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.
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.
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.