How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on special interest (including the outline for my personal application): Guide for 2024

sara pag
Founder Sara Dyson on island Pag

PUBLISHED: 30.1.2023.

Croatia has many paths to citizenship. Descent (you have a Croatian ancestor), origin (you were born to a Croatian), marriage (you are married to a Croatian), and naturalization (you’ve lived in Croatia long enough) are the most common paths.

If you have no Croatian heritage and are not married to a Croatian, usually, naturalization is the only option available.

There is one other path that is open to those who make significant contributions to the Republic of Croatia.

The path is regulated by Article 12 of the Law on Croatian Citizenship and is referred to as poseban interes, which means special interest.

When naturalizing, Croatia requires that you give up all other nationalities. Under poseban interes, you can keep your other nationalities – making it an attractive alternative.

This guide to citizenship will be a little different than the others. It will, of course, be structured as a detailed step-by-step guide, for which Expat in Croatia is infamous.

In addition, I will tell you my personal story about applying for citizenship based on Article 12. If you are not familiar, I am Sara Dyson, the founder of Expat in Croatia.

In June 2022, I applied for Croatian citizenship under Article 12 based on my work around Expat in Croatia. I will share my “case” for citizenship, what I included in my application, and the process thus far.

In this post, I cover:

The facts are these…

How to apply for Croatian citizenship based on special interest – poseban interes

What the Croatian law says about Article 12 – poseban interes?

Citizenship is regulated by the Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu (Law on Croatian citizenship), which you can see here.

The excerpts from the law on citizenship regarding special interest applications is as follows:

Članak 12 (NN 102/19)

Stranac čije bi primanje u hrvatsko državljanstvo predstavljalo interes za Republiku Hrvatsku, može prirođenjem steći hrvatsko državljanstvo iako ne udovoljava pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točaka 1. -4. ovoga zakona.

Hrvatsko državljanstvo može steći i bračni drug osobe iz stavka 1. ovoga članka koja je stekla hrvatsko državljanstvo, iako ne udovoljava pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točaka 1-4. ovoga zakona, ako godinu dana živi u Republici Hrvatskoj s odobrenim boravkom.

Na zahtjev Ministarstva unutarnjih poslova, nadležno ministarstvo odnosno središnji državni ured daje obrazloženo mišljenje iz kojeg nedvojbeno proizlazi postojanje interesa Republike Hrvatske za primitak u hrvatsko državljanstvo stranca iz stavka 1. ovoga članka.

Which translates to…

Article 12 (NN 102/19)

A foreigner whose admission to Croatian citizenship would be in the interest of the Republic of Croatia may acquire Croatian citizenship by naturalization even though they do not meet the requirements from Article 8, paragraph 1, points 1-4. of this law.

Croatian citizenship can also be acquired by the spouse of a person from paragraph 1 of this article who has acquired Croatian citizenship, even though they do not meet the requirements from article 8, paragraph 1, points 1-4. of this law, if they live in the Republic of Croatia with an approved residence permit for one year.

At the request of the Ministry of the Interior, the competent ministry or the central state office gives a reasoned opinion from which the existence of the Republic of Croatia’s interest in the admission to Croatian citizenship of a foreigner referred to in paragraph 1 of this article is undoubtedly derived.

As you can see, Article 8 is referenced a couple of times. Below are the referenced paragraphs so you can see the full picture. In the name of clarity, you can apply for citizenship under Article 12 even if you do NOT meet the following criteria listed under Article 8.

Članak 8. (NN 102/19)

Prirođenjem može steći hrvatsko državljanstvo stranac koji je podnio zahtjev za primanje u hrvatsko državljanstvo ako udovoljava ovim pretpostavkama:

  1. da je navršio 18 godina života;
  2. da ima otpust iz stranog državljanstva ili da podnese dokaz da će otpust dobiti ako bude primljen u hrvatsko državljanstvo;
  3. da živi u Republici Hrvatskoj s prijavljenim boravkom 8 godina neprekidno do podnošenja zahtjeva i ima odobren status stranca na stalnom boravku;
  4. da poznaje hrvatski jezik i latinično pismo, hrvatsku kulturu i društveno uređenje;

Which translates to…

Article 8 (Official Gazette 102/19)

A foreigner who has applied for Croatian citizenship can acquire Croatian citizenship by naturalization if they meet the following conditions:

  1. that they have reached the age of 18;
  2. that they have a release from foreign citizenship or submit proof that they will receive a release if they are admitted to Croatian citizenship;
  3. that they live in the Republic of Croatia with a registered residence for 8 years continuously until the application is submitted and have an approved status of foreigner on permanent residence;
  4. they know the Croatian language and Latin script, Croatian culture and social order;

Who is an ideal candidate for Croatian citizenship based on Article 12?

The very first statement from the law says, “A foreigner whose admission to Croatian citizenship would be in the interest of the Republic of Croatia”.

This may seem vague if you think too hard about it, so don’t. To be granted citizenship on this basis, Croatia needs to know it is in their best interest to do so because you provide a substantial benefit to the country.

