Restrictions on travel while you have legal residence in Croatia (for 2020)

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Croatia travel restrictions
Image by Eugene Wineblat

One of the most common (and most ironic) questions I am asked about living in Croatia is “how long can I be gone from Croatia?”.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge into the bureaucratic abyss that is Croatian immigration, then you’re probably a traveler at heart. We all need and want to travel outside Croatia from time to time. It is inevitable and sometimes, required to keep our sanity.

However, there are restrictions on how long you can be gone from Croatia when you hold a residence permit. If you surpass these restrictions, then your legal residency can be jeopardized. It is vital that you know and understand the limits before taking an extended leave from the country.

Understandably, Croatia does not want people gaining legal residency and then spending most of their time elsewhere. In this post, we’ll cover the limits for both temporary residency and permanent residency depending on your nationality.

In the eyes of the Croatian government, there are three types of “nationality” that determine your particular travel restrictions:

  • EU/EGP citizens
  • UK citizens (in post-Brexit Europe)
  • Third-country citizens

Third country means anyone who is not EU, so Americans, Brazilians, Malaysians, South Africans and Australians are all considered “third country”.

Temporary residents

If you are a temporary resident and an EU/EGP citizen (or family member of an EU/EGP citizen)

If you have temporary residency and are EU/EGP citizen, then you can be gone up to 6 months per year. If you need to be gone longer (up to a year) you can do so for childbirth, illness, study or vocational training as long as you notify MUP (the police) first.

If you are gone longer than 6 months, or gone longer than year without permission, your residence permit and the permits of those tied to you can be cancelled.

The requirements for EU/EGP citizens also apply to their nuclear family members, even if they are third-country nationals. To be more clear, if you are married to a Croatian citizen, then you can be gone up to 6 months per year.

UK citizens who are granted temporary residence before the end of 2020, will also have the above privileges throughout the duration of their permit.

If you are a temporary resident and a third-country citizen

If you have temporary residency in Croatia, the law on foreigners states that third-country nationals cannot leave Croatia for more than 30 continuous days each year. However, in practice MUP (the police who manage immigration) say that you cannot be gone for more than 30 days in a year, continuous or not.

There are exceptions to this. If you need to be gone for more than 30 days, go speak to MUP about it. Usually if you explain your situation to them, you can get an exception.

This is not a situation where you can do it and ask for forgiveness later. You MUST let them know if you will be gone longer than the defined limit. Otherwise, you can be fined and/or your permit will be jeopardized. If you are gone more than 30 continuous days, then MUP can cancel your temporary residence permit.

The other thing to consider is permanent residency. After 5 years of continuous temporary residency, you will qualify to apply for permanent residency. During the permanent residency process, your travel records will be reviewed. If you are gone more than 30 days during each of the 5 years, you may be denied permanent residency.

Permanent residents

If you are a permanent resident and an EU/EGP citizen

Your permanent residency will be cancelled if you are gone for more than two years without a relevant excuse and proper advance notification given to MUP. This also applies to your immediate family members, even if they are third-country nationals.

If you are a permanent resident and a third-country citizen

Your permanent residency will be cancelled if you are gone from Croatia for more than one year without proper notification given to MUP and a relevant excuse.

If you are a permanent resident and a UK citizen

Per the UK’s agreement for withdrawal from the EU, UK citizens with permanent residence in Croatia can only lose their permanent residence if they leave Croatia for more than 5 years. The EU giving the UK and its nationals preferential treatment over EU citizens from countries who aren’t leaving the EU does sound odd, but that’s the case.

Other things to consider

If you need to be gone beyond the limit, it is important to know that family is the most accepted and valued excuse for extended travel.

If your permit will expire while you are traveling, make sure you start the application for your new permit BEFORE leaving. You are required to visit MUP two months prior to the expiration of your permit to start your next application. You must have a valid permit at all times.

If your permit lapses, you will be forced to leave Croatia. Depending on your situation, you may need to re-apply for a permit from abroad before you can re-enter the country.

When it comes to preserving your legal residency in Croatia, honesty and transparency are always the best policies. Be up front with MUP about your extended travel plans. Here is a list of all of the MUP offices by city.

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6 thoughts on “Restrictions on travel while you have legal residence in Croatia (for 2020)

  1. Michael J. Bluth
    February 5, 2020 @ 12:49 pm

    Dear Sara,

    My wife and I are retired Americans who have been living here in Croatia for almost ten years. We have been living with annual temporary visas for this time. Our local police department will not consider an extension for five years or even to extend our one year visa. They are requiring us to leave the country for 90 days or more and then on return to register as tourists. Then, we are allowed to reapply for another temporary visa. This is tedious. We really would like to establish permanent residence or at the very least a five year term. Any suggestions?

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      February 7, 2020 @ 2:13 pm

      Hi Michael,

      You should have qualified to apply for permanent residency after 5 years of continuous temporary residency. Is MUP saying you cannot apply for permanent residence? If so, what reason are they giving you?

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

      • Anna Kirkland
        July 27, 2020 @ 9:08 am

        My husband and I are retired and are waiting gor approval for a one year residency visa. Since we are required to leave for six month after a one year stay, it makes it impossible to even meet the requiremennts of five continuous years to even apply for permanent residency. How in the world you can get 5-year residency in Croatia if the have requirements but then make impossible for you to fulfill them?

        {reply}

        • Expat in Croatia
          July 27, 2020 @ 11:09 am

          Hi Anna,

          Thanks for the question!

          That is the point, they don’t want non-EU citizens to qualify for permanent residency. There are very few scenarios that allow non-EU residents the opportunity to be here for 5 continuous years. The only options in your situation would be to get a work contract with a Croatian company or start your own business, which requires you to hire 3 Croatians full time and invest 200.000 kuna into the business. If you want to read about this option, you can do so here: https://www.expatincroatia.com/how-to-residency-opening-business-croatia/

          Wish I had better news for you!

          Regards,

          Sara

          {reply}

  2. Lucija
    February 18, 2020 @ 8:50 pm

    Howdy Sara,

    FWIW, I was out of Croatia for an average of one week per month most of 2019 and for two solid months during the fall when I had to fly back to the US for family-related reasons. My lawyer told me not to worry about the 30 days rules—despite being a third country citizen with Temporary Residency here—because I was in the process of being approved (or not) for citizenship and was in the system. Reentering Croatia was always a breeze. (Perhaps the universe making amends for my herky-Jerky citizenship process?)

    I do have a friend—a third country citizen seeking Permanent Residency—who had her timeline set back a couple months for going over 30 days.

    I’m happy to follow up on this thread regarding the 30 days rule as the hubby and I venture into the “third country citizen married to an EU citizen” phase of life.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      February 19, 2020 @ 12:05 pm

      Heya Lucija,

      Thanks for sharing! It seems like there is no way to tell when and what they will care or not care about. Rhyme and reason are not a thing here.

      It’s great to have real-life experiences for this, so thank you again for sharing this as I’m sure it will be helpful to others. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

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