11 things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship (in 2021)

This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer.

Croatian waving flag of Croatia at World Cup

Since the Croatian government eliminated the language test as a requirement for those with Croatian lineage, many many many people are applying for Croatian citizenship. Croatia is becoming a very desirable location for those who want to escape their home country to find a better life where their family came from. Some just want to reconnect with their heritage.

If you are planning to apply for Croatian citizenship because your parent or grandparent or great grandparent is Croatian, it’s important to understand the process and all potential roadblocks you may encounter before getting started.

Since we vet all of our resources with immigration lawyers within Croatia and because we have spoken to hundreds of people applying for citizenship, we are well versed in the possible complications one might encounter during the application process.

Before you get started, check out our list of 8 things you should know before applying for Croatian citizenship.

#1 Where to apply

If you are not a legal resident of Croatia, then you must apply for citizenship at the closest embassy or consulate to where you live.

This rule was implemented from January 1, 2020. You can find the closest embassy or consulate to you here.

#2 Your spouse can apply too

The rules on citizenship for spouses of Croatians and spouses of non-Croatians with Croatian heritage are different. We’ll go over both situations so that the differences are made clear.

When a non-Croatian is married to a Croatian, they must live in Croatia with their Croatian spouse to get on the path to citizenship. They must live in Croatia for 5 continuous years and achieve permanent residency before they qualify to apply for citizenship.

When a non-Croatian is married to someone who qualifies for Croatian nationality but does not yet have citizenship, then both spouses can apply for citizenship at the same time as long as the person with Croatian heritage is applying for citizenship under Article 11 of the Citizenship Act. There are no residency requirements at all for a spouse in this situation.

This is the relevant clause in the Act:

Stranac koji je u braku s osobom iz stavka 1. ovoga članka može steći hrvatsko državljanstvo iako ne udovoljava pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točaka 2. – 4. ovoga Zakona.

Which translates to:

An alien who is married to a person referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article may acquire Croatian citizenship even though he does not meet the preconditions referred to in Article 8, paragraph 1, items 2-4 of this Act.

#3 What can and cannot be on your background check

As part of your application, you must provide a criminal background check from the national authority in your home country. In some countries, misdemeanors will appear on this background check. A misdemeanor is not a barrier to Croatian citizenship.

However, you cannot have any criminal charges on your background check. If you do, your application for citizenship will be denied.

#4 Families need less paperwork

If you have a spouse and children, it is best that you apply for citizenship as a family all at once. It will be much easier since so much of the paperwork overlaps. It will also save time as the applications will be processed at the same time.

Since much of the documentation you need to provide will be the same, the government will allow you submit 1 set of originals (in triplicate, of course) for your entire family for any overlapping paperwork as long as you all apply together.

An example of overlapping paperwork would be a marriage certificate or a birth certificate for your Croatian ancestor. If you need help finding a birth certificate, we can help.

#5 Names need to match

When Croatians emigrated to English-speaking countries like Canada, the United States, and Australia, it was common for the governments of those countries to modify their last names. Volić became Volich.

This can create a problem when it comes to making a claim for citizenship. As part of the application, you must prove proof of your connection to your Croatian ancestor. That is usually done through birth records linking you to the relative.

If your grandfather’s name was Nejašmić on his birth record from Solin, but is listed as Nejasmich on your mother’s birth certificate from Chicago, you may not be allowed to apply for citizenship. To get around this, you must either fix the records in the foreign country to match the records in Croatia or provide some kind of document from the foreign country explicitly stating the name change.

#6 Where did your relative go

Croatia has specific rules about who can and cannot apply for citizenship and several of these rules are rooted in patriotism and politics.

If your relative left Croatia for another country within the former Yugoslavia, then the right to citizenship is negated for all of their descendants (by law).

If your relative left Croatia for another country outside of the former Yugoslavia, then the right to citizenship is preserved. HOWEVER, for some reason in practice this is not always the case.

The ministry is giving a hard time to descendants of Croatians who left Croatia for another country within Europe. Technically, the law is clear on this. Those in this situation should have a right to apply for citizenship.

There is nothing in the law that says the right to citizenship is negated for European descendants of Croatian nationals. Regardless, they are rejecting application requests to some people.

If this situation applies to you, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. You still should. If they deny your claim on this basis, raise hell about it! There is no legal basis for them to deny your claim. Until enough people get in the government’s face about this discrimination, it will not be addressed.

#7 When did your relative leave Croatia

Your claim to citizenship can also be affected depending on when your ancestor left Croatia.

