How Brits can visit and live in Croatia: Guide for 2021 and post-Brexit

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Brit living in Croatia
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Croatia has become increasingly popular for Brits, 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.

In this post, we’ll cover:

And we’re off to the races…

Tourist visas for UK citizens to visit Croatia

Brits enjoy visa-free travel to 106 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 in these Brexit times.

How Brexit changed residence options for Brits in Croatia

As of January 1, 2021, UK citizens have limited privileges when it comes to work and travel within the EU. Brits can no longer just show up in Croatia and get residence easily like they could prior to 2021.

Brits are now considered third-country citizens, which is how Croatia refers to anyone who does not hold EEA/EU/Swiss nationality. Given this, it’s now harder to get long-term residence in Croatia. It’s not impossible, but there are limitations and challenges.

Those that moved to Croatia and applied for and/or already hold residence in Croatia will have their rights and privileges preserved according to the withdrawal agreement, even after January 1.

Every UK citizen should use this Brexit Checker that the UK government created, which provides guidance on what you need to do in your specific situation going forward.

View Croatia’s guide on Brexit here.

View the UK’s guide on living in Croatia post-Brexit here.

Next, let’s dive into the highlights of getting residency.

How British citizens can apply for temporary residence in Croatia

I’ll be upfront. It’s not going to be as easy as it used to be for Brits to live in Croatia, now that we are on the other side of Brexit. That being said, there are still many options for you to live in Croatia for a short or long-term stay. This comprehensive guide will cover all of your options for residence as well as what is required of you as British citizen.

All residency applications must be submitted at the closest administrative police station to where you live in Croatia. 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 this institution for the rest of this post.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started. We will go through each residency option, starting with the one that allows you the least amount of time in Croatia, moving up to the ones that allow you the most time in Croatia.

Digital Nomads *NEW FOR 2021*

Starting in 2021, digital nomads can be granted temporary residence based on their remote work as long as they are not working for any Croatian companies. UK citizens can now apply for this permit.

Caveats

  • This permit is only for up to 1 year and it is not renewable. It is possible that MUP will allow people to apply a second time, but won’t know if that is the case until 2022.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days (if only here a year).
  • You must sign up for state health insurance upon approval of residence, then pay 1 year of premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premiums for the term you live here.
  • You are not allowed to do any work for a Croatian company.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Here is a post that explains the requirements and process for applying for a permit based on being a digital nomad.

Permanent residents of EU/EEA/Switzerland *NEW FOR 2021*

Canadians who hold long-term residence in another EEA member state may be granted temporary residence in Croatia.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a permit based on your permanent residence in another EU/EEA country.

Student Permit

Brits can live in Croatia to study at one of the many universities across Croatia. You can also study Croatian at certain language schools and qualify for a permit as well.

To get a student residence permit, you must include proof of acceptance into a qualified Croatian institution of education with your residence application. You’ll also need to show you have the financial means to support yourself.

Caveats

  • The term of the permit will be for a single school year, excluding summer months unless you can prove you need to be here in between semesters.
  • As of right now, you cannot work as a student. Although, there is legislation in the works to change this.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you for the first two years.

Here are instructions on how to apply for a student residence permit.

Purchasing residential property

British citizens can purchase residential property in Croatia. With the purchase of a residential property, you can apply for a temporary residence permit that will allow you to stay in Croatia for up to 6 months at a time with after which you must leave for 90 days. When the 90 days is up, you can enter Croatia again as a tourist for 90 days. During this 90 days as a tourist, you can apply for a new 6-month residence permit based on your property.

Here is the timeline outlined simply:

  • 90 Days – You are in Croatia as a tourist
  • Up to 6 months – You have a legal residence permit
  • 90 Days – You are outside Croatia
  • 90 Days – You are in Croatia as a tourist
  • Up to 6 months – You have a legal residence permit
  • 90 Days – You are outside Croatia

And then it just repeats…

Caveats

  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You cannot bring your spouse with you UNLESS your spouse is also listed as an owner of the property. Kids can only come if both parents have legal residence permits.
  • The property must be zoned residential and there must be a house where you will live. A plot of land does not count.

