Up until Croatia entered the European Union, it was near impossible to get a residence permit in Croatia as a non-EU national. Even after accession, it is still very challenging to live here long term as a non-European citizen. However, in post-EU Croatia now offers a temporary 1-year residence permit for non-EU nationals.
In this post, we will cover:
- Most important things you need to know about this type of temporary residence (before you apply)
- What the law says about this basis for temporary residence
- How to apply for temporary residence as a non-EU citizen, step by step
- Requirements for temporary residence
- Additional tips for those applying for temporary residence
- How to get help with your application for temporary residence
There are catches. Well, there are several:
- It is only for 1 year
- You cannot work for a Croatian company
- You must prepay rent for 1 year
- There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
- You must leave for 90 days at the end of the permit period
- You cannot apply for this permit again until 6 months and 1 day have passed from the time your previous permit expired
Even though there is no limit written in the law on foreigners about how many times you can apply for this permit, in practice some police stations will limit you to using this basis 2 consecutive times. Police stations have a lot of discretion and that discretion varies by station.
If you contact an embassy or consulate, they will likely tell you this residence permit does not exist likely because you can’t apply for this permit abroad. It is common for police stations in smaller cities to not know about it as well.
Considering the volume of tourists stuck in Croatia due to coronavirus, local police stations are encouraging tourists to apply for this type of permit.
In the law on foreigners, this permit is considered temporary residence based on “other purposes”. It is listed under Article 47, Paragraph 4. We’ve pulled out the appropriate text from the law below.
Iznimno od stavka 1. ovoga članka, državljaninu treće zemlje se može odobriti privremeni boravak i u druge svrhe do godine dana. Zahtjev za reguliranje boravka u druge svrhe državljanin treće zemlje može podnijeti nakon isteka roka od šest mjeseci od isteka važenja privremenog boravka koji je bio odobren u druge svrhe.
which translates to…
By way of derogation from paragraph 1 of this Article, a third-country national may be granted temporary residence for other purposes for up to one year. An application for the regulation of residence for other purposes may be submitted by a third-country national after the expiry of a period of six months from the expiry of the temporary residence permit granted for other purposes.
You might notice that it doesn’t reference prepayment of rent as a requirement and that overall, this part of the law is a bit vague. That is because there are several valid reasons why someone could get residence based on these “druge svrhe” (other purposes).
Those “other purposes” are only defined in practice, not in the law. Prepayment is one of those purposes that is defined in practice.
Step #1 Visit the police station
To apply for this residence permit, you must visit the police (Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova aka “MUP”) in the jurisdiction where you plan to live within Croatia. At this station, there will be a service desk specifically for foreigners (“stranci”).
Here is a full list of the administrative police stations that handle immigration. Due to pandemic measures, most police stations are now requiring that you make an appointment in advance.
Once you make first contact with the police, tell them that you want to apply for temporary residence based on prepayment of rent. They will provide you with the latest list of requirements. You can likely get this over email now due to pandemic measures.
Once you have confirmed the latest requirements, you can start putting together your application. The rule of thumb in Croatia is to never provide anything that is not asked of you. That is why it is important to get the latest list from the police station where you plan to apply.
We’ve provided a list of the requirements below, but as noted above, police stations in Croatia love to exercise their right to discretion.
The standard requirements for this type of temporary stay in Croatia for non-Europeans includes:
- A completed application, which the police will provide
- A valid passport
- Criminal background check *NEW FOR 2021*
- People applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check from their country of nationality. This is a brand new requirement that goes into effect January 1, 2021.
- A valid private/travel health insurance policy (called “putno”)** See description below
- A valid rental contract, prepaid for 1 year
- Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
- (2) Passport photos
- Application Fee
Let’s go through each requirement, one by one.
Your passport needs to be valid, which means its validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of intended stay. The police will make a copy of this for your application. Take your passport with you EVERY 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.
Background checks *NEW FOR 2021*
People applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check as part of their application. This is a brand new requirement that goes into effect January 1, 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. We have a separate guide on getting your background check here.
Valid Health Insurance
To live in Croatia on this permit, you must have state-sponsored national health insurance from HZZO. However, Croatia will not allow you to sign up for a policy with HZZO until AFTER you’ve been approved for a residence permit.
To be approved for the permit, you must first show that you have some other kind of private health insurance. In Croatia, travel insurance is called “putno zdravstveno osiguranje”, which will also meet this requirement. That being said, your private health insurance does not need to be with a Croatian health insurance company.