If your ancestor left Croatia before October 8, 1991 (the start of the war for independence), then your claim to citizenship is still intact.

If your ancestor left Croatia after October 8, 1991, then all claims to citizenship for their descendants are cancelled. In this case, it doesn’t matter where they went, only that they left after this date.

The reason is that if a person left after the start of the war, it implies that they abandoned Croatia.

#8 Your apostille needs to be current

All foreign documents issued in countries that are party to the Apostille Convention need to have an apostille to be used outside of the issuing country.

What is an apostille?

An apostille is a special certificate (usually with a seal) that a country can provide and attach to documents issued within that country. It serves as an extra level of validation so that the document can be used in foreign countries.

For example, when you are applying for citizenship, you must provide a copy of your birth certificate. If you were not born in Croatia, then it will need to have an apostille.

Croatia requires that all apostilles must be no older than 6 months. The document itself can be older, but the apostille itself must not be older than 6 months.

It should be noted that this requirement is not included in the law. It’s merely a discretionary requirement imposed by the government. To give you an example, the Croatian consulate in Washington, D.C. recently (September 2020) made a discretionary change to their requirements on apostilles. They now say apostilles can be up to 1-year old due to the pandemic.

Always make sure you know what your consulate or embassy is requiring before submitting an application. Just because the DC consulate is doing this, doesn’t mean the other consulates are. It also doesn’t mean the DC consulate will offer this extension forever.

#9 You may not need to apply, only request

If you are a child of a Croatian, then you may have an easier and faster option for obtaining citizenship. This process is referred to as “requesting” your citizenship, rather than “applying” for it.

Here are the situations in which you can request your citizenship:

  • If you were born after October 18, 1991 AND at least one of your parents was a Croatian citizen at the time of your birth AND you are younger than 21, then you qualify to request your citizenship.
  • If you were born after October 18, 1991 AND at least one of your parents was a Croatian citizen at the time of your birth AND you are older than 21, then you qualify to request your citizenship before December 31, 2022.

If this applies to you, check out our detailed post on how to request your citizenship here.

#10 Requirements may vary

As we mentioned earlier in this post, you must apply for Croatian citizenship from your country of residence. If that country is not Croatia, then you will apply at an embassy or consulate.

While an embassy or consulate will take your application, they are not the ones who approve it. The application gets sent back to Zagreb for review and processing.

Here’s the hitch. Even though all applications are reviewed by the same ministry in Zagreb, different consulates and embassies have may have different requirements for citizenship.

Whenever you’re applying for citizenship, make sure you request the requirements from the place you intend to apply first so you know what to expect. Embassies and consulates have been known to deviate from the requirements published from within Croatia.

Even better, compare the embassy’s requirements to the ones provided by the government to make sure you cover all your bases. This will give you the best chance at success.

#11 For those naturalizing, there is a BIG catch

If you are applying for citizenship simply because you’ve lived in Croatia long enough, then you have the opportunity to naturalize. To be clear, naturalization doesn’t apply to people with Croatian spouses, people with Croatian heritage or EU nationals.

Those in this situation represent a very small sliver of people, including yours truly. Unfortunately, those naturalizing are required to give up their other nationality before they can be granted Croatian citizenship. This group is the only one that Croatia requires to relinquish their other citizenship. It’s kind of crap.


Need help with your Croatian citizenship application?

If you are currently a resident of Croatia, our 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 immigration.

If you live abroad, you must apply for citizenship at an embassy or consulate. While our attorneys cannot file applications on behalf of those abroad, they can:

  • Validate your claim to citizenship
  • Collect documents needed to prove your right to citizenship including birth records, domovnica, etc.
  • Write your CV biography (in Croatian)
  • Coordinate translation and notarization of foreign documents
  • Review your application and identify any gaps or risks
  • Check to see if you have inherited land

Having a lawyer review your application will increase your chances of approval on the first try. To get help with your application for citizenship, complete the form below and will match you with an expert.

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15 thoughts on “11 things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship (in 2021)

  1. From the Diaspora
    July 23, 2020 @ 2:19 am

    #5 is wrong. I asked the Los Angeles consulate about this before applying and they said that name changes are fine as long as the names are recognizable from certificate to certificate. I also got my Croatian citizenship through that consulate in 2019.

    I do not know where you are getting your information from on name changes, but I can tell you that legally, to change your name, or the name of a deceased ancestor (let alone a living relative/ancestor—which likely would be impossible) in America is really a gargantuan task. All the things you have to do afterwards, after changing your name, is more than would be required than executing a very complicated will after someone’s death.

