Difference between getting a visa and a residence permit in Croatia

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 a 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 is 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. In this post, we will dive into the differences between a visa and a residence permit.

How to get Croatia visa
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Who needs a visa and how to get a visa to 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 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 length of time they stay since Croatia is also a member of the EU.

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.

Do I need a visa for Croatia?
Check if you need a visa to enter Croatia online here.

Who needs a residence permit and how to get a residence permit in Croatia

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:

You can view a more detail on each of these different schemes to get residency in Croatia here.

Croatia residence permit

EU 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, getting 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, which should be done at the closest administrative police station to where you plan to live within 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.

Make sure you start the residency application as soon as you arrive in the country if that is your ultimate goal. Do not wait until just before your tourist visa term ends. If you wait until the last minute, you run the risk of being told to leave the country, in which case you’ll have to wait 90 days before you can return again.

Additional resources if applying for a residency permit

If you are a third-country national (non-EU), it is highly recommended that you engage an attorney to assist with your residency application. I can recommend one if you email me.

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18 thoughts on “Difference between getting a visa and a residence permit in Croatia

  1. Tina Donovan
    October 25, 2019 @ 2:39 pm

    Your article refers to five years of continuous residency in order to apply for permanent residency. I have temporary residency for five years, based on being an EU citizen. While I live here full time I do leave for holidays from time to time. Is there a maximum time I can be away before I’m considered to not reside here continuously?

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      October 29, 2019 @ 12:25 pm

      Hi Tina,

      Good to hear from you!

      The rule of thumb is not to be away for more than 30 days per calendar year while on temporary residency.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  2. Cindie Kennedy
    November 16, 2019 @ 10:13 pm

    I didn’t see on the list- retire to Croatia… We can also start a business but would rather just retire. My husband makes custom furniture and about anything in wood. I sew and sell my pieces at art shows etc. We have been visiting Croatia for 6 years now, as my Dentist is in Zadar. We stayed on Prvic Luka this past visit. I have a very good friend that lives there , unfortunately this year he was visiting his son in Utah . we love Croatia and they have the same color water we have. We live in the US Virgin Islands but ready for a change after 48 years here.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      November 19, 2019 @ 3:21 pm

      Hi Cindie,

      Retiring in Croatia is not on the list because Croatia currently does not offer a residency scheme based on retirement.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  3. Roberto
    November 19, 2019 @ 11:23 pm

    Hello, Roberto here, well my case is similar to one I saw on this website but different post, I’m a seaman, my wife and daughter cruise with me all the time, as is almost impossible have a decent life in our country (Honduras) we decided to try to move to Croatia, obviously I will keep working and they will stay until they cruise with me again, usually we are together on the ship for around 3 months.

    So my question is, where do I start? we have friend is Zagreb, Sibenik, Pula, Split, Dubrovnik and Crikvenica (near Rijeka) where is where we want to live. My friend is helping me to get as much information as possible, due to our nationality we’re allow to stay in HRV up to 90 days, and he said can we start the process on the local police station.

    I will really appreciate any advise you can give me (us). We’re planning to “land” there on July 2020, as you can imagine we’re trying to get an apartment as we know how busy is during summer time.

    Vidimo se,

    Roberto

    {reply}

  4. Melissa
    November 20, 2019 @ 7:51 pm

    Hi Sara, I thought I had left this message/question once before… but I don’t see it. Nor do I know where to ask it… I have lived here in Croatia for 5 years 4 months, I’m American, own a house here (in my name), and originally came here with my Croatian American husband. We divorced 2 years ago, I was permitted to finish my temporary stay because I had been here MARRIED for 3 years. Now, as of Jan 15, 2020 my temporary residence visa expires. I have heard two things 1) that I need to leave for 6 months. OR 2) I need to leave for 3 months, then can return as a tourist for another 3, and apply for an “Others” one year visa at the end of the tourist visa. Which means, at the end of 6 months. Do you know what I should rely on? I have animals to consider, which is why I need to know! Thanks so much!

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      November 21, 2019 @ 10:41 am

      Hi Melissa,

      You did ask this question and I replied this past week. Here is a link to your original comment: https://www.expatincroatia.com/non-eu-nationals-can-live-croatia-1-year/#comment-2594

      Have you spoken to the police? If so, what did they tell you? It is only their opinion that matters. In addition to what I said in my response linked above, I recommend using a lawyer to make this transition. If you want a referral, I can recommend a good immigration attorney. Just email me.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  5. Franky
    April 15, 2020 @ 11:24 am

    Hello sara,

    I have applied for permanent Residency Permit. And Recently I get my permanent Residency Card. But it doesn’t say anything (STALNI BORAVAK ) on it but osoba s dugotrajnim boravištem-EU.
    is it the same thing! Can I apply citizenship behalf on this ?

    Regards.

    {reply}

  6. Franky
    April 20, 2020 @ 11:19 am

    Thanks for your advice and for link Sara 🙂

    Stay Safe.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      April 20, 2020 @ 11:23 am

      You’re welcome, Franky! Stay safe and healthy. 🙂

      {reply}

    • Nei
      July 23, 2020 @ 8:10 pm

      Hi Sara. I find your post very helpful though in my case, the info that we got from policija and from Embassy is saying I need to apply for a TRP first thru my country’s consulate or accredited agency, though it is not clear to me if I still need to get for myself a visa (they only issue short stay). It’s not clear to me if the short-stay visa would allow me to reunite with my husband for good. I hope you could enlighten me with this. Btw, I am from the Philippines, I have a minor child, and I am married to a Croatian. I appreciate you for taking time to look into my concern. Hvala!

      {reply}

      • Expat in Croatia
        July 24, 2020 @ 1:20 pm

        Hi Nei,

        You will need to first apply for a tourist visa through the closest Croatian embassy or consulate to you so that you can enter Croatia, unless you are traveling with your Croatian spouse at the time you enter Croatia and can prove that you are married. In this case, you wouldn’t need a visa.

        You can only apply for temporary residence once you arrive in Croatia and have a physical address where your Croatian spouse is registered. I don’t know why the embassy is telling you otherwise because it’s incorrect. With the exception of work permits, temporary residence must be applied for in person in Croatia.

        Here is a post that explains how spouses of Croatians can apply for temporary residence: https://www.expatincroatia.com/apply-non-croatian-spouse-residence-permit/

        Regards,

        Sara

        {reply}

  7. Lisa
    September 23, 2020 @ 1:55 pm

    Hi Sara, as UK nationals we are about to embark on the process (before 31.12.20) of temporary residency as we own a property in Croatian which will be for personal and touristic use. (I believe the property is already classed as touristic although not yet ‘open’ as refurb is ongoing). My query is that as the UK will become classed as a third party country, and therefore a different procedure is in place, do you feel it would be worthwhile to start the process for temporary? We were planning on renewing for 5 years and then hopefully for permanent. Does the change in country class scupper this plan? Grateful for any advice, hvala

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      September 25, 2020 @ 1:54 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, you should apply for temporary residence before the end of the year if you plan on living in Croatia more than 6 months per year. That is the limit for EU nationals. That being said, once the switch happens, it is possible that you may be subject to the third-country national limit on travel, which is no more than 30 days outside Croatia per year.

      If you don’t plan on living in Croatia full time ever, then it is better to apply for residence based on property instead. Here is information on that permit: https://www.expatincroatia.com/property-residence-permit/

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

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