How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia

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UPDATED: 25/08/2021

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.

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

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!

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.

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12 thoughts on “How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia

  1. rob c
    June 23, 2021 @ 3:41 pm

    Hi. You say “official translation performed by an official registered Croatian translator”. What is this registration? The consulate pointed me to a directory of of the American Translation Association, ATA, but some say certified in their bio and some don’t. How do I know for sure a translator I find has whatever this registration is that will be acceptable?

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      July 7, 2021 @ 1:07 pm

      Hi Rob,

      This means that your documents must be translated and certified by the Croatian court interpreter. We call them “sudski tumač” in Croatia. They are persons who perform official translations of legal documents.

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  2. Eliot Zizic
    July 16, 2021 @ 11:52 pm

    Sara,
    I have a couple of questions. My daughters and I will be applying for Croatian citizenship as soon as we get back my Grandfather’s birth certificate from Croatia. They are 18 and 20. His birth certificate request form was submitted several months ago.

    I have obtained nearly all of the necessary documents, official, certified, re-issued copies of all birth certificates, marriage licenses, FBI background checks, etc., from the issuing authorities, with Apostille for each one. Due to the pandemic, some of these documents have taken over six months to process. I am still waiting on my grandparents’ marriage license from Chicago. I sent the request form on January 3rd.

    Problem being: My first Apostilles began arriving in February. I was told that the apostilles need to be within 6 months of the application. By the time I get my last two documents, The first ones may be over six months old. Will I need to resubmit the older documents for a more recent apostilles? What happens if by the time I receive those, the newer apostilles become six months old?

    Also, I was told by the Croatian Consulate in Chicago, that my daughters and I can submit our applications together, and use the same documentation. I have recently heard otherwise. Do I need to obtain three certified, re-issued copies of each document and three apostilles for every document, so that each of our applications contains their own certified and apostilled copies of all documents? OR was I told correctly that we can submit one certified, re-issued and apostilled copy of each document for all three of us.

    Thank you so much for your assistance!

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      July 20, 2021 @ 4:55 pm

      Hi Eliot,

      This is a bit tricky, however, due to the epidemic and certain institutions, the answer may differ. Apostilles shouldn’t be expired as well as any other document. My advice is to ask the Croatian consulate for advice and they will provide you with the right answer.

      Furthermore, as far as we know, you should be able to submit your applications together. Good luck!

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  3. LC
    August 4, 2021 @ 5:43 pm

    Hi. I just wanted to double-check about what documents need to have an apostille. The website for the Croatian Ministry of the Interior states that all “foreign public documents” must be legalized. However, here it says that “government-issued” document need this, but not court documents. I have two court orders – one for a divorce and the other for a change to my last name. Is it correct that I only need to obtain a certified copy of these? My concern is that they would be considered foreign public documents. Thanks for your help.

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      August 24, 2021 @ 9:14 am

      Hi LC,

      Court documents need to be translated, but not apostilled.

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  4. Mary
    October 2, 2021 @ 10:13 pm

    Greetings,
    I have an apostilled copy of my passport and my Driver’s license. Do those types of documents need to be translated? meaning do the documents themselves and the apostilles for each also need translating? I feel I read conflicting info that translation may not be needed for those types of documents.
    Hvala Mary

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      October 15, 2021 @ 4:16 pm

      Hi Mary,

      If your passport is not in English, it has to be notarized and translated. All other documents must be prepared as described in this article.

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  5. Andrea Puljiz
    October 5, 2021 @ 5:48 am

    Hi Sara,

    Where online can I download the application for citizenship?

    Thank you,
    Andrea

    {reply}

  6. Maria
    October 11, 2021 @ 2:47 am

    Hi everyone,
    I really need help on this one. I was married to US citizen in USA and we got divorced in USA. But, I am a Croatian citizen and I did register the marriage in Croatia. Now, I need to register the divorce in Croatia. I live in USA and I would like to know what is the fastest way for me to process the divorce in Croatia from USA? And what is that I need?
    Can I have it done electronically?I already had all this done when I went to Bosnia this year and tried to do it from there but I got denied.Let me know who can help me. I have more details to share on this.

    Thanks

    {reply}

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