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How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia: Guide for 2023

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This post has been verified by the ministry that handles immigration as well as immigration lawyers.
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UPDATED: 16.02.2023.

In certain situations, you may be asked to provide the Croatian government with documents, either provided by a foreign government or personal documents like proof of health insurance or employment.

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 documents include applications for residence in Croatia, registration of the birth of a Croatian child abroad, registering a marriage, getting a diploma or certification recognized 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…

How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia

Which documents are we talking about?

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

  • Government-issued document
  • Non-government-issued document

Government-issued Documents

Any government-issued document intended for use outside the country of issue must go through the preparation process described in the next section. This could be birth certificates, background checks, marriage certificates, death certificates, diplomas 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 officially translated. Jump to Step #3 to see how that is done.

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. 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 already:

  • Bank statements
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof you are a digital nomad (like an employment contract, for example)

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 (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/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, then the document needs to go through a process of full legalization instead. It’s a two-step process, instead of just the one step. First it has to be authenticated by your issuing authority, then it has to be legalized by the nearest Croatian consulate.

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, like an FBI identity history summary.

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 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. 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 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

If are planning to use your document in Croatia, make sure that 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. We received an official decision from MUP in February 2023 stating it will be from the date of issue.

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

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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