How to transition from temporary to permanent residence: Guide for 2022

This post has been verified with an immigration lawyer and the ministry that handles immigration.
Image by SJ Grand

UPDATED: 30/09/2021

If you live in Croatia and are approaching the five-year mark, this post is for you. Once temporary residents are here for five continuous years, they qualify to apply for permanent residence. The five years is calculated from the start date of your first temporary residence permit, not the date you arrived in Croatia. This start date will be on your first identification card.

Temporary residents are just that: temporary. In most cases, but not all, temporary residents must re-apply for residency every year increasing the risk that they could be be denied and kicked out depending on their basis and nationality. EU residents usually are granted an automatic five-year temporary residence permit, so they only need to apply the one time.

Permanent residency is a big milestone, which affords several privileges including:

  • You never have to go through the residence application process ever again.
  • You are entitled to live in Croatia long term.
  • You can leave Croatia for longer periods without losing your residency status.
  • You are one step closer to qualifying for Croatian citizenship.
  • You are entitled to certain additional benefits.

The process of transitioning to permanent residency has caught many off guard, so we will walk you through what to expect so there are no surprises.

How to transition from temporary to permanent residence in Croatia

When to visit the police

The general rule of thumb when applying for a new temporary residence permit is to visit the police two months before the expiration of your current permit to start the application process. It’s a little bit different for permanent residency.

The police will not allow you to start your permanent residency application until the day AFTER your temporary permit expires. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still visit the police two months in advance.

I strongly recommend you still go two months out so that you can let the police know that you intend to apply for permanent residence. They will provide you with the list of requirements for your nationality. In all likelihood, especially if you are a non-EU national, it will take you two months to prepare the requirements needed for your permanent residency application anyways. For example, you may need to take the Croatian language test, which is only offered once a month at the fakultet.

There will be two applications

Every resident must have a valid residence permit at all times. For this reason, you will need to reapply for temporary residence at the same time that you apply for permanent residence. The permanent residency application usually takes longer to process, which is why you need to have a valid temporary permit until you are approved for permanent residency.

This may sound like a lot. Do not worry, we’re going to unpack all of it.

This temporary residence application that you will submit at the same time as your permanent residence application will be a little bit different. It is the same application and requirements as every other temporary residence application that you have previously applied for, but with one difference.

When you complete the application form, you will check the box for “Autonomous Stay” (for non-EUs) or “Extension” (EUs). Most likely, the police will check this box for you, but it’s important to understand the distinction. It kind of functions like an extension, rather than a brand new permit.

The approval doesn’t take nearly as long as usual, since technically you are without a valid permit until they approve it. During this permit-less time, the police will give you a letter showing you are in process that you can use in conjunction with your old ID card.

“Wow, two applications instead of one? That sounds like a headache.” Actually, it really isn’t. All the requirements for permanent overlap with the temporary requirements. You will need to fill out a permanent application and a temporary application. You will need to pay two application fees. Other than that, the remaining requirements only need to be submitted once since they apply to both.

It is critical to understand that you can only be granted extensions of your temporary residence while you are in process for permanent. To even clearer, you must apply for permanent residence after 5 years of temporary residence. If you don’t, then you will need to change your residence basis or leave. You can only be granted one extension, so make the most of it.

How does the application process work?

For your temporary residence application(s), you worked with the foreigner desk at the police station. For permanent residency, you will be assigned a case worker. Smaller MUP offices may function a little different, but you’ll probably meet with this person in an office.

In most cases, this case worker will be with you throughout the duration of the process. I was moved between three case workers over 18 months because they kept getting transferred, which was fine by me because the last one was the best.

Most likely, the case worker will only speak Croatian to you. There is an assumption that if you’ve already lived in Croatia for five years and you wish to live here permanently that you do and should speak Croatian. If you are not comfortably communicating with the case worker in Croatian, bring a friend or a lawyer. If you bring a friend, make sure you get on the same page about what you do and do not want to communicate to the case worker BEFORE you go.

The benefits of having a case worker are:

  • They know you, so you don’t have to re-explain yourself every time you visit.
  • They have a direct phone number where you can contact them.
  • It gives you a single point of contact for the application.

How long is this going to take?

The autonomous stay temporary permit extension will go relatively quick. Could be a few days to a few weeks, depending on your nationality. The permanent residency application takes longer. If you’re an EU national, it will only take a few weeks to get approval since you technically have a right to it. If you are non-EU, the police say to expect a minimum of one year, but it could take closer to 18 months if not longer.

My permanent residency application took 18 months. The police called me into the police station every 6 months to reconfirm that I qualified, meaning that I was still living where I said I was living and that I was still getting paid a Croatian salary that met their minimum requirements.

Once you are approved, the government will issue a decision on your permanent residency. It’s an official letter stating that you have been granted “stalnog boravak”. I cried when I read mine.

After approval, you’ll have to pay some fees, make a signature, give fingerprints and order your new ID card. It’s all the same as when you were approved for temporary residence.

The moment I picked up my permanent residence ID card.

Your game plan, simplified

  1. Familiarize yourself with the permanent residency application. We have a detailed post covering the process here.
  2. Visit the police two months before your temporary permit expires. Tell the police you want to apply for permanent and need the list of requirements.
  3. Schedule and take your Croatian language test. This test is not as hard as you might think, but if you aren’t actively learning Croatian now, you better get started. You will be expected to speak and you will need to understand cases.
  4. Visit the police the day after your temporary permit expires. Bring all of the requirements with you to start both the autonomous extension and the permanent application. It is okay if you haven’t taken the test yet. Just know that they will not send your application to Zagreb until they have proof you passed.
  5. Wait patiently. The police will call you (or your lawyer) with any updates or additional needs.

There is no way to speed up the government’s approval of your application. However, having a lawyer handle the application on your behalf can certainly make the process more efficient, which does reduce the time it takes. I

f you are a non-EU national, it is highly recommended that you use a lawyer who can translate for you, accompany you to the police, follow up on your application, and review your application to decrease the likelihood of roadblocks. If you contact me, I can recommend one.

The key to success

Like anything dealing with Croatian bureaucracy, be patient and kind. Frustration and anger will not get you anywhere. It will take as long as it takes.

If you follow all of these steps, you’ll be completely prepared to transition from temporary residency to permanent residency. YAY!

Next Steps

Once you are granted permanent residence in Croatia, you have the same rights to health insurance as Croatian nationals and you must change the status of your obvezno health insurance. Contact the HZZO to sign up to obvezno on another basis. If you are already insured through your job, you don’t have to change the status.

[Read: How to sign up for state health insurance in Croatia]

If you don’t notify the HZZO that you have become a permanent resident of Croatia, they will send you the Rješenje. Rješenje is a written notification that you are signed off from obvezno health insurance and that you must change your status (sign up on another basis/category).

Learn about the permanent residency application here.

[Read: Rights of permanent residents in Croatia]

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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