10 things to know before applying for Croatian citizenship: Guide for 2024

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This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer and the ministry that handles citizenship.

Croatian waving flag of Croatia at World Cup

UPDATED: 23.2.2024.

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 based on descent, it is 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 helped thousands of people apply 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 the essential things you should know before applying for Croatian citizenship.

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The facts are these…

10 essentials you must know before applying for Croatian citizenship

#1 Where to apply for Croatian citizenship?

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 on January 1, 2020. A list of all Croatian diplomatic missions and consular offices outside of Croatia is available here.

However, if you are a Croatian parent and wish to register your child for citizenship, you can do that from Croatia in addition to abroad.

[Read: How children of Croatians can register their citizenship]

That being said, there is a residence program specifically for people who wish to come to live in Croatia before they get citizenship. We have a guide on how the Croatian diaspora and descendants can apply for temporary residence in Croatia. You can view it here.

#2 Your spouse can apply too

The rules on citizenship for spouses of Croatians and spouses of non-Croatians with Croatian heritage can vary. There are two possible paths – Article 11 (based on descent) and Article 10 (based on residence).

To apply based on Article 11 (descent), the spouse must be married to a Croatian descendant whose ancestor permanently moved abroad, or to a Croatian citizen who left Croatia before October 8, 1991, and also permanently moved abroad.

[Read: How to apply for citizenship based on descent]

To apply based on Article 10 (residence), the spouse must be married to a Croatian citizen and must hold permanent residence. A spouse qualifies to apply for permanent residence after 4 continuous years of residence based on family reunification.

[Read: How spouses of Croatian citizens can apply for temporary residence]

#3 What can and cannot be on your background check?

As part of your application, you must provide a legalized and officially translated criminal background check from the national authority in your country of citizenship. It cannot be from a state, province, or private institution.

[Read: Background checks and fingerprints for third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA citizens)]

In some countries, misdemeanors will appear on this background check. A misdemeanor is not a barrier to Croatian citizenship. However, you cannot have any felonies on your background check. If you do, your citizenship application may be denied.

If your country does not differentiate between misdemeanors and felonies and you do have something listed, you must consult with a Croatian lawyer about how to handle it. We can connect you with a vetted lawyer who specializes in citizenship. Just contact us.

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

#4 Names need to match

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

This can create a problem when it comes to making a claim for citizenship, depending on the severity of the change.

If your grandfather’s name was Nejašmić on his birth record from Solin but is listed as Nismich on your mother’s birth certificate from Chicago, you may not be allowed to apply for citizenship unless you can prove they are the same person. To get around this, you may need to 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.

If the name of your Croatian ancestor or a relative that connects to the ancestor has a name change, it is important to check with a lawyer to get guidance on how to address that in your application. We can connect you to a vetted English-speaking lawyer who can help you sort this out. Contact us here.

#5 Where did your relative go?

Croatia has specific rules about who can and cannot apply for citizenship by descent under Article 11.

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 as long as they left before October 8, 1991.

“I needed support with an application for Croatian citizenship by descent and found Expat in Croatia through their comprehensive article on the subject. They answered my questions and introduced me to Ivan R. Let me be clear that Ivan exceeded all my expectations on knowledge, conscientiousness, patience, and support during this process. From the very first meeting it was clear that he is very familiar and thorough with these applications. Unexpectedly, finding evidence documents for my application was much more complicated than either of us had anticipated, but Ivan was there every step of the way until we finally pieced the puzzle together. I submitted my application yesterday and they said it was perfect. I am immensely grateful for Ivan’s help and I highly recommend Ivan and Expat in Croatia to others hoping to navigate this process with minimal delays. Thank you.” – Rebecca, New Zealand

#6 When did your relative leave Croatia?

Your claim to citizenship (based on Article 11) can also be affected depending on when your ancestor left Croatia.

If your ancestor left Croatia before October 8, 1991 (the start of the Homeland War), 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 canceled. In this case, it does not matter where they went, only that they left after this date.

Please note: From January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2022, it was possible for older children of Croatians to register. This deadline has now passed, so they must now apply for citizenship under Article 11. View the guide for Article 11 here.

