If you’d like to live in Croatia for up to 9 months per year and are able to buy a property, then this type of residence permit may be the right choice for you.
For those of us who are not European, the options to live in Croatia long term are limited. While there are several options, most only allow you to live in Croatia for up to 2 years at maximum. Afterwards, you must leave for a significant period (up to 18 months).
Getting residence based on property is a great option if you’re comfortable only living in Croatia for up to 9 months per year. This permit works especially well for retired people who wish to have a home base in Europe.
This is what you need to know about getting a residence permit based on real estate:
- You can only get temporary residence for 6 months per year (plus up to 90 days as a tourist, which comes to 9 months)
- You cannot work
- There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
- The property must be zoned residential and you must live in it
- You can apply for this every year, forever (unless the laws change)
- There is no minimum purchase price to qualify
- If you’re married, you both need to be listed as owners
- You must apply for this permit within Croatia
How do I know this permit exists?
Under Article 47, Paragraph 4 of the Foreigner’s Act, there is a list of conditions under which a non-EU citizen can get temporary residence. The law states:
Iznimno od stavka 1. ovoga članka, državljaninu treće zemlje se može odobriti privremeni boravak i u druge svrhe do godine dana. Zahtjev za reguliranje boravka u druge svrhe državljanin treće zemlje može podnijeti nakon isteka roka od šest mjeseci od isteka važenja privremenog boravka koji je bio odobren u druge svrhe.
In plain English, this law says that non-EU citizens can get temporary residence based on “other purposes”. These “other purposes” can include owning a house. This paragraph also states that you can reapply for this same permit 6 months after the first permit expires.
While property is not explicitly stated as a valid purpose for residence in the law, it has been exhaustively used as a basis in practice.
If you contact an embassy or consulate, they may tell you this residence permit does not exist. Never trust a consulate or embassy, as they are not actually processing residence applications (except for work permits) and therefore aren’t up-to-date on the latest applications of the law.
In this post, we’ll go over:
How to get a residence permit in Croatia based on property
To apply for this residence permit, you must visit the police (Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova aka “MUP”) in the jurisdiction where you plan to live within Croatia. At this station, there will be a service desk specifically for foreigners. Look for the sign that says “Stranci”, which means “Foreigners”.
Here is a full list of the administrative police stations that handle immigration.
The requirements for this type of temporary stay in Croatia are similar to other permits, with one notable difference. First, I’ll list the requirements, then I’ll go over each one in detail.
These requirements include:
- A completed application, which the police will provide
- A valid passport
- Criminal background check
- A valid private/travel health insurance policy (called “putno”)** See description below
- Proof of property ownership
- Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
- (2) Passport photos
- Application Fee
Let’s go through each requirement, one by one.
Your passport need to be valid, which means its validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of intended stay. The police will make a copy of this for your application. Take your passport with you every time you go to the police.
If your passport is in a language that is not English, then you need to get a copy of it notarized and translated into Croatian.
An OIB is a human identification number, similar to a social security number in the US. OIBs are required for all financial transactions in Croatia. Here are details on applying for one.
If you own a property, then you already have an OIB.
People applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check as part of their application. This requirement went into effect January 1, 2021. In Article 59 of the law, it states:
5. uz zahtjev za odobrenje prvog privremenog boravka priloži dokaz da nije pravomoćno osuđen za kaznena djela iz matične države ili države u kojoj je boravio duže od godine dana neposredno prije dolaska u Republiku Hrvatsku, osim ako je upućeni radnik odnosno student, istraživač ili osoba premještena unutar društva koja se koristi mobilnošću iz druge države članice EGP-a
which translates to…
5. enclose with the request for approval of the first temporary residence proof that he / she has not been convicted of criminal offenses from his / her home country or the country in which he / she resided for more than one year immediately before arriving in the Republic of Croatia, unless the posted worker within a company benefiting from mobility from another EEA Member State
Depending on your native country, this is likely easier to obtain while you’re still in your home country rather than once you get to Croatia. If you’re American, they want a federal background check, NOT one from your state. This is done through the FBI and it involves having your fingerprints taken. I just did mine recently.
Valid Health Insurance
To live in Croatia on this permit, you must have state-sponsored national health insurance from HZZO. However, Croatia will not allow you to sign up for a policy with HZZO until after you’ve been approved for a residence permit.
To be approved for the permit, you must first show that you have some other kind of private health insurance. In Croatia, travel insurance is called “putno zdravstveno osiguranje”, which will also meet this requirement.
Once your permit is approved, you will have 8 days to sign up for health insurance with HZZO. You will be required to pay a monthly health insurance premium AND a one-time payment of premiums for the previous year. This 1-year of backpayment is required for all non-EU nationals.
You can read more about state health insurance here.
You must provide an ownership certificate from the land registry. The property must be zoned residential and you must intend to live there.
If you are married, make sure that both of you are listed as owners with the land registry. Family reunification for spouses cannot be used for this type of permit, which is why it is important that you both are listed as owners.
