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.
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.
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:
- EU nationals and their spouses
- Family reunification (you are related to a Croatian living here or you are married to a Croatian)
- Highly qualified knowledge migrants
- Student (you are attending university)
- Scientific research
- Volunteering & Humanitarian grounds
- Work (tied to an employment contract with a Croatian company)
- Work through starting a business
- 1-year stay for non-EU nationals
You can view a more detail on each of these different schemes to get residency in Croatia here.
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
- 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), it is highly recommended that you engage an attorney to assist with your residency application. I can recommend one if you email me.