How to apply for a work permit in Croatia: Guide for 2024

Worker preparing food on Advent festival in Zagreb, Croatia
Worker preparing popular food on Advent festival in Zagreb, Croatia

UPDATED: 18.1.2023.

Croatia is currently in need of a lot of workers. There are lots of industries, like construction and tourism, that simply do not have enough people to fill all the open positions. As a result, Croatian companies are looking abroad to fill these roles. The company hires a foreigner and the government grants a work permit.

This shortage of labor is partly because young Croatians are moving abroad to other EU countries and partly because Croatians don’t want to do these kinds of jobs. If you are a citizen of a non-EU country, you may apply for a work permit in Croatia if you meet the right conditions. If you are a citizen from an EU/EEA member state, then this post is better suited for your situation.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to apply for a work permit

Who qualifies for a work permit in Croatia

A residence permit based on employment is a unique permit, which provides temporary residence and allows one to work for a specific Croatian company in Croatia.

To qualify for a work permit, you must meet these two criteria:

  • Are a third-country national (non-EU)
  • Have been offered a work contract with a Croatian company

Why do you have to be a non-EU national? Because EU nationals are allowed to work automatically as part of their basis for temporary residence. If you are an EU national, check out this post.

There is a common misunderstanding about work permits in Croatia. That misunderstanding is that you can just apply for a work permit and then go get a job. In reality, it is the opposite. You must have a job offer first, and then the company applies for a work and residence permit on your behalf.

A work permit is tied to a specific work contract. Because of this, the term of your residence permit will match the term of your work contract, up to a 1-year maximum. If your work contract is terminated (either by you or the employer), your work and residence permit will be terminated within 15 days.

So, if you want to be granted a work and residence permit in Croatia, the first thing you need to do is get a job.

How to get a job in Croatia

Your very first step, BEFORE you can apply for a work permit, is to get a job in Croatia. You cannot apply for a work permit before you have a job.

We have a detailed guide on how to find a job in Croatia. Check it out here.

Once you find a job, you can start your work permit application. The employer must provide you with one of the following as proof you were hired:

  • An offer of employment with a Croatian company
  • A valid employment contract or other proof of employment

After you have one of the above, then the company can request a work and residence permit on your behalf. However, there are a few steps the company must go through before they can request your permit, which we explain in the next section.

Work permit quotas and the labor market test

Starting January 1, 2021, work quotas are abolished. This means that there is no limit to the number of foreign workers that can be hired within Croatia. This is definitely progress, but there is still one hoop that a company must jump through before they can hire a foreigner. This hoop is called the “labor market test”.

If a Croatian employer wishes to hire a non-EU national, then they must first request permission from the employment agency called HZZ before they can request a work and residence permit for a foreign worker. HZZ will perform a labor market test to determine if they will grant the company permission to hire the foreigner.

A company can apply for a labor market test if they want to hire employees full-time or part-time. However, employing a person part-time depends on the HZZ’s decision. In this case, the future part-time employee must have a “neto” salary in a minimum amount of approximately 449 euro (3.381 kuna). If this requirement is met, HZZ may give a green light for the employment of a part-time employee.

The labor market test

The labor market test should be completed within 15 days after the employer requests permission from HZZ. As part of the test, HZZ will check if there are unemployed persons in their database who would meet the employer’s requirements for the role. Employer’s requirements usually include a certain level of education, educational qualification, work experience, and other requirements that employers find important for the position. If HZZ finds potential workers based on the requirements, they will refer them to the employer.

After receiving the list of potential workers from HZZ, the employer must send feedback on every referred worker back to HZZ. Based on the feedback from employers and potential workers, HZZ will send a decision on the performed test to the employer.

If the result of the test is positive, this means that the employer will be granted permission to hire a foreign worker within 90 days. A positive result means that the referred workers were not qualified for the position and therefore the employer can hire a foreigner for the role. If the result of the test is negative, the employer will not be permitted to hire a foreign worker.

Employers can send the request for the labor market test to the closest HZZ office to the company by email. The full list of HZZ administration offices is available here. Click on “Ispostave” under regionalni ured (regional office) to find the office that you need.

Communication between employers and HZZ will be done via this online service.

Exemption from the labor market test

There are several scenarios when the labor market test isn’t required. This implies:

  • Deficient occupations
  • Extension of the work permit for the same employer and the same third-country national
  • Seasonal employment of third-country nationals in agriculture, forestry, catering, and tourism (for up to 90 days during one calendar year)
  • Groups listed in Article 110 of the Aliens Act (key staff in companies, EU blue card, persons transferred within the company, etc.)

Exempt occupations

There are some occupations for which the labor market test isn’t required. This is called the “brz uvoz radnika” (rapid import of workers). HZZ has made a list of occupations that are exempt from the labor market test.

Occupations from the list have worker shortages, and as a result, there is an increased and sustained demand for them in the Croatian labor market.