If you wish to purchase property in Croatia, you should absolutely hire a solicitor. It’s not legally required, but it is strongly advised even if you are Croatian.

The law and requirements are too complex, there is way too much bureaucracy to navigate and there is too common to be taken advantage of at some stage in the process. The language barrier alone is reason enough, but there are many more reasons why it is a good idea to hire a pro. If you are interested in this option, contact me to be referred to a vetted real estate agent and/or real estate solicitor.

Here is a post that explains the process of purchasing residential property in Croatia.

Here is a post that explains the requirements and process for applying for a permit based on property.

Working for a Croatian company

Brits can get residence permits with the option to work in Croatia.

Caveats

  • You must be offered a work contract before you can apply for a work permit. You cannot get a work permit, then go find a job.
  • Work and residence permits can only be issued for the term of your work contract, up to 1 year at maximum. If the company wants you to continue in your role after your contract is up, they will need to provide a new work contract. Once you have the new work contract, you can apply for a new work and residence permit. Work permits cannot be “renewed”.
  • If you get a residence permit with the option to work and decide to leave your job, your residence permit will be cancelled. All work and residence permits are tied to work contracts. Without a contract, you cannot have a work permit.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you within the first two years.
  • Before a company can offer you a work contract, they must first confirm with the office of unemployment that a Croatian is not seeking that same role.

If you want to seek a work permit to live in Croatia, then start by looking for a job. Our guide on how to find a job in Croatia will prove useful.

All of the above also applies to approved EU Blue Card holders. Even with the Blue Card, you still need to have a work contract or employment offer before you can apply to live in Croatia based on work.

Starting your own Croatian company

If want to start your own business, you can employ yourself as the director of the company and therefore qualify for a work and residence permit.

This option involves entangling yourself in an endless tax bureaucracy capable of strangling the life right out of you so it is not recommended if you are only opening the company for the purpose of getting residence. This option should only be used by those who legitimately want to open and run a business in Croatia.

Caveats

  • You are required to invest 200.000 kuna of start-up capital.
  • You are required to hire 3 full-time Croatian nationals
  • You are required to pay yourself at least the minimum wage for directors
  • All these things we’ve noted about opening a business in this post and this post and this post.

If you plan to go this route, make sure you educate yourself so you know what you are getting yourself into. We have done a heap of posts about opening and operating companies in Croatia, which you can browse through here. You can also read more about the option of getting a work permit by opening your own company here.

Prepayment of rent

If you’re only looking to live in Croatia for 1 year or less, then this permit could be the right fit. It’s a great option for those who have the flexibility to move to a new country for a limited amount of time.

Another benefit is that it is not “merit” based or tied to work contracts. There are some financial hoops, yes, but they are reasonable hoops if you have cash on hand. Of course, there are catches…

Caveats

  • It is only for 1 year and it is NOT renewable. There have been individual cases where some have been allowed to apply for and stay a second year, but they were all kicked out at the end of the second year.
  • At the end of the term, you must leave Croatia for 90 days (if only here 1 year) and 18 months (if here 2 years).
  • You must prove that you’ve prepaid rent (wherever you’re staying) for the term you wish to be here, up to 1 year maximum.
  • You must sign up for state health insurance upon approval of residence, then pay for 1 year of premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premiums going forward.
  • You are not allowed to work for a Croatian company.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you. If you have a spouse, they must apply separately.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.

You can read more about how to apply for this permit here.

Scientific research

If you have a scientific research project that you wish to work on in Croatia, you can apply for a residence permit. You’ll definitely need to provide proof of the research, which will likely involve a detailed plan of what you hope to accomplish, why you need to be in Croatia and the time frame in which you plan to accomplish it. Expect it to be heavily scrutinized.

Caveats

  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You cannot work for a Croatian company

Volunteering

It is possible to gain residency on the grounds of humanitarian or volunteer work. To apply on this basis, you’ll need to provide a contract with a non-profit organization that shows the term of work and that you are not being paid for this work among other requirements.

In Croatia, a non-profit organization is called an “udruga”.

