How to apply for the digital nomad residence permit in Croatia: Guide for 2024

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This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer and the ministry that handles immigration. It also reflects the experiences of those already approved.
Digital nomad in Croatia
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UPDATED: 08.01.2024.

Croatia offers temporary residence to digital nomads. You may know this by its colloquial name – the “digital nomad visa”. The introduction of this permit is a great option for non-EU/EEA nationals who wish to live in Croatia.

If you are an EU/EEA citizen, this program is not available to you, so pop over to this post instead.

The revised law that regulates the immigration of foreigners (and introduces this permit) became official when it was published in Narodne novine. Changes to the law are never official until they are published in Narodne novine.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to apply for Croatia’s digital nomad residence permit

The myth of the Croatian “digital nomad visa”

The digital nomad visa is not a visa. It’s a residence permit.

In Croatia, a visa refers to short stays for tourism or business purposes. Depending on your nationality, you can either just show up in Croatia and stay up to 90 days, or you must apply for a visa from abroad before you can enter Croatia. Some nationalities are only allowed to be in Croatia for up to 30 days as tourists.

You can check MVEP’s website for all the requirements to enter Croatia based on your nationality, as well as how long you can stay.

[Read: All types of available visas for entry into Croatia]

If you wish to stay and actually live in Croatia beyond the term of your short-stay visa, then you must apply for a residence permit. The new basis for digital nomads to get temporary residence in Croatia is therefore a residence permit, NOT a visa.

“Well then, why is everyone calling it a digital nomad visa?”

Many countries in the world refer to both short and long-term stays for foreigners as visas. Croatia is not one of them.

Considering the worldwide hype around the introduction of a “digital nomad visa” in Barbados, Greece, Estonia, and elsewhere, the new Croatian residence permit has been automatically referred to as a visa, even though it is not one. I guess “digital nomad visa” rolls off the tongue better than “digital nomad residence permit”.

The Law on Foreigners (which we discuss in the next section) never refers to a “digital nomad visa”.

Will calling it a visa affect your ability to apply for it? Absolutely not. I’m just providing the correct information so that you can better understand Croatia’s system of immigration before moving here.

What the Croatian Law on foreigners says about digital nomads?

We will start at the beginning.

The law that regulates the stay of foreigners is called Zakon o strancima in Croatian (Law on Foreigners). It is available here. This act already existed prior to the introduction of the regulation of the stay of digital nomads.

The update to the law is not just about digital nomads. It also includes a variety of changes, including the introduction of a residence permit for the Croatian diaspora and new rules for the regulation of permanent residence and temporary residence.

[Read: Available residence permits for Croatia]

Now, we will go through what the law says about the long-term stay of digital nomads in Croatian, then English.

Digital nomads are mentioned twice in the law.

Mention #1

Pojmovnik

Članak 3.

(1) Pojedini pojmovi, u smislu ovoga Zakona, imaju sljedeće značenje:

43) digitalni nomad je državljanin treće zemlje koji je zaposlen ili obavlja poslove putem komunikacijske tehnologije za tvrtku ili vlastitu tvrtku koja nije registrirana u Republici Hrvatskoj i ne obavlja poslove ili pruža usluge poslodavcima na području Republike Hrvatske.

which translates to…

Glossary

Article 3

(1) Certain terms, in the sense of this Act, have the following meaning:

43) digital nomad is a third-country national who is employed or performs work through communication technology for a company or his own company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and does not perform work or provide services to employers in the Republic of Croatia.

Mention #2

Privremeni boravak

Članak 57.

(1) Privremeni boravak odobrava se državljaninu treće zemlje koji namjerava boraviti ili boravi u Republici Hrvatskoj u svrhu:

11. boravka digitalnih nomada.

(4) Zahtjev za reguliranje privremenog boravka u druge svrhe ili svrhu boravka digitalnih nomada državljanin treće zemlje može podnijeti nakon isteka roka od šest mjeseci od isteka važenja privremenog boravka koji je bio odobren u druge svrhe ili svrhu boravka digitalnih nomada.

which translates to…

Temporary residence

Article 57

(1) Temporary residence is granted to a third-country national who intends to reside or resides in the Republic of Croatia for the purpose of:

11. residence of digital nomads

(4) An application for regulation of temporary residence for other purposes or purposes of residence of digital nomads may be submitted by a third-country national after the expiry of six months from the expiration of temporary residence granted for other purposes or purposes of residence of digital nomads.