#7 Your government documents must be legalized

All documents issued by foreign governments (e.g. not Croatia) must be legalized. Legalization is the authentication of a document by the government authority who issued it. Its purpose is to prevent fraud and counterfeit documents.

Many countries are party to the Apostille Convention, which is a standardized version of legalization and is typically a one-step process.

If your country is not part of that convention, then your documents need to be fully legalized and officially translated. This means there could be two or more steps for legalization instead of one.

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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.

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

#8 Deadline for citizenship registration has expired

Children of Croatians had an easier and faster option for obtaining citizenship. This process was referred to as “registering” your citizenship, rather than “applying” for it.

From January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2022, there was an option for older children of Croatians to register for Croatian citizenship. However, this deadline has passed.

If you did not register before the deadline, then that just means you must apply based on Article 11 instead of registering. You do not lose your right to apply altogether.

More information about the registration of Croatian citizenship is available in this post.

#9 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 the Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova Republike Hrvatske (Ministry of the Interior) in Zagreb for review and processing.

Here is the hitch. Even though all applications are reviewed by the same ministry in Zagreb, different consulates and embassies may have different requirements for citizenship. A consulate may even tell you that a spouse cannot apply at the same time as a descendant, which is not true.

Consulates and embassies are under the Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), not the Ministry of the Interior. This means they can accept applications, but they are not making the decision.

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

#10 For those naturalizing, there is a BIG catch

If you are applying for citizenship simply because you have lived in Croatia long enough, then you have the opportunity to naturalize. This caveat does not apply to spouses of Croatians or people with Croatian heritage.

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

Get face-to-face help your Croatian citizenship application

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

We crafted this post to be as detailed as possible, but sometimes questions still arise because everyone’s situation is different.

Save yourself the time and uncertainty of trying to navigate the documents, deadlines, and requirements by scheduling a private chat with Expat in Croatia.

How does it work?

All first-time clients get:

  • 30 minutes with an Expat in Croatia consultant
  • 30 minutes with a vetted English-speaking citizenship lawyer from our network
  • 15-minute check-in call that you can use any time

Repeat clients can book a 30-minute session with an EIC consultant as a stand-alone appointment.

During your chat with us, we will answer all of your questions about citizenship, the process, what to expect from the ministry and even living in Croatia, if that’s your plan. It’s all tailored to you. In addition, you’ll receive a follow up with additional resources based on your situation.

All legal advice will be handled by our vetted lawyer network. We can help you with everything else.

Who will I speak with?

Carol Anne Škorvaga, known to us as “CAM”, is a first-generation Croatian-Canadian living in Jastrebarsko with her family. She grew up entrenched in the Croatian community surrounded by culture and folklore, attended Croatian school in Canada and then returned to Zagreb to attend Filozofski Fakultet. CAM is fluent in Croatian and has firsthand knowledge of being both a Canadian expat and a Croatian returnee, building a home in Croatia and being a parent with children in local schools.

Meet CAM in this quick 2-minute video here.

What is the cost?

The below costs are per 30 minutes and include VAT (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government). If additional time is requested, it is billed in ¼ hour increments.

  • First-time clients  |  150 euros (includes session with lawyer and check-in call)
  • Repeat clients  |  75 euros

We have an extensive Frequently Asked Questions about this service here.


“My husband and I are looking to obtain our Croatian citizenship through heritage. CAM was exceptional and was extremely informative about the process required, timelines, contact people, both in Croatia and at home, lawyers and services offered by Expat in Croatia. She was able to easy our anxiety and we felt that we will have solid support and direction going forward. She was professional and friendly.” – Carol W., Canada

“After months of Dr Googling we were left with some ideas but had no confidence in which process to citizenship to follow and if any of it was right. Actually at the time of our consultation the laws had changed and CAM was already on top of them. We left the consultation with a clear path to citizenship and in-depth explanation of everything we needed to do in SA before leaving. ” – MaryAnn V, South Africa

View more of our latest reviews from people we’ve helped with citizenship here.

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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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