How members of the Croatian people can apply for Croatian citizenship (Article 16): Guide for 2024

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This post has been verified by the ministry that handles citizenship as well as immigration lawyers specializing in citizenship.
Waving Croatian flag in Split, Croatia
Waving the Croatian flag in Split, Croatia

UPDATED: 22.1.2024.

If you have Croatian heritage, then you may be able to apply for Croatian citizenship, depending on your situation.

There are many paths to Croatian citizenship for those with Croatian heritage. Before we go any further, we’ll go over each path quickly to get you on the right track for your situation.

  • Article 5 – Application for citizenship by origin
  • Article 11 – Application for citizenship by descent – view guide here
  • Article 16 – Application for citizenship based on being a member of the Croatian people – you’re in the right place, so keep reading

Since technically anyone with Croatian lineage can be considered a “member of the Croatian people”, it’s important that we clarify what this means in terms of Article 16.

In most cases, people apply for citizenship through Article 11 (Croatian citizenship by descent). This allows you to apply through your parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on, as long as you can prove your connection and that they were born on the modern territory of Croatia and permanently moved abroad.

However, in some cases, people cannot apply for citizenship under Article 5 or 11 due to some kind of technicality.

Some example technicalities:

  • Your ancestor left Croatia after 1991 (negates Article 11)
  • Your ancestor left Croatia but then returned to live in Croatia permanently (negates Article 11)
  • Your ancestor left Croatia to move to another country within the former Yugoslavia (negates Article 11)
  • You lack the documentation to make a proper case under Article 5 or 11

If you cannot register under Article 5 or apply under Article 11, or if you already applied and were denied under those articles, then Article 16 may be a good solution for you.

There are other isolated cases where people do not have Croatian lineage but do consider themselves to be member of the Croatian people. In this case, Article 16 is also a good choice.

An Article 16 claim does take work, gets harder to prove as time passes, and has no guarantees. But this is Croatia, and there are no guarantees with anything.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to get Croatian citizenship if you are a member of the Croatian people (Article 16)

What you need to know before getting started

Many members of the Croatian people somehow want to reconnect with Croatia. A possible option is to get residence in Croatia based on being a member of the Croatian people. If you want to apply for temporary residence on this basis, view our guide here.

On the other hand, some want to accomplish their reconnection by granting Croatian citizenship. Applying for Croatian citizenship based on belonging to Croatian people belongs to the lineage category called prirođenje.

Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu (Croatian citizenship act) prescribes the rights and regulations on acquiring and terminating Croatian citizenship, including applying for citizenship based on being a member of the Croatian people.

[Read: How to relinquish Croatian citizenship]

In Croatia, MUP manages the application processes for obtaining Croatian citizenship. MUP is abbreviated from Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova (Croatian ministry of the Interior). You can read about Croatian ministries here.

However, Središnji državni ured za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske (Croatian central state office for Croats abroad) is responsible for some other assignments related to members of the Croatian people. For example, they approve certificates of belonging to Croatian people called Potvrda o pripadnosti hrvatskom narodu.

Learn more about the Croatian central state office for Croats abroad and their scope of work in this article.

Members of the Croatian people must meet the requirements defined by the law to apply for Croatian citizenship. If they do not meet the mandatory requirements, their application will be denied by MUP.

To avoid the obstacles that could arise when applying for Croatian citizenship, it is best to hire a professional. We can connect you with an expat-vetted lawyer who specializes in Article 16 applications. To get an introduction, click here. To learn how we vet our lawyers, click here.

Croatian citizenship act – Article 16

When applying for Croatian citizenship, you must first define the article from the Croatian citizenship act under which you apply.

In this post, we are focusing on Article 16 – Member of the Croatian people.

Member of the Croatian people translates as pripadnik hrvatskog naroda in the Croatian language.

The Croatian citizenship act states the following:

Članak 16. (NN 102/19)

Pripadnik hrvatskog naroda koji nema prebivalište u Republici Hrvatskoj, može steći hrvatsko državljanstvo ako udovoljava pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točke 5. ovoga Zakona.

Pripadnost hrvatskom narodu utvrđuje se ranijim deklariranjem te pripadnosti u pravnom prometu, navođenjem te pripadnosti u pojedinim javnim ispravama, zaštitom prava i promicanjem interesa hrvatskog naroda i aktivnim sudjelovanjem u hrvatskim kulturnim, znanstvenim i sportskim udrugama u inozemstvu.

Iznimno od stavka 2. ovoga članka, dokaze o pripadnosti hrvatskom narodu ne mora priložiti osoba za čije je roditelje nesporno utvrđena pripadnost hrvatskom narodu.

Which translates as:

Article 16 (Official Gazette 102/19)

A member of the Croatian nation who does not have a residence in the Republic of Croatia may acquire Croatian citizenship if they meet the requirements of Article 8, Paragraph 1, Point 5 of this Act.

Belonging to the Croatian nation is established by earlier declaration of that affiliation in legal transactions, stating that affiliation in certain public documents, protecting the rights and promoting the interests of the Croatian people, and active participation in Croatian cultural, scientific, and sports associations abroad.

As an exception to paragraph 2 of this article, evidence of belonging to the Croatian nation does not have to be submitted by a person whose parents have been undisputedly established as belonging to the Croatian nation.