Being a skilled worker is not a substantial benefit – no matter what the skill is. Employing people is also not enough either. You need to showcase a pattern of tangible contributions to Croatia that goes above and beyond – or show that you WILL provide tangible contributions.

For example, when you play for a national sports team, you must be a Croatian citizen. It is common for Croatia to offer citizenship to non-Croatians so that they can move to Croatia and play football or basketball.

Article 12 is most commonly used for this purpose, but it is not the only purpose.

Table of contents for my personal application for Croatian citizenship

My application was submitted to the Split police station in June 2022 and at the time of publishing, is still in process. Once approved (as it is expected to be), this post will be updated accordingly.

My application was 142 pages long and included:

  • My completed application – download a blank copy here
  • My CV biography (like a cover letter) – It was 4 pages
  • 10 letters of recommendation
  • 22 client reviews from this page on our web site, translated into Croatian
  • 8 articles from this web site, translated into Croatian
    • 8 ways Croatia changed me in 8 years – read here
    • A day of olive picking on island Brač – read here
    • A local’s guide to shopping at the market – read here
    • Available visas and residence permits – read here
    • How to get an OIB identification number – read here
    • The kindness of strangers – read here
    • Which documents you should bring with you to Croatia – read here
    • Why you must have health insurance – read here
  • 3 television interviews delivered on a USB drive
    • Dobro jutro, Hrvatska – watch here
    • RTL Danas – watch here
    • Split Tech City – watch here
  • 3 Croatian news interviews
    • Dalmacija Danas – read here
    • Slobodna Dalmacija – read here
    • Večernji list – read here
  • 2 Croatian news articles
    • Dalmatinski portal – read here
    • Index.hr – read here
  • 4 international news articles translated into Croatian
    • CNN Travel – read here
    • EuroNews – read here
    • International Living – read here
    • Independent – read here
  • Proof that I was part of the Croatian delegation for the Croatia/Romania Bilateral Conference celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations in the form of a schedule where I was listed as a speaker – watch this speech here
  • Proof that I was the recipient of the 2023 Croatian Women of Influence Award in Entrepreneurship
  • Apostilled, officially translated FBI background check from the United States
  • Apostilled, officially translated birth certificate from Texas
  • Excerpt from the land registry showing that I own my apartment in Split
  • Excerpt from the commercial court showing registration and ownership of my company
  • Copy of my United States passport
  • Copy of my Croatian permanent residence permit
  • Power of attorney giving my lawyer privileges to act on my behalf during this procedure

So far in the procedure, I was also asked to make two statements in person at the police, which were also added to my file.

How to apply for Croatian citizenship under Article 12 – poseban interes

The following procedure is very similar to applying for citizenship on any basis. It only has a few differences, which are directly related to the specific basis of Article 12.

[Read: How to apply for Croatian citizenship (hrvatsko državljanstvo)]

#1 Prepare your application

The most important step is putting together your application. For this specific purpose, I see it more as a case file. You are preparing a presentation – putting your best foot forward.

You really want to throw everything you’ve got at this. Include all your accomplishments. Brag, even if it feels unnatural.

Below is a comprehensive list of requirements:

  • Completed application form depending on your scenario:
    • Application for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship by the birth of an adult – download form here
    • Application for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship by the birth of an adult and a child/children – download form here
  • Your biography with supporting documentation, including the reasons for applying, written in Croatian
  • Your birth certificate (original, apostilled, officially translated)
  • Background check issued by your country of nationality proving you have not been criminally prosecuted, not older than six months (original, apostilled, officially translated) – view guide here
  • Proof of nationality, such as a copy of a passport or domovnica equivalent
  • Valid identity document with a visible photo (with a copy apostilled, officially translated)
  • Proof that you provide a benefit to the Republic of Croatia if applying based on special interest (what this entails will vary by case)
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable (original, apostilled, and officially translated, if foreign)
  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of address, whether you are applying in Croatia or abroad
    • ID card
    • Driver’s license
    • Utility bill
  • Excerpt from land registry, if you own a property

Please note that ALL foreign public documents MUST be originals that are apostilled and officially translated into the Croatian language unless other rules are specified by bilateral and multilateral international agreements. Read more about the apostille and full legalization of documents here.

[Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]

If you’d like help preparing your application to ensure you meet all requirements and have the best chance of acceptance, click here.

#2 Choose your ministry

MUP (Ministry of the Interior) is who processes citizenship applications. When applying based on Article 12, at least one other ministry will be involved as well.

As part of the application, MUP will need to request the opinion of the relevant ministry (or ministries) related to your basis.

[Read: All the Croatian ministries and what they do]

For example, if you are applying because you are going to play football for the national team, then the Ministry of Tourism and Sport must make an opinion on your application. If the national team approached you, then there should be no question that the Ministry of Tourism and Sport will agree that you should obtain nationality.

They form their opinion and then send it to MUP. MUP will then process your application as normal.