That is all of it. If you think that seems a little skimpy, you would not be wrong.

What we do know about the Croatian digital nomad residence permit?

While the law defining digital nomads in Croatia is brief, what it does say is very telling.

#1 We know the basic requirements

There are standard requirements for all temporary residence permits, regardless of on which basis you apply. I’ll go over the requirements in the next section.

#2 We know that you must leave after it expires

In Article 57, the law states:

An application for regulation of temporary residence for other purposes or purposes of residence of digital nomads may be submitted by a third-country national after the expiry of six months from the expiration of temporary residence granted for other purposes or purposes of residence of digital nomads.

To summarize, this means that 6 months must elapse between the expiration of your last permit and the day you start the application for a new permit. Since nobody can be here for 6 months without legal residence, that means you need to leave after the expiration of your permit. Then you can return for up to another 90 days as a tourist, within the 180-day time frame allowed by Schengen visa.

Please note that if you have spent time in Schengen countries within the 180 days, while your Croatian residency permit was still valid, these days count toward the allowed 90 days. For example, if your Croatian residency permit expires on September 1st, but you have spent 30 days in Austria in July, this means that you have only 60 days left on your Schengen after September 1st.

After those 6 months have passed, you can then start an application for a new residence permit. This is also reiterated on MUP’s website. But, unfortunately, if you are not able to stay in Croatia as a tourist at the time, you will have to apply online or through the consulate.

[Read: Croatia joined Schengen – what this means for Croatian residents and tourists]

#3 We know the digital nomad permit ALONE cannot lead to long-term/permanent residence or citizenship

Time spent on the digital nomad permit in Croatia does count towards permanent residence. However, if a digital nomad wishes to apply for the digital nomad permit a second time, they must wait 6 months between applications, during which they must leave Croatia for at least 90 days. The purpose of this 6-month wait is to break your residence.

To qualify for long-term residence, you must live continuously in Croatia for a period of 4 or 5 years – depending on your situation. If you wait 6 months in between permits, then you are not living continuously. This means that you cannot qualify to apply for long-term residence with digital nomad residence alone.

You can combine your digital nomad residence with something else, like a work permit or family reunification, and then eventually qualify for long-term residence.

#4 You cannot legally work for any Croatian company

In Article 3, a digital nomad is defined as:

… a third-country national who is employed or performs work through communication technology for a company or his own company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and does not perform work or provide services to employers in the Republic of Croatia.

The definition of a digital nomad in the law’s glossary clearly states you cannot work for any company registered in Croatia.

[Read: How to apply for a work permit in Croatia]

#5 Close family members may join the digital nomad

MUP confirmed with us that close family members of digital nomads can, in fact, apply for temporary residence based on family reunification called spajanje obitelji. You will need to provide a marriage certificate (apostilled/legalized, officially translated) or prove that you are in a common-law marriage as part of the application for spouses. Birth certificates must be provided for children.

[Read: How to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on family reunification]

#6 The permit is for up to 1 year

According to MUP’s website, people can apply for a digital nomad permit for a period of up to 1 year. It is not possible to extend it.

If you only wish to apply for the permit for 6 months, you can do that. You just need to state that on your application.

How to apply for temporary residence as a digital nomad in Croatia

In this section, we will walk you through how to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on being a digital nomad (aka the “digital nomad visa”), including the requirements and steps.

Step #1 Determine where you need to apply

There are 2 possible ways:

  • If you need a visa to enter Croatia, then you can apply for this permit at the Croatian embassy/consulate outside of Croatia or online here
  • If you don’t need a visa to enter Croatia, then you can apply for this permit at the closest police station according to your temporary address in Croatia or online here

You can check if a visa is required for your nationality here.

The advantage to applying from within the country (if you do not need a visa to enter) is that you can be in Croatia for up to 15 months at once by leveraging your tourist stay – 90 days as a tourist, plus 12 months on the digital nomad permit.

Step #2 Prepare your application

Below are the requirements you must fulfill to apply for the digital nomad residence permit in Croatia. These are the newest requirements published by MUP.