Article 8., Paragraph 1, Point 5 of the act says:

Članak 8. (NN 102/19)

Prirođenjem može steći hrvatsko državljanstvo stranac koji je podnio zahtjev za primanje u hrvatsko državljanstvo ako udovoljava ovim pretpostavkama:

  1. da poštuje pravni poredak Republike Hrvatske, da je podmirio dospjela javna davanja te da ne postoje sigurnosne zapreke za njegov primitak u hrvatsko državljanstvo.

Which translates as:

Article 8 (Official Gazette 102/19)

A foreigner who has applied for Croatian citizenship can acquire Croatian citizenship by naturalization if they meet the following conditions:

  1. that they respect the legal order of the Republic of Croatia, that they have settled the due public duties and that there are no security obstacles for their admission to Croatian citizenship.

Another rule is defined in Article 30 of the law. It says that a member of the Croatian people without Croatian citizenship but with registered residence in Croatia on the day of the law’s entry into force is considered a Croatian citizen if they state in writing that they consider themselves a Croatian citizen.

The Croatian citizenship act is available here. You can also download the Croatian citizenship act in the English language here.

How to apply for Croatian citizenship as a member of the Croatian people

Let’s now move through all the steps of applying for Croatian citizenship based on being a member of the Croatian people.

Step #1 Confirm your claim

Before submitting the citizenship application, be sure that you meet all the requirements to acquire Croatian citizenship as a member of the Croatian people. You can learn about the essential things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship in this article.

The process of granting Croatian citizenship can last for months and sometimes years, so our recommendation is to be as prepared as possible.

If you are unsure if you qualify, we can help! Just fill out this short form to get assistance.

Step #2 Prepare your application

The preparation of your citizenship application is demanding. You must collect a bunch of documents which can take a while to obtain.

Here is the documentation 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 their parents are not – download here
  • Biography including your reasons for applying and connection to Croatia, written in Croatian
  • Your birth certificate, legalized/apostilled, officially translated
  • Marriage certificate, if you are married, legalized/apostilled, officially translated
  • Notarized proof of citizenship such as:
    • Copy of a passport
    • Copy of an ID card
    • Copy of domovnica equivalent
  • Background check issued by your country of citizenship 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
  • Proof of your previous declaration of citizenship in legal transactions – an original or a certified copy of:
    • Employment record
    • Military record
    • Diploma
    • Student’s course and grade book
    • Extract from the birth register
    • Extract from the marriage register, etc.
  • Proof of address, whether you are applying in Croatia or abroad
    • ID card
    • Driver’s license
    • Utility bill

Other proof of belonging to the Croatian people includes providing proof of protecting the rights and promoting the interests of the Croatian people, as well as proof of active participation in Croatian cultural, science, and sports organizations outside of Croatia.

If your parents or other ancestors belong to the Croatian people, you may also enclose proof of their declaration of citizenship.

This may include:

  • Birth certificate of your Croatian ancestor
  • Birth certificates of your relatives that connect you to this ancestor, if any
  • Family tree
  • Anything else that shows your relative’s life in Croatia

For underage children, you must also provide:

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

Article 16 is less straightforward than others and is typically customized to a person’s individual case. While the above documents are suggestions, ultimately, the paperwork you provide will depend on your particular situation.

Be aware that the documents issued by foreign governments outside Croatia must be originals. In addition, 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]

Collecting the required documents may take a while. If you need help preparing your application, our expat-vetted immigration lawyers, who specialize in citizenship, can help you. They can ensure your application is correct and complete, which increases your chances of approval.

Step #3 Submit your application

Once you are sure you’ve collected all the required documents, you can submit your Croatian citizenship application. You have to apply in person. If you are a person with disabilities, a legal representative or authorized proxy can submit the application on your behalf.

Where you must submit your application depends on the place of your current residence. If you live in Croatia, you must apply at the MUP office closest to your current residence called prebivalište).

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

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

Step #4 Wait for MUP’s answer

Now, it is time to sit on the couch and wait. If your application is complete, the government shall hopefully process it efficiently. However, the process is complicated and can last two or more years.

On the other side, if the ministry comes across some obstacles or your application is incomplete, they may request additional documentation from you. This is why we constantly repeat the importance of collecting all the required documentation at the beginning.

[Read: All the Croatian government ministries and what they do]

Step #5 Receive MUP’s decision

If MUP approves your citizenship application and you are granted Croatian citizenship, they will send you a document called Rješenje o primitku u hrvatsko državljanstvo (Decision on the admission to Croatian citizenship). You are a legal Croatian citizen from the day they deliver your decision.

If your application is denied, MUP will send you a negative decision. You can submit a complaint to the administrative court if you have justified reasons. The deadline is 30 days upon the receipt of the negative decision.

There is an administrative fee for both positive and negative decisions. All possible administrative costs for this procedure are available here. Payment information is available here.

Step #6 Take the solemn oath

People being granted Croatian citizenship must take svečana prisega (solemn oath). MUP will inform you about the time and procedure.

During the solemn oath, you have to 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.

What are the next steps after granting Croatian citizenship?

After being granted Croatian citizenship, you can apply for Croatian documents, including:

  • 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

For more details about the next steps after being granted Croatian citizenship, visit this guide.

If you need professional help to obtain the above-mentioned documents, you can always contact us or fill out the below form.

Need help with your Croatian citizenship application?

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

Zahtjev za stjecanje hrvatskog državljanstva by MUP
Application for Acquiring Croatian Citizenship by MUP
Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu

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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