Croatia has become increasingly popular for UK citizens, especially in the wake of Brexit. With that in mind, we’ve created a guide specifically for UK citizens who want to move to Croatia long term. If you’re just passing through, we cover tourist visas too.
And we’re off to the races…
Tourist visas for UK citizens to visit Croatia
UK citizens enjoy visa-free travel to 132 countries around the world. Croatia is one of those countries.
To visit Croatia as a UK citizen, all you need to do is show up with your passport. You do not have to apply for a travel visa in advance and you do not need to get a visa on arrival or pay any fee to enter. Upon entry, you can stay for 90 days within a 180-day period.
You will need to register your stay with the police. Usually this is done by your accommodation, which is why they typically ask for your passport when you check in. If you don’t register your tourist stay and you are here less than 90 days, it’s unlikely that you’ll be given any trouble when you leave but it’s important to understand the requirements.
You can always see the latest tourist visa status here, but it’s unlikely to ever change even after Brexit becomes OFFICIAL official.
How to move to Croatia as a UK citizen
As of this moment, UK citizens still have it pretty good. They are still afforded the same rights as other EU citizens, for the most part. This means they don’t need to worry about an official reason to come and live in Croatia. They can just do it.
Even though EU citizens can freely travel and work within the EU, there are still requirements they need to follow in their host country. If a British citizen moves to Croatia and intends to stay longer than 90 days, they must apply for a residence permit.
However, there is a time limit. The end of the Brexit transition period is currently scheduled for 31 December 2020. This means you must move to Croatia BEFORE this date and you must apply for a residence permit BEFORE 30 June 2021. For example, if you apply for residency in Croatia on 31 March 2021, you will need to prove that you were already living in Croatia before 31 December 2020.
If you do not meet these milestones and move to Croatia AFTER 31 December 2020, you will be considered a third-country national. Speaking as a third-country national, you don’t want to be in this situation if you can avoid it. It will be infinitely harder to gain residence in Croatia. If you want to get a taste of what awaits you post-transition, check out this guide we made for Americans.
Next, let’s dive into the highlights of getting residency.
Applying for residency as a British citizen
If you move to Croatia before the transition period ends, you will be entitled to temporary residency in Croatia provided that you jump through all the hoops, provide all the requested documents and meet all the requirements.
All residency applications must be submitted at the closest administrative police station to where you live. The police are part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, called in Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova in Croatian. We all call it “MUP” for short, which is how we will refer to the police for the rest of this post.
It is important to note that it is rare to find a MUP worker at the foreigner desk that will speak English to you. Yes, it is strange that someone who works exclusively with foreigners would not speak English to a non-Croatian, but that is part of the bureaucracy that must be accepted by all of us who live here. There are a lucky few that discover a worker who will speak English, but those are the exception, not the rule.
The application process usually takes a few weeks for EU citizens. Once approved, you’ll be granted a 1-year temporary residence permit. EU citizens are usually given 5-year permits automatically, but UK nationals can only get a 1-year permit at this stage. This means that you’ll need to apply again for a new permit each year.
Given that everything with Brexit goes as planned, UK nationals will most likely need to apply as third-country nationals starting in 2021.
Next, we will go over all of the requirements for residency.
Requirements for British residents
There are common requirements that apply to all EU citizens. Below is a list of those common requirements, however keep in mind that MUP may request additional items just to mix things up.
Every UK national must provide:
- A completed application
- The police will provide you with the application. You can also download the application here.
- A valid passport
- Expiration date must be more than 6 months out
- OIB identification number (like a national insurance number)
- This should be the first thing you do on arrival. Here is how to get one.
- Health insurance (through the state fund in your home country or through HZZO, the state fund in Croatia)
- If using health insurance from your home country, you can only use it in Croatia for urgent care. Note that your UK state health insurance will no longer be valid in Croatia at all after 31/12/20.
- If you switch to Croatian health care, you must prove that you have ended your health care in your home country.
- Registered address in Croatia (where you live, whether you own or rent)
- If you are renting, you will need a notarised rental contract OR the owner can come to the police with you to state that you are renting from them.
- Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
- (2) passport photos
- Usually there is a photo studio right by MUP where you can get these in the right size.
- Application fee
- This is due upon approval of your application. In some cases, you must pay an administrative fee earlier in the process using tax stamps.
You are required to have a valid state health care policy to gain residence in Croatia. If you are employed by a Croatian employer, then they will pay for your healthcare. If you are financially independent, or your income comes from abroad, then you will need to have your own insurance policy.
There are two situations that Croatia will accept for your health care requirement IF you are not employed by a Croatian company.
- You have state health insurance in your home country
- You have state health insurance in Croatia through HZZO
If using your NHS health insurance
If you plan to keep your NHS health insurance, you can only use it in Croatia for urgent care through the end of 2020. Note that your UK state health insurance will no longer be valid in Croatia at all after 31/12/20.
If you plan to get Croatian state health insurance
Croatian state health insurance is called “obavezno” and it is offered through HZZO. You can read all about this insurance including the costs here.
If you plan to sign up for HZZO, you must first prove that you no longer have state insurance in the UK. This has caused a lot of issues for UK nationals because in practice, it’s near impossible to get any kind of document from the NHS to prove that you aren’t covered with them.
Here are some of the methods other UK nationals have used:
- Request that NHS send proof directly to HZZO that you are not insured. It requires that you complete a form with the NHS and can take several months.
- Request a letter from your last doctor in the UK stating that you haven’t been registered in X amount of time.
- Work your local contacts in Croatia. Somebody will know somebody who has a cousin at HZZO who can work it out for you.
Of course, this will all be moot after 31 December. After the end of the transition period, you’ll no longer have to prove you are not on NHS because it won’t be valid here anyways.
If you’re a UK national that wishes to live in Croatia, get here as soon as you can. Once the transition period ends, there will be no turning back.
To fully prepare yourself for the process, review the below detailed posts on how to apply for residence in Croatia as an EU national. These posts will walk you through step-by-step instructions on what you need to do and where you need to go.
You can also read about your rights with regards to living in the EU prior to the Brexit transition here.
We recommend that everyone use a lawyer when applying for residency in Croatia. Lawyers have connections with immigration authorities, are able to skip common roadblocks and can identify any risks with your application. In addition, it is rare that the police (who handle immigration) will speak English to applicants.
Our Expat in Croatia lawyer network can handle your residency application from beginning to end. This service includes:
- Personalised consulting on your specific situation
- Confirming latest immigration requirements for your nationality
- Assistance with putting together necessary documents
- All communication with the police on your behalf
- Assistance with sign up of health insurance at HZZO
- Assembly, submission and monitoring of your application
- Answering questions and assisting you throughout the process
To consult with an expat-vetted immigration lawyer, please complete the form below and we’ll contact you as soon as possible.