If you have children, both of you must have valid residence permits before your children can be allowed to also get residence permits.
In addition to fulfilling the requirement for residence, it will also be used to register your address. This address will be on your national identification card.
If you have not yet purchased a property, you can learn about how to buy a residential property in Croatia here.
Application for Temporary Stay
This application will be provided by the MUP. However, you can preview a copy here.
Proof of sufficient funds
Since you won’t legally be able to work on this permit, you need to prove you can financially support yourself during the permit term. MUP will tell you how much you must have to qualify. The amount can vary as it is based on average salaries for the previous year. Here are the current minimums.
A bank statement from a foreign country was not accepted for a while. However, there have been some recent cases when MUP officers have accepted a foreign bank statement. Be prepared for either situation.
If they require that you show a Croatian bank statement, then you must deposit this amount in one lump sum into a Croatian bank account. Once the lump sum is deposited, request a statement from the bank showing the funds then take this to the police for your application.
Here is more info on opening a bank account in Croatia.
Every country requires a different size photo, so best to get them in Croatia. Usually there is at least one shop that does passport photos right next to the police station. It can cost around 100 kn to get a package of photos.
It seems that the application fee can change daily, but assume you’ll pay at least 450 kn per application. You won’t pay this at the police station. The police will give you a bill that you take to a nearby bank (normally one they specify) to pay. Then you bring the proof of payment back to the police.
Here are instructions on how to pay bills in Croatia.
As mentioned above, you must apply for this permit from within Croatia. You cannot apply for it abroad at a consulate or embassy.
Once you own a residential property in Croatia and are listed with the land registry as the owner, you can start your application for residence.
Step #1 Visit the police station
Go to the administrative police station closest to your residence. Here is a full list. Find the “Stranci” desk and let them know you wish to apply for residence based on “other purposes”.
Step #2 Submit your application
At this time, you must provide:
- A copy of your passport
- A completed application (which they will give you)
- Your OIB
- Land registry certificate showing you as the owner
- Proof of travel health insurance
They may also ask you to show proof that you have the financial means to support yourself. My recommendation is to wait until the police tells you how much to show on a bank account before you offer this up.
Step #3 Wait patiently
Once your application is accepted for processing, then it’s time to wait.
If the police decide they need more from you to complete the application or if you have been approved, they will either call you, call your lawyer (if you’ve got one) or send you a summons on your address. This summons is usually in a blue envelope and you must sign for it at delivery.
It can take several weeks to months to get approved.
Step #4 Approved!
Hooray! You’ve been approved. Now what?
Go to the police station with your passport. At this time, you’ll need to do several things:
- Give your fingerprints
- Give your signature
- Give your passport photos
- Pay the fees
To pay the fees, you’ll be given an uplatnica (or maybe even several of them). Take these to a post office or bank to pay. Keep the receipts and bring them back to the police to show proof of payment. You are expected do this immediately and return within a few minutes to complete the process.
Here are instructions on how to pay the fees.
After you show proof of payment, you’ll be given a white card that is proof of your approved stay. DO NOT LOSE IT! You will need to turn this card in to get your official residence ID card.
The ID card takes 3 weeks (usually on the dot) to be printed.
Step #5 Pick up your ID
After 3 weeks, return to the police station with your white card that you did not lose. Hand it over with your passport. In return, you’ll be given your shiny new residence permit card.
You will need to go through this same application process every year.
More notes about applying for a Croatian Residence Permit
- It is imperative that you have a local Croatian contact number. This is how the police will communicate with you about your application.
- Do not leave Croatia while your permit is in process. Even better, don’t leave the jurisdiction.
- If you are denied residence, you only have to pay a small administrative fee instead of the full fee.
- Be nice. If you get an attitude with the police, they have the discretion to make it as difficult for you as possible.
- Do not go to the police between the hours of 11:00 and 13:00. Chances of you coming when they are at lunch or on a smoke break or grumpy because they’ve yet to have a smoke break or lunch are high. For the best results, go in the morning around 8:00 or 9:00.
We recommend that everyone use a vetted expert when purchasing a property or applying for residency in Croatia, whether that be an immigration lawyer or real estate agent. It is rare that the police (who handle immigration), property sellers and government agencies will speak English to you.
It’s just too easy to be taken advantage of as a foreigner in Croatia, especially when property is involved. Our vetted local experts have connections, are able to skip common roadblocks, can protect your interests and can identify any risks.
We have expat-vetted immigration lawyers and real estate agents across Croatia that can:
- Answer all of your property and immigration questions
- Find property records
- Clean property titles
- Help you find the right property
- Help you purchase a property and represent you during the process
- Ensure you are not taken advantage of by property sellers
- Prepare and review contracts
- Handle your application for residency and represent you during the process
- Selling a property
- Engage local contractors and interior designers
To be connected to a vetted immigration lawyer or real estate agent, complete the below form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
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.