How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia: Guide for 2024

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UPDATED: 5.10.2023.

You may be asked to provide the Croatian government with various documents in some situations, either provided by a foreign government or personal documents like proof of health insurance or employment.

The procedure is not as simple as just providing the documents to the Croatian government. There are specific steps you must go through to prepare those documents so that they will be accepted.

Situations where you may need to provide documents include applications for Croatian residence or Croatian citizenship, registering the birth of a Croatian child abroad or registering a marriage, and getting a diploma or certification recognized. There are other scenarios, but these are the most common.

If your documents are not adequately prepared, they will be rejected. This post outlines how exactly you must prepare your documents so you don’t get blindsided or delayed when using them on the Croatia side.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia

Which documents you could provide to Croatia?

There are two types of foreign documents you may need to provide to the Croatian government:

  • Government-issued documents
  • Non-government-issued documents

Government-issued documents

Any government-issued document intended for use outside the country of issue must go through the preparation process described in our next section. These could be birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, background checks, diplomas, and the like.

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

The only exception is for passports. If you’re applying for Croatian citizenship abroad from a Croatian embassy or consulate, you’ll need to provide a notarized copy of your passport confirming it is your document and validates your signature. This can be done by any registered notary. If your passport is not in English, then your passport will need to be notarized and officially translated. Jump to Step #3 to see how that is done.

[Read: How to apply for Croatian citizenship (hrvatsko državljanstvo)]

If you plan to use court documents in Croatia, they only need to be officially translated. Jump to Step #3 to see how that is done.

Non-government documents

Documents that fall into this bucket may include employment contracts or bank statements, which can be frequently requested during a residence process.

[Read: Available visas and residence permits for Croatia]

Supporting documentation for a citizenship application that was not issued by a government such as a ship manifest or your CV biography are also examples.

These documents only need to be translated into Croatian, and the translation does not need to be “official”. Official translations are done by registered court interpreters who also attach a seal to the translation, similar to a notarization. An official translation is only required for government-issued documents.

There are exceptions. The following documents do not need to be translated into Croatian as long as they are in English:

  • Bank statements
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof you are a digital nomad (employment contract)

[Read: How to apply for the digital nomad residence permit in Croatia]

Preparation procedure for foreign state documents used in Croatia

When preparing a foreign government-issued document for use in Croatia, there are several steps you must go through in a specific order. They can be confusing, so we want to make sure we are crystal clear to save you headache down the line.

Step #1 – Obtain an original

The first step is to obtain an original (or new certified copy) of the document. A photocopy of a document will not work, which will make more sense in the next step. Get a brand new copy from whomever issued the document.

In many countries, states, and provinces, you won’t be able to do Step #2 without a brand new recently-issued original.

Step #2 – Request apostille or legalization

Once you have the original document, it must be apostilled or legalized. The original document cannot be submitted to the Croatian government all on its own. It must be further verified by the issuing authority through apostille or legalization.

Apostille/legalization is a form of authentication. With an apostille or legalization, a government authority is confirming that is is a real document. This is to prevent fraud and counterfeit.

In most cases, the issuing authority will not apostille or legalize an old document. They want a newly-issued original to perform the authentication. Every authority has its own rules.

What is the difference between apostille and legalization?

In 1961, a group of countries got together in The Hague and agreed that documents issued by their governments could be used in each other’s countries as long as they had an “apostille”. An apostille is a document that gets attached to your original with a specific seal that acts as a guarantee and validation that it is a real document that they issued.

You can find out if your country is part of this convention here.

If you have a document issued in a country that is not party to this convention, it needs to go through a process of full legalization instead of just apostille. It’s a two-step process, instead of just one. First, a document must be authenticated by your issuing authority, then legalized by the nearest Croatian consulate abroad.

Learn more about the differences between apostille and legalization this guide.

How do I get an apostille?

To get an apostille, you must go to the issuing authority in your country, state or province. You can find the issuing authority for most countries on this site.

Of course, there are exceptions. If your document was issued by an individual state in the United States, you must go to the Secretary of State within that state. Only federally-issued documents can be apostilled by the federal government, like an FBI identity history summary.

How do I legalize my document?

If your country is not party to the Apostille Convention, the document must be fully legalized for use in Croatia. We’ve outlined the procedure for full legalization here.

For example, Malaysia is still not party to the convention so their documents must be legalized.

Step #3 Official translation

After your document has been apostilled/legalized, it can then be officially translated into Croatian. The translation must be an official translation performed by a registered Croatian court interpreter.

The translator will translate both the original document and the apostille/legalization papers. The translation will be attached to all of the documents in a packet.

Usually, people wait until they arrive in Croatia to have this procedure completed, since it’s much easier and cheaper that way. However, if you are living abroad and applying for Croatian citizenship through an embassy or consulate, they may be able to arrange the official translation for you.

NOTE: All foreign documents and their attached apostille/legalization must be in the Croatian language. If you cannot find an official translator who can translate the document from your language directly into Croatian, first have it officially translated into English, then use another translator from English to Croatian.

Beware of processing times and expiration Croatia implements

If are planning to use your document in Croatia, make sure you plan ahead.

Croatia implements an expiration of 6 months from the date of issue on government documents – NOT the date of apostille. For a long time, they said it was the date of apostille, but we received an official decision from MUP stating it is from the date of document’s issue.

So, don’t wait until the last minute, and make sure you properly plan ahead.

View our other residence posts

View our other citizenship posts

Legalization of documents by e-Građani
Legalization of documents by MVEP

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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