There are multiple paths to Croatian citizenship. Each path has different requirements and milestones you must achieve to qualify.
Croatian citizenship can be acquired based on:
- Special interest to Croatia
- Member of Croatian people
- International treaties
This guide is solely focused on how someone can apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent (lineage). It is called prirođenje or stjecanje hrvatskog državljanstva prirođenjem in Croatian. To be extra clear, we are referring to people with Croatian ancestors in a straight line such as parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.
If you are interested in obtaining Croatian citizenship under another scenario, check out our full citizenship guide here.
In this article, we cover:
- Setting the stage
- Croatian Citizenship Act – Article 11
- Who qualifies to apply based on descent
- When you could be disqualified
- How to apply for citizenship based on descent
- Getting other Croatian documents
- How to get help with your application
The facts are these…
How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on descent (lineage) called prirođenje
The Croatian Citizenship Act called Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu defines citizenship, preconditions for its acquisition, and its termination.
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).
To become a Croatian citizen, MUP will evaluate your application based on its merit. If you receive a positive decision, then you will gain nationality. After receipt of your positive decision, you will be entered into the Book of Births called Matica rođenih in the competent registrar’s office.
As proof of your Croatian citizenship, you can obtain your birth certificate as well as a document called domovnica (proof of citizenship) in the registrar’s office.
[Read: How to get proof of citizenship]
With these documents, you can then apply for a passport and ID card. Jump to this section to learn more about obtaining your Croatian documents after receiving nationality.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
When applying for 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 his descendants may acquire Croatian citizenship by birth, 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 he does 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 his 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.
Croatian citizenship act is called Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu in Croatian and it is available here.
To qualify to apply based on descent, you must have a Croatian ancestor that is connected to you in a straight line that permanently left Croatia to move abroad. This can be a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on, as long as they are considered to be a Croatian emigrant.
If they returned to Croatia or they never left, then 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 go back as long as you can prove the connection and their emigration abroad.
If you’re the child of a Croatian citizen, there are certain situations in which you can register for Croatian citizenship instead of applying. This is an easier and quicker process.
Registering for citizenship is possible if:
- You were born after October 8, 1991, AND at least one of your parents was a Croatian citizen at the time of your birth AND you are younger than 21
- You were born after October 8, 1991, AND at least one of your parents was a Croatian citizen at the time of your birth AND you are older than 21 – you qualify to register your citizenship before January 1, 2023
- You were born between January 8, 1977, and October 8, 1991, AND both parents were Croatian citizens at the time of your birth – you qualify to register your citizenship before January 1, 2023.
If you qualify to register your citizenship based on the above, then jump over here for a guide that better suits your situation.
If none of these situations apply to you, then you must apply by descent based on Article 11.
Spouses of those that qualify to apply based on Article 11, or of those who obtained citizenship based on Article 11 can also apply based on this article without meeting any residence requirements (Article 10).
We’ll explain further with a couple of examples:
- If you are married to a person who acquired Croatian nationality 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 nationality based on Article 11, you can apply for citizenship based on Article 11 at the same time as the descendant.
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.
In practice, the ministry has also discriminated against those with ancestors who left Croatia to move to another country in Europe – specifically Eastern Europe. This violates the law, which means you can go to court if you get a negative decision on citizenship for this reason.
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.
If you have a case under Article 11, then move on to the next section…
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 a lot of your precious time and money.
This process is long and demanding, so it is better to check all the facts before you apply. If you are not sure if you qualify, we can help. Contact us using the below form and we’ll help you determine if you have a claim.
The best way to confirm your claim is to obtain the birth certificate of your ancestor in Croatia. Without that birth certificate, it’ll be challenging to apply for citizenship based on Article 11.
If you need help locating and obtaining a birth certificate in Croatia, we can help! Just 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 both Croatia and your home country, which can take a while.