    Name changes or corrections may be no big deal in other countries, but in the US, it is quite a big deal legally, including on certificates.


    • Expat in Croatia
      July 24, 2020 @ 1:33 pm

      Hi person from the diaspora,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the LA consulate!

      The information in this article was vetted with an immigration lawyer in Croatia that is deals with MUP (who processes citizenship) every day and has helped many apply for and gain citizenship.

      Ultimately, it is not the LA consulate who approves your citizenship, it is MUP in Zagreb. I’ve spoken to many people who have been told at other consulates and embassies that name change differences are an issue unless the link is made through documentation. One gentleman in New York had to go through the laborious name change process to which you refer. He sent me a novel explaining what a nightmare it was for him, but that is what the NY consulate required.

      It is great that the LA consulate did not make you jump through those hoops, like others have dealt with.

      In Croatia, literally everyone’s situation is different. It all depends on who you talk to, when you talk to them and what your circumstances are. Two people with identical situations could be told completely different things. This happens frequently. What is most important when dealing with Croatian bureaucracy is that you prepare for the worst case scenario if you can, because you might end up being the one who pulls the short straw as many have.

      Thank you for reading. 🙂




      • From the Diaspora
        July 24, 2020 @ 8:40 pm

        Thank you for the friendly , wonderful, and thoughtful response, Sara.


  2. Maria D.
    August 12, 2020 @ 10:45 pm

    Regarding #2 (Lineage applicant spouses are eligible to apply for citizenship): I’ve been told conflicting things, that spouses are eligible and also that they are ineligible by different consultants. I’d hate to pay for a consultant for a spouse’s application only to find out they weren’t even eligible to apply in the first place. Is there an official link you could post regarding this? Thank you, Maria


    • Expat in Croatia
      August 13, 2020 @ 1:19 pm

      Hi Maria,

      Spouses are only eligible to apply for citizenship IF they apply at the same time that their spouse with Croatian heritage applies. This is outlined in Article 11 of the Citizenship Act. You can view the act here: https://www.zakon.hr/z/446/Zakon-o-hrvatskom-dr%C5%BEavljanstvu

      The relevant clause is here:
      “Stranac koji je u braku s osobom iz stavka 1. ovoga članka može steći hrvatsko državljanstvo iako ne udovoljava pretpostavkama iz članka 8. stavka 1. točaka 2. – 4. ovoga Zakona.”

      This translates to:
      An alien who is married to a person referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article may acquire Croatian citizenship even though he does not meet the preconditions referred to in Article 8, paragraph 1, items 2-4 of this Act.

      I will also add this to the article for everyone’s reference.

      If you’d like to be connected to a vetted immigration lawyer to prepare your family’s citizenship applications, please send me an email at [email protected].




      • Ivan
        November 28, 2020 @ 7:20 pm

        Hi Sara,

        Thanks for all this great info, it’s tremendous.

        I’m a German national that was born in Germany as a Croatian (or possibly Yugoslavian in ’89?) but have had German citizenship since age 5. I have a Domovnica, so getting citizenship back would be easy. Based on what you’re saying, would my Russian girlfriend also be eligible for Croatian citizenship? And if yes, would she be so before or after I acquire mine? Does the place of marriage matter? (would probably be Russia) And would I need to have a Croatian address (could get that) or be required to live there (probably not an option at the moment)?

        Btw i think you should set up a patreon or PayPal, I’d happily chip in for all the work you’re doing.




        • Expat in Croatia
          November 30, 2020 @ 11:47 am

          Hi Ivan,

          Thanks for following!

          If you never formally relinquished your Croatian citizenship, then that means you still have it. In which case, you just need to request your birth certificate and passport.

          Your girlfriend would not qualify to apply for citizenship in this case. You don’t need to live here for any reason. If you have further questions, feel free to contact me directly.

          Thanks for offering to donate to this project! I do have a donate page here: https://www.expatincroatia.com/donate-now/




  3. Nat
    August 31, 2020 @ 5:37 pm

    Unfortunately, it appears that many embassies and consulates are run by renegades who interpret the published rules as the mood strikes them 🙁 Planning to apply for myself, I rang the consulate in Melbourne, Aus before I began translating documents to check whether I could apply for my minor children at the same time. I was told that I absolutely could, but that my children would need to accompany me to the consulate on the day of submission as they were above the age of 14 and would need to give verbal consent.