Here are occupations exempt from the labor market test:

  • Auto mechanics (Automehaničar)
  • Baker (Pekar)
  • Building worker (Radnik visokogradnje)
  • Butcher (Mesar)
  • Auto body worker (Autolimar)
  • Auto paint worker (Autolakirer)
  • Carpenter (Tesar)
  • Chef of national cuisine (Kuhar nacionalne kuhinje)
  • Civil engineering worker (Radnik niskogradnje)
  • Concrete mixer (Betonirač)
  • Confectioner (Pastry chef)
  • Construction operator (Rukovatelj građevinskim strojevima)
  • Crane operator (Rukovatelj kranom)
  • Electrician (Elektroinstalater)
  • Electrician (Elektromonter)
  • Fur and leather cutter (Krojitelj krzna i kože)
  • Heating and air conditioning (Instalater grijanja i klimatizacije)
  • House painter and painter (Soboslikar i ličilac)
  • Installer of building elements (Monter građevinskih elemenata)
  • Installer of metal structures (Monter metalnih konstrukcija)
  • Insulators (Izolater)
  • Joiner (Stolar)
  • Layer of ceramic tiles (Polagač keramičkih pločica)
  • Leather worker (Kožarski radnik)
  • Locksmith (Bravar)
  • Maintenance electrician (Električar održavanja)
  • Mason (Zidar)
  • Pipeline fitter (Monter cjevovoda)
  • Plasterer (Fasader)
  • Plumber (Vodoinstalater)
  • Programmer (Programer)
  • Reinforcer (Armirač)
  • Roofer (Krovopokrivač)
  • Stonemason (Klesar)
  • System administrator (Sistemski administrator)
  • Tinsmith (Limar)
  • Truck driver (Vozač teretnog vozila)
  • Truck driver with trailer (Vozač teretnog vozila s prikolicom)
  • Underlayer (Podopolagač)
  • User interface designer (Dizajner korisničkog sučelja)
  • Waterproofing (Hidroizolater)
  • Welder (Zavarivač)

A complete list of exempt occupations is available here.

How Croatian companies can request a work and residence permit for a foreign employee

After employers get the green light from HZZ, they must request a work permit for their new foreign employees. Employers must send a request for a work permit to MUP via this page.

The employer must provide:

  • Employment contract
  • Proof of fulfillment of requirements that employers require from new employees in the labor market test that usually includes:
    • Certain level of education
    • Educational qualification
    • Work experience
    • Other requirements defined by employers
  • Employee’s apostilled/legalized background check + certificate on the length of stay in a foreign country – Certificate of length of stay is required for people who lived the last 12 months in a country other than the country of their nationality.
  • Employee’s passport

Croatian employers must also fulfill several requirements as well to be given permission to hire a third-country citizen.

The requirements are:

  • Employers must perform a business activity registered in Croatia
  • Employers have paid the income tax and contributions for mandatory insurance
  • Employers have at least one full-time employee who is Croatian or EEA citizen and long-term employed in the last 6 months OR at least one employee who is Croatian or EEA citizen in the previous season if they have a seasonal trade business. Learn more about trade businesses in Croatia here.
  • Employers have not been convicted for criminal acts in the field of labor relations and social security
  • At least ¼ of employees in employers’ business have to be citizens of Croatia or EEA member state

All possible administrative costs for this procedure are available here.

Work placement

An employee on a work placement can work in Croatia based on the following conditions:

  • There is a valid contract between the end user of the service and the worker’s employer
  • The employer is a temporary employment agency that can assign the worker to the end user in Croatia
  • The foreign company sends their worker to work in an office or a branch set up in Croatia

A third-country national or EEA citizen can be sent by their native (foreign) company to work in Croatia for a temporary or periodic duration.

If the worker holds an A1 certificate (issued by the parent country of the worker), he or she can work in Croatia for up to 90 days without a certificate of employment or a residence and work permit.

If the placement of the worker needs to be extended beyond 90 days, the administrative police station may:

  • Grant temporary residence and issue a residence permit to the third-country national
  • Grant a citizen of the EEA a certificate of temporary admission for work

Permanent residence

The time spent on a temporary residence in Croatia based on granted work and permit counts when applying for permanent residence in Croatia. However, it doesn’t count for:

  • Seasonal workers
  • Service providers
  • Instructed workers
  • Volunteers
  • Trainees
  • People relocated within a company and their family members
  • Border workers
  • People defined by Protocol on the Accession of the Republic of Croatia to the Marrakesh Treaty on Establishing the World Trade Organization and their family members

Family reunification

Family members of third-country nationals with a work and stay permit in Croatia can get a temporary stay based on family reunification. Family members can apply for a temporary stay if their family member with a Croatian work permit has a continuous temporary residence in Croatia for at least a year.

Family members include:

  • Spouses
  • Common-law partners
  • Minor child of spouses and common-law partners, life partners or informal life partners and a minor child of each of them, their minor adopted child or a minor adopted child of each of them who are not married, minor child of a life partner or informal life partner or their minor adopted child outside of marriage
  • Parent or adoptive parent of a minor child of a Croatian citizen, a third-country national who has been granted long-term residence or permanent residence, asylum, or subsidiary protection
  • Other relatives if there are special personal or serious humanitarian reasons for family reunification in the Republic of Croatia.

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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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