Caveats

  • The term is limited to a maximum of 1 year. In some specific cases, you can get the same permit again for a second year, after which you absolutely must leave for a period of 18 months.
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship.
  • You cannot bring your spouse or children to live with you. If you wish to bring your spouse, they will need to apply for their own residence permit on a volunteer or some other basis.
  • You cannot work in exchange for money.
  • You can only work for the non-profit with whom you have your contract used as the basis for your permit.

You can ready more about this permit here.

We have posts on non-profit organizations that consider offer long-term contracts to non-EU volunteers here:

Marrying a Croatian or EU national

This program is called “family reunification”, which essentially means that spouses and children of Croatians and EU citizens can come to live in Croatia with their spouse or parent (if they are a minor).

If you are married to or are in a life partnership with a Croatian or EU national, you are entitled to residency in Croatia as long as both you and your spouse live in Croatia together at the same address. This is by far the easiest and fastest permit to get, since there is an automatic trust that is inherent when a Croatian or EU citizen is involved.

You will need to provide an original copy of your marriage certificate that is translated, apostilled, and notarized (if married abroad). You’ll also need to show that you as a couple have the financial means to support yourself. This will be explained in more detail below in the “Requirements” section.

In practice, there have been discrepancies in the term of your permit. Some spouses have received 5-year permits, while others have had to get a new permit after each year. There does not appear to be a pattern, so you’ll just need to see what the police say in your situation.

After four years of temporary residency, you’ll qualify for permanent residency. Once you receive permanent residency, you can apply for citizenship.

You can read more about how to apply for a permit based on marriage or life partnership to a Croatian here and EU citizens here.

Citizenship by Croatian descent

If you’ve got Croatian heritage, you’ve got the golden ticket. Seems like every day, the Croatian government is making it easier for diaspora to gain citizenship in an effort to get them to come live here.

To qualify for citizenship, you must have a parent, grandparent, great grandparent, etc. that is Croatian. Lineage must be in a straight line and you must be able to prove lineage, which is usually done with birth certificates.

Caveats

  • As of January 1, 2020, you can only apply from an embassy or consulate abroad if you are a non-resident.
  • If your ancestor left Croatia at any point and moved to an ex-Yugoslavia country, then your right to citizenship is negated.
  • If your ancestor left Croatia after 1991, then your right to citizenship is negated.
  • Applications for citizenship take time, months to years, so be patient.

You can see if you qualify for Croatian citizenship in 60 seconds here.

You can see how to apply for citizenship here.

You can read the most important things you need to know before applying for Croatian citizenship here.


There you go, all of your options for applying for residence in Croatia. Next, we will go over all of the requirements for residency.

Requirements for British residents

There are common requirements that apply to all third-country 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
    • Validity period must be 3 months longer than the validity period of intended stay.
  • Criminal background check *NEW FOR 2021*
    • People applying for temporary residence in Croatia for the very first time must now provide a criminal background check from their country of nationality. This is a brand new requirement that goes into effect January 1, 2021. In the UK, it is called a “police certificate”. You can request it from ACRO here.
  • OIB identification number (like a national insurance number)
  • Health insurance
    • For most permits, you will need to have your own private travel health insurance for the application process. Once approved, you’ll need to get state health insurance.
    • For some permits like family reunification and work permits, you must get state health insurance during the application process.
      • Here is how to get state health insurance.
      • Here are the costs of state health insurance.
  • 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 along with having a non-notarised rental contract.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
    • Depending on your basis, you can either show you have a big chunk of money on a bank account or show a work contract or show salary payments from a Croatian company. Here are the financial minimums you’ll need, but the police will tell you what they need from you.
  • (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.

Health insurance for Brits living in Croatia

You are required to have a valid health care policy through HZZO (Croatia’s state fund) during your 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.

When applying for temporary residence in Croatia as a UK citizen, you are required to have proof of health insurance as part of your application. It will need to be some kind of private health insurance policy (or a state health insurance policy if coming from another country within the EU).

NHS health insurance no longer counts for the purpose of applying for residence nor can it be used for urgent care in Croatia. There are exceptions to this, which you can read about in detail here.

