Does Croatia have a “golden visa”?

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PUBLISHED: 09.01.2023.

Croatia does not have a “golden visa”. Unequivocally, bluntly, without a shadow of a doubt, DOES NOT HAVE.

A “golden visa” is a term that refers to an immigration program whereby a person can obtain residence in a country by making a substantial investment.

Different countries define investment differently.

For example, in Portugal, you can buy a property or create 10 jobs or fund research, or simply deposit 1,5 million euros into a bank account. In Italy, you can make a 2 million euro donation or buy government bonds. In the UAE, you can deposit 2 million AED into an investment fund among other options.

In a nutshell, a “golden visa” is when a person is paying for the privilege to live in a country not of their nationality. Their money is all that matters.

In some instances, they only need to spend a small amount of time in the country, and they can get on a guaranteed path to permanent residence and citizenship.

Croatia does not have a golden visa residence program.

That does not stop some web sites from claiming that Croatia has a golden visa and that they can help you obtain one – for a fee, of course.

I’ve even seen some claim there is also a “100% tax exemption” that comes with it, which was clearly pulled out of someone’s butt and then published on the internet without any due diligence.

Periodically, we receive emails from people asking about it. Usually, they do not ask “if” Croatia has a golden visa. More commonly, they say, “I heard Croatia has a golden visa. What are the terms?”

“Well, there are no terms because it’s not true.”

“But somebody on YouTube said Croatia has a golden visa.”

“Well, that somebody on YouTube is lying.”

“Uhhhhh, but I want it to be true.”

“I want abs like Jennifer Aniston, but we can’t all get what we want.”

“Why doesn’t Croatia want my money?”

“Croatia wants your money; they just don’t want you to accompany that money. If you’re willing to gift it to the state, but never step foot into the country, I think that is something Croatia might be interested in.”

While Croatia doesn’t have a purely money-in-exchange-for-residence program, they do have a couple programs that could be deemed as forms of investment, but there are strings and limitations, unlike the traditional golden visa programs.

If you are an EU/EEA citizen or a family member of one, this post doesn’t apply to you.

  • Click here if you’re an EU/EEA citizen
  • Click here if you’re the family member of an EU/EEA citizen
  • Click here if you’re the family member of a Croatian citizen

Everybody else may kindly proceed to learn about investment-adjacent options for living in Croatia.

The facts are these…

Residence based on buying property in Croatia

Buying property in Croatia is not a privilege that is open to all, but more people can buy here than you might think.

Residential property can be purchased by a citizen of any country with a reciprocity agreement. Reciprocity essentially means… our citizens can buy property in your country; your citizens can buy property in our country.

Croatia has reciprocity agreements with many, though not all, countries in the world. Croatia’s reciprocity with Canada is with its individual provinces. Similarly, Croatia has agreements with individual states in the USA, rather than the federal government. Bosnia and Herzegovina is broken up into three regions, all with different rules.

Additionally, just because your country/state/province has reciprocity, doesn’t mean the rules are all the same.

For example, Australian citizens can only buy property in Croatia if they hold permanent residence in Croatia – which is a Mount Everest-sized summit nearly impossible to reach. A Malaysian citizen must spend at least 55.000 USD and can only use the property for commercial purposes. Albanians can only purchase if the price is 3X the value of the land.

View all the current reciprocity agreements here.

So, let’s say that you are legally allowed to purchase property here. How can you live in Croatia based on buying a property?

Croatia has a program prescribed in the Zakon o strancima (Law on foreigners) referred to as “other purposes” in English. This is a broad catch-all category for a variety of miscellaneous purposes for obtaining residence.

One of those “other purposes” is the purchase of a residential property. There is no minimum or maximum investment (unless defined in the reciprocity agreement). You don’t have to buy in a specific area. The only rules are that it must be zoned as residential, and you must live in it.

Once you make the purchase and have been added to the land registry as the owner, then you can apply for temporary residence based on owning this property.

It’s important to note that it can take 6 months or longer from the first step of identifying a property to the last step of being added to the land registry.

Aside from proving you are the owner, you must also provide a criminal background back, health insurance, and proof you have the funds to support yourself.

You can view the latest requirements and process to apply for this permit here.

Learn how to buy a property in Croatia here.

Are there catches? Of course.

  • You are not legally allowed to work
  • If you wish to apply for this permit again, you must wait 6 months in between applications, during which you must leave Croatia for at least 90 days
  • The time on this permit does not count towards permanent residence
  • Your permit may be granted for either 6 months or 1 year (the government is inconsistent on this)
  • Family reunification does not apply

In our experience, this permit is best for people who split their time between Croatia and another country.

Residence based on opening a business in Croatia

Croatia is an incredible place to open a business. I have traveled all over Croatia and beyond, talking about why people should do business in Croatia.

Check out those speeches:

  • 3 reasons you should open a company in Croatia – Watch here
  • 4 ways Croatia made me better at my job – Watch here
  • 4 types of entrepreneurs in Croatia – Watch here

There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for anyone willing to be serious and fill a gap in the market.

Croatia does offer residence to people who wish to come to Croatia and open a business. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Let’s start at the beginning.

When a company is opened, a director must be employed. The director must reside in Croatia, and they must be legally allowed to work.