For my application, I picked the Ministries of Tourism and Sport as well as Foreign Affairs.

#3 File your application

The application for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship based on special interest must be submitted in person at the administrative police station closest to your address of residence.

Your lawyer may accompany you if using one, but you must be there. They cannot file it on your behalf for this basis.

[Read: List of administrative police stations in Croatia]

If the applicant is a disabled person, the claim may be filed by their legal representative or authorized proxy.

The application process for citizenship can take a significant amount of time. Estimate at least one year or more, depending on your situation and advocates.

#4 Make your statements

As part of the process, you’ll need to make several statements with the police – depending on your situation. In my process, I made the 3 statements:

Statement #1 – Surprise visit by MUP officer

A MUP officer came to my apartment without prior notice to ask me some basic questions. They were not informed of my application. The officer was just tasked with asking me some basic questions like:

  • How long have I lived in Croatia?
  • Do I own my apartment?
  • Which religion do I have?
  • What do I do for work?
  • What are my hobbies?
  • Am I married?
  • Do I have children?
  • Do I speak Croatian?

Statement #2 – Scheduled appointment at MUP

This appointment was with a case worker at the Split police station. For this, I verbally communicated how long I am in Croatia, what I do for a living, on what basis I am applying, why I deserve citizenship, and why I want it.

The caseworker wrote out the statement as I gave it, then printed it and had me sign it. Essentially, I provided a truncated summary of what I included in my CV biography.

Statement #3 – Scheduled appointment at MUP

I met with the same case worker, and she, again, wrote a statement while I was present. For this one, she asked from which ministries I wished for them to request an opinion on my application.

This statement most likely could have been combined with Statement #2, but Split MUP and Zagreb MUP had a difference of opinion on whether I (or MUP) should request this opinion.

It was decided that MUP had to request the opinion, so I was called back in to create a statement to be included in my application. There needed to be a paper trail for that process, which makes sense to me.

#5 Wait patiently

The time needed for MUP to request the opinions, the other ministry (ministries) to prepare their opinions, and then for MUP to do the final processing can vary.

It’s reasonable to follow up 2 months after the opinion request.

#6 You get citizenship! YAY!

Once approved, you will receive a document called Rješenje o primitku u hrvatsko državljanstvo (Decision on the admission to Croatian citizenship). It is the formal decision that you have been approved for Croatian citizenship.

You must pay a fee to get this document. All possible costs for this procedure are available here.

At this stage, you are a Croatian citizen. You are automatically entered into the Register of Citizens at the competent registrar’s office.

#7 Obtain your identity documents

After getting this decision, there are still some additional steps to take to get your identity documents if you so choose.

Domovnica

The document called domovnica proves the new status of a Croatian citizen. It can be acquired at any registrar’s office in Croatia.

[Read: How to get proof of citizenship (domovnica)]

Birth certificate

This is your official birth record. All Croatian citizens have a birth certificate, even if they were not born in Croatia.

To obtain this, you will need to register a legalized, officially translated copy of your foreign birth certificate first.

[Read: How to get a copy of a birth certificate]

Passport

After you have your domovnica or birth certificate, you can apply for a Croatian passport.

[Read: How to apply for a Croatian passport]

Osobna iskaznica

Osobna iskaznica is a Croatian national ID. You can use this ID card to travel within the EU/EEA without your passport. It also gains you access to additional services through the e-Građani system.

[Read: How to apply for a national ID card (osobna iskaznica)]

Then you’re done! Celebrate! Have a party! Dance your heart out! I know I will.

How to get help with your Croatian citizenship application

Interested in applying for Croatian citizenship but not sure where to start? We can point you in the right direction.

Our expat-vetted lawyer network can take care of your application from beginning to end. We have excellent English-speaking lawyers across the country that specialize in citizenship and are in constant communication with the ministry. These are the same lawyers who help us vet all of our information on this site. Learn how we built this network here.

You do not have to live in Croatia to take advantage of this service.

For one flat rate, they can:

  • Validate your claim and make recommendations on your case
  • Prepare a plan specific to your case to ensure you have the best chance of approval
  • Target possible red flags and prepare solutions
  • Coordinate with the ministries on your behalf
  • Provide guidance on preparing a successful CV biography (and coordinating translation into Croatian)
  • Prepare supporting documentation
  • Coordinate translations for foreign documents, as needed
  • Assist with any issues or questions that arise after submission. They are with you throughout the process from start to approval.

As part of this service, you’ll have a dedicated Expat in Croatia caseworker who will follow up periodically to ensure you’re getting everything you need. You’ll also be able to reach out to them as well if any issues arise.

Having Expat in Croatia and our lawyer network on your side will give you the best shot at approval. It takes 1-2 years on average for applications to be processed, so best not to risk denial. This is nationality, after all, and obtaining nationality is a big deal.

View reviews from people who have used our services for citizenship here, or jump to this section to view the last 20 reviews.

To get help with your application for citizenship, complete the form below, and we will match you with an expert.

See what our clients have to say about working with us…

View our other citizenship posts

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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