    Once all documents were in order, I made an appointment and was reminded that my children had to accompany me as well. On the day, we all arrived. Much to my surprise I was told that minors could only apply in Zagreb. The consulate staff simply handed me their documents and told me to apply the next time we were in Zagreb. The disbelief on my face was apparent, but no amount of questioning could elicit an explanation from the staff there. Ahhh, the mysteries of government departments!

    Anyway, after submitting my application and waiting 17 months for approval (pretty quick, in my opinion), I now need to start thinking about applying for my children again. However, one is no longer a minor so I’m not sure how that will go. Round 2!


    • Expat in Croatia
      September 2, 2020 @ 2:30 pm

      Hi Nat,

      WOW, I am flabbergasted. That must have been extremely irritating. I’m pretty surprised they would tell you minors must go to Zagreb, because they implemented a rule on January 1, 2020 that you must apply in the country where you are a resident. If it was before this that they told you this, then I recommend asking them again. Based on your other comment, you are in Asia now so maybe try the closest embassy or consulate to where you are now.

      If they give you a different answer this go around, please let us know! Fingers crossed.




  4. Grace
    September 23, 2020 @ 6:07 pm

    Hi there: I am a little perplexed about whether or not I can apply for Croatian citizenship. I am an American citizen. My father was born in Croatia in 1937 when it was still part of what was then Yugoslavia. He emigrated to the United States but was definitely still a citizen of Yugoslavia when I was born in 1970. He became a U.S. citizen in the 1990s. My mother was not of Croatian descent. My father would like to move back to his hometown, and I plan to go with him, but I would only feel comfortable about doing so if I were a Croatian citizen since I doubt that I would return to the United States for some time, if ever. Do you think that I qualify to apply? Thanks for your help


    • Expat in Croatia
      September 25, 2020 @ 1:52 pm

      Hi Grace,

      Based on the information you’ve provided, you qualify to apply for citizenship as does your spouse and children (if you have them). It does not matter that he was a Yugoslav citizen. As long as he was born in Croatia, he would be considered a citizen.

      I can connect you to a vetted immigration lawyer who can locate his birth certificate from Croatia to prove his nationality as well as prepare your application for citizenship on your behalf. If you’d like a referral, please contact me.




  5. tihana webb
    February 23, 2021 @ 4:44 pm

    hi, my father was born in croatia and lived there until he was 25 when he came to UK for a while he has now gone back to Croatia. I spent a lot of my younger years in Croatia with my croatian relatives and father. I was registered in Croatia when I was a child. My mother is english and I am married to an English man and I live in the UK. Can I apply for Croatian passports for myself and my children ( my children and I were born in the UK). Is it easier to do it under one family application or should I do mine first. thank you.


    • Expat in Croatia
      February 24, 2021 @ 4:08 pm

      Hi Tihana,

      Thank you for reaching out! If you were registered in Croatia as a child, are you certain you are not already a citizen? My recommendation would be to first check with the UK embassy or with Maticni ured in Croatia to see if you are already a citizen. If you’re not a citizen, then I would need more information to determine if you qualify for citizenship. You can contact me using the form at the bottom of this post.




  6. Stjepan
    April 6, 2021 @ 3:11 am

    Thank you so much for the valuable information on this blog!

    I have a question concerning item #6:

    My mother was born in Slavonia (then NDH) in 1943, and later became a Yugoslav citizen. She emigrated to Germany in the late 1950s, then became a German citizen (having to give up her Yugoslav citizenship afaik, as there was no dual citizenship allowed back then). I was born in the 80s, and my mother succesfully reclaimed her – then Croatian – citizenship after 1991.
    So if I understand the information in this blog correctly, I cannot legally apply for Croatian citizenship due to ORIGIN because my mother was a German citizen at the time of my birth. But I should however be able to apply due to LINEAGE because I have Croatian ancestry (my grandfather/ my grandmother).

    But now with what you write in #6, even though I am eligible to apply for citizenship they would – without legal basis – reject my application because my mother emigrated to Germany and thus stayed in Europe?
    Does this only happen to some application from European countries? Or is it (pretty much) sure that they would reject my application? If you happen to have any numbers, what the chances are to still get approved, that would help a lot…

    Thanks in advance,


    • Expat in Croatia
      April 11, 2021 @ 2:56 pm

      Hi Stjepan,

      Yours is not a straightforward case. In your situation, you may be able to apply based on lineage (Article 11) through your mother since she left Croatia to permanently move abroad. Usually, they only make a fuss if the European country is in the eastern part of the continent. It’s all politically-motivated.

      If you’d like assistance with your application, fill out the form on this page to get more information.




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