The requirements include:

  • Completed application form Obrazac 1a provided by the police/embassy/consulate
    • Download a copy here
    • If you are applying online, visit the form here
  • Proof of purpose, i.e., proof you are a digital nomad
  • Copy of a valid passport/travel document
  • Government-issued background check from your home country (apostilled/legalized, officially translated if not in English) and certificate of the length of stay if you lived somewhere other than your country of nationality for the previous 12 months
  • Proof of valid private/travel health insurance policy
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
  • Croatian address
  • Passport photo 30×35 mm

Non-government copies of documents can be submitted in Croatian OR English language. However, submitting documents in Croatian will speed up the process.

[Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]

Let’s go through each requirement one by one.

Application form for temporary stay

The application form for a temporary stay of digital nomads is called Obrazac 1a (Form 1a). This form is bilingual (written in Croatian and English).

This application form will be provided by MUP or the embassy/consulate. You can view it here.

Proof of purpose

Proof of purpose is a document that proves that you are a digital nomad. This refers to a work contract or other document proving that you perform work through “communication technology” for a foreign employer or your own company registered outside of Croatia.

The ministry has defined exactly what you need to provide to show this. Keep in mind that every remote worker is different and may need to show different things. Below is what is listed on MUP’s website:

  • Statement of the foreign employer or third-country national that the person performs work remotely through “communication technology”
  • Work contract or contract about performing a job for a foreign employer (service contract)
  • Copy of the registration of their own company issued by a foreign body (tax administration or commercial court) and proof that they perform the said tasks through their own company

[Read: Types of employment contracts in Croatia]

Some examples of what you could provide to cover these requirements include:
  • Articles of incorporation of foreign company
  • Formation documents
  • Employment contract
  • Pay stubs
  • Freelance contract
  • Invoices, along with corresponding payments from clients
  • Engagement letter that states you are performing services online for a specific company

Essentially, they want to see that you are doing work and receiving income based on clients or employment that is outside of Croatia. Once you provide what makes sense for your situation, MUP will either accept it or come back to you with an additional request. What is required will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Be prepared to officially translate and notarize everything you provide.

[Read: How to get something notarized]

Valid passport/travel document

Your passport needs to be valid, which means its validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of the intended stay. You will most likely need to provide a copy of the passport, but sometimes they will make a copy at the police station. Take your passport with you every single time you go to the police.

If your passport is in a language that is not English, then you need a copy that is notarized and translated into Croatian. If you need a recommendation for a translator, contact us.

Background check

This requirement was implemented in 2021. In Article 59 of the law, it states:

5. uz zahtjev za odobrenje prvog privremenog boravka priloži dokaz da nije pravomoćno osuđen za kaznena djela iz matične države ili države u kojoj je boravio duže od godine dana neposredno prije dolaska u Republiku Hrvatsku, osim ako je upućeni radnik odnosno student, istraživač ili osoba premještena unutar društva koja se koristi mobilnošću iz druge države članice EGP-a

which translates to…

5. enclose with the request for approval of the first temporary residence proof that he / she has not been convicted of criminal offenses from his / her home country or the country in which he / she resided for more than one year immediately before arriving in the Republic of Croatia, unless the posted worker within a company benefiting from mobility from another EEA Member State

Depending on your native country, this is likely easier to obtain while you’re still in your home country rather than once you get to Croatia. If you lived in a country different than your country of nationality for the previous 12 months, then you must provide a certificate of the length of stay as well – essentially proof you lived in that country the past 12 months. This can be a residence permit. A certificate of the length of stay is required for people who lived the last 12 months in a country other than the country of their nationality.

[Read: Background checks for third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA citizens)]

If you’re American, they want a federal background check, NOT one from your state. This is done through the FBI, and it involves having your fingerprints taken. Thanks to one of our vetted lawyers, US citizens (and other nationals) can now obtain fingerprints at MUP stations within Croatia.

You still need to send them to the FBI to get your identity history summary, though. It is still our recommendation that you do this entire process in the US before coming to Croatia.

Valid health insurance

To live in Croatia, you must have health insurance. New changes in the Law on Compulsory Health Insurance and Health Protection of Foreigners in the Republic of Croatia (Zakon o obveznom zdravstvenom osiguranju i zdravstvenoj zaštiti stranaca u Republici Hrvatskoj) states that digital nomads are exempt from mandatory obvezno state health insurance in Croatia.

[Read: Croatia’s state health care obvezno insurance, what it costs and what is included]

The Law says:

(12) Prijavu na obvezno zdravstveno osiguranje nije obvezan podnijeti državljanin treće zemlje na privremenom boravku u Republici Hrvatskoj, koji u Republici Hrvatskoj boravi u svrhu boravka digitalnog nomada, te je obvezan sam snositi troškove korištenja zdravstvene zaštite u zdravstvenoj ustanovi, odnosno kod zdravstvenog radnika privatne prakse ili drugog provoditelja zdravstvene zaštite u Republici Hrvatskoj.

