promijenila prebivalište u druge države koje su u to vrijeme bile u sastavu državne zajednice kojoj je pripadala i Republika Hrvatska te osoba koja je iselila s područja Republike Hrvatske, a nije imala bivše hrvatsko republičko državljanstvo, odnosno zavičajnost na području Republike Hrvatske.

Which translates to…

An emigrant and their descendants may acquire Croatian citizenship by naturalization, even though they do not meet the preconditions referred to in Article 8, paragraph 1, items 2 to 4 of this Act.

An alien who is married to a person referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article may acquire Croatian citizenship even though they do not meet the preconditions referred to in Article 8, paragraph 1, items 2-4 of this Act.

An emigrant referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article is a person who emigrated from the territory of the Republic of Croatia before October 8, 1991, with the intention of living abroad permanently.

Exceptionally, the emigrant referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article is also a member of the Croatian people who emigrated from the territory of the former states in which, at the time of emigration, the territory of today’s Republic of Croatia was located.

An emigrant is not a person who emigrated from the territory of the Republic of Croatia on the basis of an international agreement or renounced Croatian citizenship, a person who changed their residence to other states that at that time were part of the state union to which the Republic of Croatia belonged, or a person who emigrated from the territory of the Republic of Croatia, and did not have the former Croatian republican citizenship, i.e. homeland in the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

Who qualifies to apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent?

To qualify to apply based on descent, you must have a Croatian ancestor connected to you in a straight line and who permanently left Croatia to move abroad. This can be a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on, as long as they are considered Croatian emigrant.

If they returned to Croatia or never left, they are not considered an emigrant, in which case Article 11 does not apply. As of January 1, 2020, there is no limit to how many generations you can go back as long as you can prove the connection and their emigration abroad.

If you are a Croatian born on Croatian territory and you permanently moved abroad before Croatia gained independence in 1991, you can also apply for citizenship by descent. In cases like this, citizenship is not automatic. There was a period after independence when citizenship could be easily obtained, but that state-mandated period has ended.

Children of Croatian nationals

From January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2022, it was possible for older children of Croatian nationals to register for citizenship. It was an easier and quicker process.

This deadline has passed, so now they must apply for citizenship under Article 11.

If you want to read about the past registration process, jump over here.

Spouses of Croatian citizens

Spouses of those who qualify to apply based on Article 11 or obtained citizenship based on Article 11 can also apply based on this article without meeting any residence or language requirements (Article 10).

Here are a couple of examples:

  • If you are married to a person who acquired Croatian citizenship based on Article 11, you can apply for citizenship based on Article 11
  • If you are married to a person who qualifies to apply for Croatian citizenship based on Article 11, you can apply for citizenship based on Article 11 at the same time as the descendant

When could you be disqualified from Croatian citizenship based on descent?

There are reasons why a person could be disqualified from applying for Croatian citizenship based on Article 11.

Here are the rules:

  • If your ancestor left Croatia to move to another country within Yugoslavia (or ex-Yugoslavia), the right to citizenship based on descent is negated for all descendants
  • If your ancestor left Croatia after October 8, 1991, the right to citizenship based on descent is negated for all descendants
  • If your ancestor returned to live in Croatia, the right to citizenship based on descent is negated
  • If you are a Croatian emigrant and you moved to another country within Yugoslavia (or ex-Yugoslavia), the right to citizenship based on descent is negated
  • If you are a Croatian emigrant and you left Croatia after October 8, 1991, the right to citizenship based on descent is negated
  • If you returned to live in Croatia as a Croatian emigrant, the right to citizenship based on descent is negated.

If you are disqualified based on any of these reasons, you could try to apply based on Article 16 instead. For this path, you must prove your connection to the Croatian people.

[Read: How members of the Croatian people can apply for Croatian citizenship (Article 16)]

If you have a case under Article 11, move on to the next section…

How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent

Step #1 Confirm your claim

Before you start with the process of acquiring Croatian citizenship, it’s important to confirm your claim. If you’re not 100% sure of your claim, you could waste much of your precious time and money. This process is long and demanding, so it is better to check all the facts before you apply.

The best way to confirm your claim is to obtain the birth certificate of yourself or your ancestor in Croatia. Without that birth certificate, it’ll be challenging to apply for citizenship based on Article 11.

[Read: How to get a copy of a birth certificate]

If you are not sure if you qualify for citizenship or need help locating and obtaining a birth certificate in Croatia, we can help. Contact us using the below form, and we’ll get you started.

Step #2 Prepare the application

The most complicated part of the process is preparing your application. It includes collecting documentation from Croatia and your home country, which can take a while.

You must provide:

  • Completed application form – one of these, depending on your case:
    • Obrazac 1 – for adults who are applying, download here
    • Obrazac 2 – for adults applying with children, download here
    • Obrazac 3 – for children under 18 who are applying but parents are not, download here
  • Biography including your reasons for applying and connection to Croatia, written in Croatian
  • Your birth certificate – foreign birth certificates must be apostilled/legalized and officially translated originals
  • Birth certificate of your Croatian ancestor or for yourself, if you are the emigrant – a new copy
  • Birth certificates of your relatives that connect you to this ancestor, if any
  • Notarized proof of citizenship such as:
    • Copy of a passport
    • Copy of an ID card
    • Copy of domovnica equivalent
  • Background check issued by your home country (or where you lived the last 12 months) proving you have not been criminally prosecuted not older than 6 months – view a guide here
  • Copy of identity document with a visible photo – officially translated if not in English
  • Marriage certificate, if you are married
  • Family tree
  • Proof that your ancestor permanently emigrated abroad, such as:
    • Ship manifest
    • Entry at the port of call
    • Death certificate
  • Anything else that shows your relative’s life in Croatia before they left
  • Proof of address, whether you are applying in Croatia or abroad
    • ID card
    • Driver’s license
    • Utility bill

[Read: How to get something notarized]

For children under the age of 18, you must also provide:

  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Written consent of the other parent

ALL documents issued by foreign governments outside Croatia MUST be originals. They must be apostilled/legalized and officially translated into Croatian unless bilateral and multilateral international agreements define other rules.

