When traveling or moving to Croatia, it is critical that you know which documents are required for you to enter the country, how long you may stay in the country, and which documents are required for you to stay in the country long term. Not all countries are the same and your nationality makes a big difference in what documents you need and how you can procure them.
The most widespread term for the document that allows you to enter and stay in a country is a “visa”, which is an “endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country”.
In many countries, a visa is required to enter the country as well as to stay for an extended period. This is not the case in Croatia. Here, the nomenclature and their meaning are a bit different. A visa is what you need to get into Croatia, but a residence permit is what you need to stay in Croatia long-term. Let’s dive into the differences between a visa and a residence permit.
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Difference between getting a visa and a residence permit in Croatia
With regards to Croatia specifically, a “visa” refers to your permission to enter Croatia as a tourist only, depending on your nationality, the method for obtaining the visa, the cost of a visa, and the term of the visa will vary.
For example, many nationalities including the United States, Brazil, and Mauritius are entitled to visa-free travel to Croatia for a period of 90 days. This means they can enter Croatia for up to 90 days during a 180-day period without having to obtain a visa in advance. The visa in this sense is automatic and no procedure or cost is required. A special stamp or document is not required either.
European Union citizens are also entitled to visa-free travel to Croatia and do not have any restrictions on the length of time they stay since Croatia is also a member of the EU/EEA.
For other nationalities, such as China, Argentina, and Cameroon, citizens must apply for a visa in advance to gain the ability to enter Croatia as a tourist for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
In other cases, there are nationalities that are not only required to apply for a visa before entering Croatia, but they can only stay in Croatia for up to 30 days in a 180-day period. Indonesia is one such example.
You can see if a visa is required and how long you can stay in Croatia on the ministry’s web site here. Select your country from the drop-down menu as shown below and you will see all the requirements for your nationality.
If a visa is required for your nationality, then you can apply for one at a Croatia diplomatic mission, consulate, or embassy closest to where you live.
Check if you need a visa to enter Croatia online here.
If you want to stay in Croatia beyond your tourist visa term of 30 to 90 days, depending on your nationality, then you must have a residence permit. A residence permit allows you to live in Croatia long-term and may have a term of 1 year or 5 years, depending on your basis for applying for residency.
There are two types of residency permits:
- Temporary Residency Permit called privremeni boravak
- Permanent Residency Permit called stalni boravak
When you first apply for a residency permit in Croatia, you will apply for a temporary residence permit. After 5 continuous years of temporary residence, you may then apply for permanent residence.
Temporary residence in Croatia is not open to everyone. There is a specific list of claims for residency, which includes:
- EU/EEA nationals and their spouses
- Family reunification (you are related to a Croatian living here or you are married to a Croatian)
- Digital nomads
- Highly qualified knowledge migrants
- Student (you are attending university)
- Language study
- Scientific research
- Volunteering grounds
- Humanitarian grounds
- Work (tied to an employment contract with a Croatian company)
- Work through starting a business
- 1-year stay for non-EU/EEA nationals
- EU/EEA Blue Card
- Property ownership
You can view more detail on each of these different schemes to get residency in Croatia here.
EU/EEA citizens can get automatic temporary residence for 5 years. They still have to go through the application process, but the requirements are few and the process is quick.
For third-country nationals, e.g. those not from the EU/EEA, getting a temporary residence is much harder and there are many more requirements.
If you are planning a move to Croatia, then you will first need a valid visa to enter Croatia, then you can apply for a residence permit on arrival.
To get a residence permit, you must go through an application process. If you need a visa to enter Croatia, you have to apply for residence at Croatia’s diplomatic mission or consular office outside of Croatia. A list of all Croatian embassies and consulates is available here.
If you don’t need a visa, you can apply for residence at the closest administrative police station to where you plan to live in Croatia. Each city has one administrative police station. For small towns and villages, you may need to go to a larger city to find the closest station. Here is a full list.
Additional resources if applying for a residency permit
- The most important lesson you need to know about living in Croatia
- What you should bring to Croatia with you
- Getting an OIB
- Registering your address
- Getting health insurance
- Opening a bank account
If you are a third-country national (non-EU/EEA), it is highly recommended that you engage an attorney to assist with your residency application. I can recommend one if you email me.
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. It is important to understand that Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change and each personal case is individual and different rules may apply. 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.