How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia

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In certain situations, you may be asked to provide the Croatian government with documents issued by a foreign government. In these cases, it is not as simple as just providing the documents to the Croatian government as is. There are certain steps you must go through to prepare those documents so that they will be accepted.

Situations where you may need to provide foreign government documents include applications for residence in Croatia, registration of the birth of a Croatian child abroad, or requests for Croatian citizenship. There are definitely other scenarios, but these are the most common.

If your documents are not properly prepared, they will be rejected. In this post, we outline exactly how to prepare your documents so that you don’t get blindsided or delayed when using them on the Croatia side.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Let’s get started…

Which documents are we talking about?

Any government-issued document intended for use outside the country of issue must go through the below preparation process. This could be birth certificates, background checks, marriage certificates, death certificates and the like.

The only exception is for passports. If you’re applying for citizenship abroad from an embassy or consulate, you’ll need to provide a notarized copy of your passport that confirms that 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 translated. Jump to Step #3 to see how that is done.

If you plan to use court documents in Croatia, those are not considered to be “government-issued”. In this case, they only need to be notarized and translated. Jump to Step #3 to see how that is done.

Procedure for preparing foreign government documents

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

Step #1 – Obtain an original

The first step is to obtain an original of the document. A copy 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/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.

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

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.

If you have a document issued in a country that is not party to this convention, then the document needs to go through a process of full legalization instead. It’s much more time consuming.

You can learn more about the differences between apostille and legalization here.

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, then you must go to the Secretary of State within that state. Only federally-issued documents can be apostilled by the federal government.

How do I legalize my document?

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

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

Step #3 Notarized translation

After your document has been apostilled/legalized, it can then be translated into Croatian. The translation must be an official translation performed by an official registered Croatian translator. As part of this procedure, the translation will be notarized as well.

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. It’s must easier and cheaper that way. However, if you are living abroad and applying for citizenship through an embassy or consulate, they may be able to arrange the notarized translation for you.

Beware of processing times

If are planning to use your document in Croatia, make sure that you plan ahead. Due to the pandemic, processing times for apostille have been hugely delayed in some countries. For example, the authentications unit at the Department of State in the United States has wait times of 15+ weeks. This is important for those who need to have their background check apostilled.

Don’t wait until the last minute!

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