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

Depending on the responsible institution, sometimes it takes a while to collect all the required documentation. If you need any help preparing your application, we can introduce you to one of our vetted immigration lawyers, who specializes in citizenship.

The immigration lawyer can prepare the application on your behalf and make it as airtight a case as possible. They can ensure that your application is correct and complete, increasing your chances of approval. You can view our expat-vetted lawyer network here. Contact us using this form to get started.

Step #3 Submit the application

After you collect the required documentation, it is time to apply for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship. You must submit the application in person in the country of your residence (or nearest to your country of residence).

If you live in Croatia with legal residence, you may apply at the closest MUP administrative police station to your residence.

highlight Logo

Warning

If you are the Croatian emigrant that was born in Croatia and left prior to 1991, you cannot apply from within Croatia. To apply from within Croatia, you must have legal residence. If you obtain residence, then that means you have returned to Croatia and are no longer an emigrant.

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

If you live outside Croatia, you must apply at a Croatian consulate or embassy outside Croatia closest to your foreign residence. A list of Croatian consulates and embassies outside of Croatia is available here.

A legal representative or authorized proxy can submit the application on your behalf if you are a disabled person.

Step #4 Patiently wait

If you wonder how long the process of acquiring Croatian citizenship might take, it is better to arm yourself with patience. Sometimes, the whole process may take two or more years, especially when applying abroad.

The more complete your application, the easier it will be for the government to process. Take great care with your application. If the ministry does not know how to process your application, they won’t. It will collect dust, and they will never issue a decision.

If your application is incomplete, then they will come back and request more documentation. Given the length of this procedure, you want to avoid that.

Step #5 Get the decision

If MUP approves your application, they will provide you with a positive decision called Rješenje o primitku u hrvatsko državljanstvo (Decision on the admission to Croatian citizenship).

Your Croatian citizenship starts from the day they deliver this decision to you. From that day, you are a legal Croatian citizen. Hooray! Congrats on your Croatian citizenship!

If you are denied, then you will also receive a decision – a negative one. If you think your application was rejected without justified reasons, you can submit a tužba (complaint) to the administrative court within 30 days after you receive a negative decision.

You’ll be required to pay an administrative fee when you receive your decision. The fee varies depending on whether you received a positive or negative decision. All possible administrative costs for this procedure are available here.

How to apply for other Croatian documents after obtaining Croatian citizenship

After you become a Croatian, you can apply for other Croatian documents in the following order:

  • Domovnica (proof of citizenship) – view a guide here
  • Rodni list (birth certificate) – view a guide here
  • Putovnica (passport) – view a guide here
  • Osobna iskaznica (ID card) – view a guide here

Croatian citizenship can be proven with:

  • Croatian ID card
  • Croatian passport
  • Military ID card
  • Domovnica

To learn more about the next steps after being granted Croatian citizenship, including Croatian documents to obtain, view this guide.

If you need professional help while obtaining the above-mentioned documents, you can always contact us or fill out the below form. We have a team of vetted lawyers who can simplify the whole process for you.

Need help with your Croatian citizenship application or locating birth certificates?

Interested in applying for Croatian citizenship but not sure where to start? We can point you in the right direction.

Our expat-vetted lawyer network can take care of your application from beginning to end. We have excellent English-speaking lawyers across the country who specialize in citizenship and are in constant communication with the ministry. These are the same lawyers who help us vet all of our information on this site. Learn how we built this network here.

You do not have to live in Croatia to take advantage of this service.

For one flat rate, they can:

  • Validate your claim (which includes confirming if you qualify and checking the citizenship status of your relative)
  • Prepare a plan specific to your case to ensure you have the best chance of approval
  • Target possible red flags and prepare solutions
  • Collect birth records in Croatia (new copies are required)
  • Guide you through the embassy/consulate’s requirements which may vary depending on your case, taking into account their extensive experience
  • Provide guidance on preparing a successful CV biography (and coordinating translation into Croatian)
  • Prepare your family tree
  • Prepare supporting documentation
  • Coordinate translations for foreign documents, as needed
  • Assist with any issues or questions that arise after submission (they are with you throughout the process from start to approval)

As part of this service, you’ll have a dedicated Expat in Croatia caseworker who will follow up periodically to ensure you’re getting everything you need. You’ll also be able to reach out to them as well if any issues arise.

Having Expat in Croatia and our lawyer network on your side will give you the best shot at approval. It takes 1-2 years on average for applications to be processed, so best not to risk denial. This is citizenship, after all, and obtaining citizenship is a big deal.

View reviews from people who have used our services for citizenship here.

To get help with your application for citizenship, complete the form below, and we will match you with an expert.


See what our clients have to say about working with us…


View our other citizenship posts


Sources:
Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu
Državljanstvo by MUP

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.