Once your permit is approved, you will have 8 days to sign up for health insurance with HZZO. You will be required to pay a monthly health insurance premium AND a one-time payment of premiums for the previous year. You read more more about this here.
Valid Rental Contract
You have found a place to live. Superb. Before signing a contract, make it clear to your landlord that you are required to register with the police. Some landlords do not want to rent to foreigners for this reason because it increases their taxes. If you run into this problem, offer to pay the taxes yourself. Income tax is 12% on rental property.
Once you are in agreement with the landlord, have them prepare a lease contract for 1 year with it clearly noted that you have prepaid rent for the entire term. Some people have been able to work it out with their landlord so that the least contract says they prepaid for the year, when in reality, they will pay month-to-month.
The lease contract must be in Croatian and notarized by a javni bilježnik (notary). If you cannot get your landlord to have it notarized, they must accompany you to the police to prove they own the property and confirm they are renting to you in combination with providing a non-notarized lease contract.
In addition to this fulfilling the requirement for prepaid rent, it will also be used to register your address. This address will be on your national identification card.
Some police stations have waived the prepayment requirement for those stuck in Croatia due to the pandemic if they are staying for a shorter term. This is an exception, not the rule so be prepared to pay for a full year’s rent regardless.
Application for Temporary Stay
This application will be provided by the MUP. However, you can preview a copy here.
Proof of sufficient funds
Since you won’t legally be able to work on this permit, you need to prove you can financially support yourself during the permit term. MUP will tell you how much you must have to qualify. The amount can vary as it is based on average salaries for the previous year. Here are the current minimums.
Lately, the police have been accepting a foreign bank statement to show your funds. However, be prepared for them to require you to open a Croatian bank account and deposit the sum there.
If they require that you show a Croatian bank statement, then you must deposit this amount in one lump sum into a Croatian bank account. Once the lump sum is deposited, request a statement from the bank showing the funds then take this to the police for your application.
Here is more info on opening a bank account in Croatia.
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 100 kn to get a package of photos.
You don’t need to provide these until your permit has been approved.
It seems that the application fee can change daily, but assume you’ll pay at least 450 kn per application. You won’t pay this at the police station. The police will give you a bill that you take to a nearby bank (normally one they specify) to pay. Then you bring the proof of payment back to the police.
Step #3 Submit your application
Visit the same police station you visited earlier to get the requirements and go to the same Stranci desk. They will give you the application to complete there. Fill it out and hand it over with all of your requirements.
The attendant/rep/worker/officer (who knows what to call them) will review all of your documents to confirm you’ve met the requirements. If you have, they will accept your application. 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, make sure you provide a Croatian phone number. This is how the police will communicate with you about your application.
And now you wait…
The time to process your application varies on too many factors to list. Expect it to take at least a month, during which you should not leave Croatia. Be patient. You are legal to be in Croatia during this time.
Step #4 Pay the fees and deliver your photos
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).
You’ll return to the police station with your passport photos. At this time, they will take your fingerprints and signature. You’ll also have to pay the administrative fees mentioned earlier, which cannot be paid at the police station. You must go off site to a bank or post office, then return with proof of payment.
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.
Step #5 Pick up your residence card
Three weeks from the day you got your little white card, you’ll be able to pick up your brand new residence permit. You will need to hand over that card, which is why I said in all caps DO NOT LOSE IT.
Step #6 Celebrate!
Hooray! You’re legal!
- Be nice. If you get an attitude with the police, they have the discretion to make it as difficult for you as possible.
- Do not go to the police between the hours of 11:00 and 13:00. Chances of you coming when they are at lunch or on a smoke break or grumpy because they’ve yet to have a smoke break or lunch are high. For the best results, go in the morning around 8:00 or 9:00.
We recommend that everyone use a lawyer when applying for residency in Croatia. Lawyers have connections within immigration, are able to skip common roadblocks and can identify any risks with your application. In addition, it is rare that the police (who handle immigration) will speak English to applicants.
Our expat-vetted immigration lawyers can review your situation and quickly determine if you qualify for residency, all in English. If you do qualify, they can also handle your residency application from beginning to end. This service includes:
- Personalized consulting on your specific situation
- Confirming latest immigration requirements for your nationality and basis
- Assistance with putting together necessary documents
- All communication with the police on your behalf
- Assembly, submission and monitoring of your application
- Answering questions and assisting you throughout the process
To consult with an immigration lawyer to find out if you qualify to live in Croatia long term, please complete the form below and we’ll contact you as soon as possible.
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.