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

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UPDATED: 7.5.2024.

In some situations, you may be asked to provide the Croatian government with foreign documents provided by a foreign government or personal documents like proof of health insurance or employment. The procedure is not as simple as just providing them with documentation – you must follow specific steps to prepare those documents so they will be accepted.

You may need to provide documentation when applying for Croatian residence or citizenship, registering the birth of a Croatian child abroad or a marriage, getting a diploma or certification recognized, and other procedures. Our 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 article, we cover:

The facts are these…

Which foreign documents can you 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 undergo the preparation process described in our next section. These could be birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, background checks, diplomas, and so on. The only exception is for passports.

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

If you apply for Croatian citizenship abroad at a Croatian embassy or consulate, you need to provide a notarized copy of your passport confirming it is your document with your signature. A notarized copy can be obtained at any registered notary office. If your passport is not in English, it must be notarized and officially translated – jump to Step 3 to see how to do it.

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

[Read: How to apply for Croatian citizenship]

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. Supporting documentation for a citizenship application that was not issued by a government, such as a ship manifest or your CV biography, is also an example.

[Read: Available visas and residence permits for Croatia]

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.

However, there are some 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]

How to prepare foreign state documents for use 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 a headache down the line.

1. Obtain an original

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

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 confirms that a document is real, preventing fraud and counterfeiting.

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 met 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 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 the 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 one. The document must first be authenticated by your issuing authority and then legalized by the nearest Croatian consulate abroad.

Learn more about the differences between apostille and legalization in 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. The issuing authority for most countries can be found here.

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 like an FBI identity history summary can be apostilled by the federal government.

How do I legalize my document?

If your country is not a part of the Apostille Convention, the document must be fully legalized for use in Croatia. For example, Malaysia is still not a member of the convention, so its documents must be legalized. We’ve outlined the procedure for full legalization here.

3. Official translation

After your document has been apostilled/legalized, it must be officially translated into Croatian 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 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.

[Read: How to get something notarized in Croatia]

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 you will be using your document in Croatia, make sure to 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 the document’s issue. Don’t wait until the last minute, and make sure you properly plan ahead.

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Frequently asked questions

How to apostille a document in Croatia?

If you need an apostille for your Croatian documents, you can go to the Ministry of Justice and Administration or a Municipal Court. The apostille costs a couple of euros, and the process is quick. Learn more about the apostille and legalization processes in Croatia here.

Can I process the apostille online?

In some countries, you may be able to schedule an appointment to get an apostille online. However, it is not possible to get an apostille online because you have to bring your original documents to the authorities.

What is the meaning of apostille?

Apostilles are a type of authentication designed to make the process of legalizing and certifying official documents easier so that they can be accepted across borders by nations that have ratified the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

What is proof of address in Croatia?

The proof of address in Croatia can be any documentation showing your name and Croatian address, like a recent bank statement, utility bill, or rental agreement. Not everything is accepted as proof of address. For example, your phone bill might not be accepted, but your electricity bill is usually accepted. Learn how to register your address in Croatia here.

How to apply for a birth certificate in Croatia?

There are a couple of ways to get a birth certificate issued in Croatia. You can do it at the registrar’s office or via the e-Građani system. If you are abroad, you can do it through the Croatian consulate. View how to get a copy of your Croatian birth certificate here.

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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