You must provide:
- Completed application form – One of these depending on your case:
- 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 – It must be a new copy
- Birth certificates of your relatives that connect you to this ancestor, if any – Foreign birth certificates must be apostilled/legalized and officially translated originals
- Notarized proof of nationality such as:
- Copy of a passport
- Copy of an ID card
- Copy of domovnica equivalent
- Background check issued by your country of nationality (or where you lived the last 12 months) proving you have not been criminally prosecuted not older than 6 months – Apostilled/legalized and officially translated original
- Copy of identity document with a visible photo – Officially translated if not in English
- Marriage certificate, if you are married – Apostilled/legalized and officially translated originals if you’re married outside Croatia
- 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
For children under the age of 18, you must also provide:
- Birth certificate (apostilled/legalized and officially translated originals if it is a foreign birth certificate)
- Proof of citizenship
- Written consent of the other parent
[Read: How to get something notarized]
Depending on the responsible institution, sometimes it takes a while to collect all the required documentation. If you need any help with the preparation of your application, we can introduce you to a vetted immigration lawyer that 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. Contact us using this form to get started.
ALL documents issued by foreign governments outside Croatia MUST be originals. They must be apostilled/legalized and officially translated in Croatian unless other rules are defined by bilateral and multilateral international agreements.
Step #3 Submit the application
After you collect the required documentation, it is time to submit the application 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.
If you live outside Croatia, you must apply at a Croatian consulate or embassy outside of 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 Wait
If you are wondering 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 from 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, then 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 which means Decision on the admission to the 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 that your application was rejected without justified reasons, you can submit žalba (complaint) to MUP within a period of 30 days after you received a negative decision. A complaint has to be submitted to the administrative court.
When you receive your decision, you’ll be required to pay an administrative fee. This fee varies depending on whether you received a positive or negative decision.
The fee for a positive decision called Rješenje is 1.050 kuna. If your Croatian citizenship application is denied, the fee for a negative decision is 35 kuna.
Step #5 Solemn oath
After you receive your Croatian citizenship based on descent, you must take a solemn oath called svečana prisega. MUP will inform you about the procedure of taking the solemn oath.
During the solemn oath, you must say:
Prisežem svojom čašću da ću se kao hrvatski državljanin/državljanka pridržavati Ustava i zakona te poštivati pravni poredak, kulturu i običaje u Republici Hrvatskoj.
Which translates to…
I swear by my honor that as a Croatian citizen I will abide by the Constitution and the law and respect the legal order, culture, and customs in the Republic of Croatia.
After you become a Croat, you can apply for other Croatian documents in the following order:
- Domovnica (proof of citizenship) – This document proves that you are a Croatian citizen
- Rodni list (birth certificate – This document is an official birth record
- Putovnica (passport)
- Osobna iskaznica (ID card) – This is a national ID
Croatian citizenship can be proven with:
- Croatian ID card
- Croatian passport
- Military ID card
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.
View our other citizenship posts
- 11 things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship
- All about the Croatian citizenship test
- Apostille versus full legalization of government documents
- Croatian Central State Office for Croats Abroad
- How children of Croatians can register their citizenship
- How to apply for Croatian citizenship
- How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on naturalization if you are an EU/EEA citizen
- How to get proof of citizenship (domovnica)
- How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia
- How to relinquish Croatian nationality
Our expat-vetted lawyer network can take care and prepare your citizenship application for you including locating birth records within Croatia. We have excellent English-speaking lawyers that are currently helping people across the world apply for Croatian nationality.
If you live abroad, you must apply for citizenship at an embassy or consulate. While our attorneys cannot file applications on behalf of those abroad, they can:
- Validate your claim
- Collect birth records in Croatia
- Confirm exact requirements with your embassy or consulate (as the requirements can vary)
- Provide guidance on preparing your CV biography (and coordinating translation into Croatian)
- Prepare your family tree
- Prepare supporting documentation
- Coordinate translations and getting notarization 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.
Having a lawyer prepare and review your application will increase your chances of approval on the first try. To get help with your application for citizenship, complete the form below and we’ll match you with an expert.
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.