Which translates as:

(12) An application for mandatory health insurance is not required to be submitted by a third-country national on temporary stay in the Republic of Croatia, who resides in the Republic of Croatia for the purpose of stay of digital nomad, and is obliged to bear the costs of using health care in health institution, private practice health worker or other health care provider in the Republic of Croatia.

To qualify for residence in Croatia, you must have private health insurance coverage for the entire term of your permit (up to 1 year) that covers you while in Croatia. You have the option to sign up for state health insurance after you are approved for residence, but it is not required as it is with other types of residence.

[Read: How to sign up for state health insurance]

Proof of sufficient funds

You must prove you can financially support yourself during the term of the residence permit.

The government has decided that the financial means of digital nomads must be equal to the amount of AT LEAST 2,5 times the average monthly neto salary paid for the previous year (based on the previous year’s average salary).

[Read: Minimum wage salaries in Croatia]

For each additional family member or life partner, or informal life partner, this amount is increased by 10% of the threshold.

The financial means amount for digital nomads is 2.539,31 euros per month.

There is no restriction on the source of income. It can come from working income, pension, investments, etc.

If you do not have a regular monthly income, then you can instead show that you have 12 months X the monthly amount in a bank account at once, e.g., 12 x 2.539,31 euros = 30.471,72 euros.

As proof of financial means, you may enclose:

  • Bank statement showing you have the total amount required for the year
  • Bank statement showing proof of regular income to the required monthly amount
  • Payslips for the last six months showing the required monthly amount

The amount of financial means for temporary and permanent stay in Croatia is defined by Regulation called Uredba o načinu izračuna i visini sredstava za uzdržavanje državljanina treće zemlje u Republici Hrvatskoj. It is available here.

[Read: How to show proof of financial means as part of your application for residence in Croatia]

Croatian address

Everyone in Croatia must have an address that is registered with the police. You may use a temporary address for the purposes of the application. This can be the address of the hostel, hotel, or accommodation if you have a confirmed reservation for your accommodation.

Once approved, you must have a notarized long-term rental contract, a landlord statement (if you are not paying rent), or an excerpt from the land registry proving your ownership of a property.

[Read: How to register or change your address with the Croatian police]

Step #4 Submit your application

For those who applied online, you’ll receive correspondence by email regarding your application. If additional documentation is required, the officer in charge of your case will contact you.

If applying in person, visit or contact the same police station you visited earlier to get the requirements and submit your application.

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

The attendant/rep/worker/officer (who knows what to call them) will review your submission to confirm you’ve met the requirements. If you have, they will accept your application for processing. If not, they will ask you for something else. Be prepared to be asked for something else, especially if it’s seemingly meaningless or redundant.

If your application was accepted for processing, make sure you provide a local phone number (preferably Croatian if you are in Croatia). This is how the police will communicate with you about your application.

[Read: Guide on Croatia’s mobile phone providers]

And now you patiently wait…

The time to process your application can vary depending on the police station and a variety of other factors. Expect processing to take at least 2 to 3 months, during which it would be best not to leave Croatia. If you need to travel outside of Croatia, ask MUP for their approval and information on how long you can be away. Be patient. You are legal to be in Croatia during this time, but you will continue to accrue time in Schengen as long as you do not have a valid residence permit.

Step #5 Approval of temporary stay

Once approved, you’ll be notified either by a blue envelope to your address, a phone call to you, or a phone call to your lawyer (if you’re using one). Presumably, those who applied online will receive an email with the decision on approval.

The further process varies depending on your scenario:

  • If you need a visa to enter Croatia – you must contact a Croatian embassy or consulate abroad and then obtain a D visa to enter Croatia and collect your biometric residence permit (find instructions on how to apply for a D visa here)
  • If you don’t need a visa to enter Croatia – you can enter Croatia according to the regulations of the Law on foreigners

Step #6 Register temporary address

Registering your granted temporary stay is another step in the process.

If you need a visa to enter Croatia, you must register your temporary stay at MUP within 30 days after your temporary stay or D visa is approved. Otherwise, your temporary stay will be revoked.