Once you are approved for residence, then you must sign up for “obavezno” state health insurance with HZZO. Obavezno is the basic state health insurance that all residents must have. Dopunsko is an optional supplement health insurance that you can get from HZZO or a private insurer. You can read the specifics about what is included as well as the costs for obavezno here and dopunsko here.

Upon enrollment in HZZO, all third-country citizens are required to pay 12 months of health insurance premiums for the previous year plus the monthly premium going forward. This is for everybody, children and adults alike. Meaning that if you are a family of 4 with 2 children, you’ll need to pay these fees for all 4 members of your family.

The monthly premium changes year to year. The current amount is always updated in this post.

Exchanging your UK driver’s licenses

UK driver’s license are valid for use within Croatia through the end of 2021. To ensure you continue to have a valid driver’s license in Croatia, you will need to exchange your UK driver’s license for a Croatian one if you plan to live in Croatia beyond December 31, 2021.

The British government is recommending that you exchange your license now. If you wait too long to exchange your license, you may be required to take driving school in Croatia. Here are instructions on how to exchange your driver’s license in Croatia.

Buying property

Prior to 2021, British citizens were allowed to purchase residential property in Croatia as EU citizens. However, post-Brexit, British citizens no longer have that privilege. Instead, their right to purchase property in Croatia must be defined by a reciprocity agreement.

As of now, the UK does not have a reciprocity agreement with Croatia in place. This means that for now, Brits cannot purchase property in Croatia at all until this is sorted out.

Once there is a reciprocity agreement in place, UK citizens will be able to purchase property again as long as they have permission from the Ministry of Justice in Croatia. You can learn about that process here.

Taxes

Currently, the United Kingdom does have a double-taxation treaty in place with Croatia. As of now, it appears that this treaty will stay in place after Brexit.

For now, UK citizens living more than 183 days in Croatia each year must report their worldwide income and pay taxes in Croatia. Due to the double taxation treaty, those in this situation will not have to pay taxes in the UK.

Taxes are complicated. This is a 50.000 foot view of the tax situation. If you ever want a detailed review of your tax liability when living in Croatia, contact us and we’ll connect you with a tax expert.

Where to find the UK embassy and consulate in Croatia

Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Zagreb

Contact: Andrew Stuart Dalgleish

Telephone:
+385 (0)1 60 09 100

Email:
[email protected]
[email protected]

Address:
Ivana Lučića 4
10 000 Zagreb
View Map

Next Steps

If you’re a Brit that wishes to live in Croatia, then take these next steps:

  1. Use the Brexit checker to see what you need to do as a UK citizen.
  2. Educate yourself about post-Brexit life as a Brit living in Croatia.
  3. Determine on which basis you want to apply for residence.
  4. Prepare the requirements for you application
  5. Determine if you need assistance with your application
  6. Move to Croatia. YAY!

Need help applying for residency?

We recommend that everyone use a solicitor when applying for residency in Croatia. Solicitors 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-vetted solicitor 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 immigration solicitor, please complete the form below and we’ll match you with one best suited to help.

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4 thoughts on “How Brits can visit and live in Croatia: Guide for 2021 and post-Brexit

  1. Andrew Hebb
    May 14, 2020 @ 4:31 pm

    Hello Sara,
    It’s good to get a British perspective, as so many expat sites only seem to consider the US situation. We’re hoping to move after Covid and before end of EU transition period and the only thing I don’t get is how we’re supposed to get a piece of paper from the UK health service (the NHS) which will be accepted by HZZO as proving that we’re no longer “covered” by the UK health system. It’s not an insurance-based system and as long as you live here you’re entitled to it. You can’t “stop” it.
    Do you know how other British immigrants have got over this problem?
    Regards
    Andrew

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 19, 2020 @ 9:32 am

      Hi Andrew,

      After receiving your question, I asked around about this. The UK nationals I spoke to were only able to get around this requirement by finding a personal connection within the HZZO office.

      If you end up finding a solution on your side, please let us know so we can guide others in your situation.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  2. Andy Obridge
    July 24, 2020 @ 8:56 pm

    Regarding proof from the NHS. I simply contacted the Health Area where I last lived. They sent a simple letter stating I was no longer registered with a Doctor there.
    Back payments to the HZZO were to the date of that letter.

    {reply}

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