If you are a third-country national (e.g., not from the EU/EEA) and are not a family member of a Croatian/EU/EEA national, then you most likely do not have the right to work.

[Read: Who has the right to work in Croatia]

You can open and own a company without the right to work. However, you cannot be employed by that company (like, as a director) without the right to work.

To be employed by a company you own, you must obtain the right to work for that company. To obtain the right to work, you (and your company) must meet certain requirements – and those requirements are steep.

You must:

  • Own at least 51% of the shares in a d.o.o., j.d.o.o. or obrt OR be the founder of a d.o.o. or j.d.o.o. – Learn about these types of business structures here
  • Invest at least 26.544,56 euros in that business as startup capital
  • Hire at least 3 Croatian citizens on indefinite, full-time contracts who are paid at least the average bruto salary for the previous year – Learn what is “bruto” here
  • Pay yourself 1,5 times the average bruto salary for the previous year if owning a j.d.o.o or d.o.o. – Learn about minimum wages here
  • Prove you are earning an income of at least 1,5 times the average bruto salary for the previous year if owning an obrt

I do not recommend anyone go this route purely to obtain residence. It is extremely costly and obligates you to quite a bit of bureaucracy.

If you truly want to open and operate a business, then this is the path you would have to take if you don’t inherently have the right to work.

For most business models, these requirements are not realistic unless you have a restaurant or some other structure that requires at least 4 people from the moment you open.

If you submit to all of these requirements, you can get a work and residence permit with a legal right to work for your business for one year. Then you must get a new permit year after year, during which you must continue to meet the above requirements.

The time you spend on this permit does count towards permanent residence, and your family can join you through family reunification.

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What is family reunification?

Family reunification is used when a person applies for residence due to their familial relationship with another person who has a right to be in Croatia on some other basis. Learn more about applying for residence on this basis here.

Learn more about the exact requirements and process for obtaining residence by opening a business here.

Is Croatia planning to offer a “golden visa”?

Nothing is ever certain in Croatia, but I feel pretty confident in saying that Croatia will never offer a golden visa or residence-by-investment scheme in the future.

I know you should never say never, but I’m saying never.

My confidence stems from their existing immigration policies. A great example of this is the above-mentioned work and residence permit through a company you own. The requirement of employing three full-time Croatians is intentionally meant to discourage you from taking this path. The government does not want people opening a business specifically to get residence.

Another example is the digital nomad residence permit – colloquially and incorrectly referred to as the “digital nomad visa”. If you wish to apply for this permit a second time, you must wait 6 months in between applications – just like the other purposes permit I mentioned above.

If a non-EU/EEA citizen wants to live in Croatia, they can do that easily for a year, maybe two. After that, there are mechanisms in place to make it as difficult as possible for you to sustain a long-term presence in this country.

[Read: All the residence permits available in Croatia]

Reaching permanent residence without being a family member of a Croatian or EU/EEA citizen is quite difficult.

There are ways to “hack” the system, which we can guide you on.

If you’re considering Croatia for any long-term stay, it’s vital to know that everyone’s situation is different, as are their resources and tolerance for pain. My recommendation is to look at all the options and find the one that best suits your situation so you can try Croatia out.

Who knows? You might not like it. If you do, then it’s much easier to find more creative ways to stay, and we would be over-the-moon to help you figure out how to do that.

Skip the research! Save time and talk to EIC.

We crafted this post to be as detailed as possible, but sometimes questions still arise because everyone’s situation is different. If you’d like personalized guidance on your situation, we can help.

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Carol Anne Škorvaga, known to us as “CAM”, is a first-generation Croatian-Canadian living in Jastrebarsko with her family. She grew up entrenched in the Croatian community surrounded by culture and folklore, attended Croatian school in Canada and then returned to Zagreb to attend Filozofski Fakultet. CAM is fluent in Croatian and has firsthand knowledge of being both a Canadian expat and a Croatian returnee, building a home in Croatia and being a parent with children in local schools.

Meet CAM in this quick 2-minute video here.

Sara Dyson is the founder of Expat in Croatia. She has lived in Split, Croatia as a US citizen since 2012 and experienced first-hand applying for temporary residence, long-term residence and Croatian citizenship. She’s also operated 2 companies, purchased a home, and written about Croatia and its bureaucracy extensively since 2013. Her application is citizenship is based on her work through Expat in Croatia. Read Sara’s full bio here.

Meet Sara in this quick 2-minute video here.

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The below costs are per 30 minutes and include VAT (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government). If additional time is requested, it is billed in ¼ hour increments.

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

Carol Anne Škorvaga

  • First-time clients  |  150 euros (includes session with lawyer)
  • Repeat clients  |  75 euros

Sara Dyson

  • First-time clients  |  250 euros (includes session with lawyer)
  • Repeat clients  |  150 euros

It takes a tremendous amount of hands-on, human work to research and vet our information that we provide during sessions. This process includes extensive web research, phone calls to the government, collaboration with licensed Croatian professionals, and visits to government, collaboration with licensed Croatian professionals, and visits to government offices.

It’s not something that ChatGPT can do. We must employ skilled, full-time employees who live in Croatia and that comes with a cost.

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You can view our last few reviews here or all of our reviews here.

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View our other visa posts


Sources:
Zakon o strancima

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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