If you do not need a visa to enter Croatia, you must register your Croatian address within 3 days after you enter Croatia as a tourist. Within 30 days of approval, you must register your long-term residence address via a notarized rental contract, landlord statement, or land registry certificate. It cannot be an Airbnb or similar confirmation.

Again, go to the local police station according to your Croatian address.

You need to provide:

  • Application form Obrazac 16a – view it here
  • Notarized rental contract
  • Statement from the landlord (only if not paying rent)
  • Excerpt from the land registry (if you own the property)

[Read: How to register or change your address with the Croatian police]

Step #7 Obtain a biometric residence card

Everyone must get a biometric residence card called biometrijska dozvola boravka after approval of residence.

Return to the police station with your passport photos. At this time, they will take your fingerprints and signature. You’ll also have to provide proof of payment of the administrative fees.

In exchange for you giving them all these things, they will give you a white card. This is temporary proof of your residence. DO NOT LOSE IT.

Passport photos

Every country requires a different size photo, so best to get them in Croatia. Usually, there is at least one shop that does passport photos right next to the police station. It can cost around 14 euros to get a package of photos.

You don’t need to provide these until your permit has been approved.

Step #8 Pick up your biometric residence card

Three weeks from the day you got your little white card, you’ll be able to pick up your new residence permit. You will need to provide that white card along with your passport, which is why I said in all caps, DO NOT LOSE IT.

Step #9 Celebrate!

Hooray! You’re legal!

Administrative fees for the whole procedure

Fees at the Croatian embassy or consulate abroad

If you submit the request at the Croatian embassy or consulate outside of Croatia, you must pay administrative costs WHEN APPLYING.

You must pay fees for:

  • Temporary residence
  • Visa
  • Residence card

All possible administrative costs for this procedure are available here. Payment information is available here.

Fees at the police station in Croatia

If you submit the request at the local police administration office in Croatia, you must pay administrative costs AFTER the stay is granted.

Police will provide you with the required payment slips, but you can also pay these fees via online payment.

You must pay fees for:

  • Temporary residence
  • Residence card
  • Issuing residence permit

All the costs and payment information are available here.

[Read: How to pay bills in Croatia]

Will digital nomads be charged income tax while in Croatia?

Several amendments were made to the tax code and finalized on December 11, 2020. One of those amendments defines the income of a digital nomad and provides an exemption from tax on working income. We’ve translated this amendment for your reference below.

The amendment states:

Članak 9.

(1) Porez na dohodak ne plaća se na:

26. primitke fizičkih osoba ostvarene po osnovi obavljanja nesamostalnog rada ili djelatnosti za poslodavca koji nije registriran u Republici Hrvatskoj temeljem stečenog statusa digitalnog nomada sukladno posebnom propisu.

which translates to…

Article 9

(1) Income tax shall not be paid on:

26. receipts of natural persons realized on the basis of performing non-independent work or activity for an employer who is not registered in the Republic of Croatia on the basis of the acquired status of digital nomad in accordance with a special regulation.

You may view the full law here.

There are two things to keep in mind:

#1 This is an exemption on working income. It is NOT an exemption on passive income. That means you are liable to report and potentially pay tax to Croatia on passive income while you are a resident.

#2 This exemption does not mean you don’t have to report your income made while living in Croatia to your home country. Make sure you know what your home country requires with regards to income made while living abroad.

#3 This exemption is for the digital nomad, not their spouse.

For example, the United States of America doesn’t care where you live in the world. They require that you report your income annually, regardless of your location. You may also need to file an FBAR annually, which is a fun privacy-violating form just for US expats living abroad. Make sure you know what an FBAR is and if you need to file one because the penalties for not doing so involve prison sentences.

My fellow self-employed Americans also need to know that you have to pay self-employment tax to the US, even if you live abroad full-time and even if Croatia doesn’t make you pay tax in Croatia.

You can view a list of the countries that do have a double taxation treaty with Croatia here.

View frequently asked questions about Croatia’s digital nomad permit here.

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Meet CAM in this quick 2-minute video here.

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First-time clients automatically get an extra 30 minutes with an English-speaking lawyer from our vetted network.

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Sources:
Ministry of the Interior
Temporary stay of digital nomads
Privremeni boravak u svrhu boravka digitalnih nomada
Putne isprave
Regulirano pitanje zdravstvenog osiguranja digitalnih nomada u Hrvatskoj by hrturizam.hr
Digital nomad basic information form

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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