How to volunteer in Croatia and get residence: Guide for 2021

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Volunteers in Croatia
Image by Reader’s Digest

LAST UPDATED: 5/5/2021

Volunteering is a great way to contribute to your community. Volunteering abroad in countries where you do not live is also a wonderful way to travel and get to know other cultures.

If you decide to volunteer in Croatia, you can apply for a residence permit based on your volunteering. However, there are some hoops you’ll need to jump through to qualify.

Keep in mind that the non-profit organization (called “udruga”) is obliged to report you as a volunteer.

There are three categories under which foreigners legally qualify to volunteer in Croatia:

  • Foreigners who come to work in working camps and other working-educational programs or diplomatic missions and consular offices in Croatia
  • Volunteers who volunteer for NGOs and similar institutions within an international volunteer exchange program
  • Foreigners who come to do professional practice or volunteer within international volunteer programs and initiatives carried out by the competent authority for education and science such as: Program Zajednice, Program za cjeloživotno učenje, Erasmus+, etc.

In this post, we’ll cover how to apply for both short term and long term volunteering as well as what should be included in a standard volunteer contract with an udruga.

In this post, we cover:

Types of volunteering

In Croatia, there are 2 types of volunteering:

  1. Short-term volunteering – up to 90 days
  2. Long-term volunteering – from 90 days and up to one year

1. Short-term volunteering

Short-term volunteering can last up to 90 days within one calendar year. This period can be divided into several shorter periods.

Most foreigners who come to Croatia for the purpose of short-term volunteering must get a “potvrda o prijavi rada” (work registration certificate) from the police according to the Zakon o strancima (law on foreigners).

A work registration certificate is required for all foreign citizens (with some exceptions) and citizens of Slovenia, Austria, Malta, Netherlands, Great Britain, and North Ireland. Citizens of the remaining EEA members and the Swiss confederation are exempt and therefore do not need a work registration certificate.

To get a work registration certificate, you must go to the police administration office nearest to the headquarters of the volunteer organizer or to the place where the volunteering will be done.

A work registration certificate can be picked up at the police station by the volunteer or a representative of the volunteer program or udruga. This depends on the deal agreed upon between the volunteer and the organizer.

To get a work registration certificate, provide the following to the police:

  • Pisani zahtjev za izdavanje potvrde o prijavi rada (a form the police will provide)
    • This form includes volunteer’s name and surname, date, place, and country of birth, citizenship, a period for which the certification is required, number of volunteering days and the type of volunteer work
  • A copy of a valid identification document (an ID card, passport – If passport is not in English language, then you must have a copy notarized and translated into Croatian)
  • Tourist visa, if required for your nationality
  • Proof of volunteering arrangement (in Croatian language) such as:
    • Ugovor o volontiranju (Volunteering Contract)
    • Ugovor o partnerstvu između uključenih organizacija (Partnership Agreement between the organizations involved) along with the volunteer’s applications for the volunteering program
  • Tax stamps in the amount of 20 kuna

Once the work registration certificate has been approved, you’ll need to return to the administrative police station where you submitted the application. You must pay for upravna pristojba (administrative fee) in the amount of 150 kuna. The police will give you a uplatnica (a payment slip). Here are instructions on how to pay this bill.

Based on the issued certificate, a volunteer can work for the same volunteer organizer all over Croatia. For every new contract term, a new work registration certificate is needed.

2. Long-term volunteering

Long-term volunteering can last from 90 days and up to 1 year.

Long-term volunteers must report and register their temporary stay in Croatia. This registration process involves applying for dozvola za boravak i rad (residence and work permit).

A residence and work permit enables a temporary stay on the basis of volunteer work. It does not allow you to work for payment for any company in Croatia. Foreign volunteers between 18 and 65 years old who have an unpaid volunteering agreement for a term of longer than 90 days can apply for this permit.

Volunteers can volunteer in Croatia on the basis of the program of international exchange and cooperation of volunteers. In this case, a work permit can be approved for a period of up to 1 year. It can be extended for another 12 months if this is approved by EU work and volunteering programs.

To apply for a residence and work permit for volunteers, you must provide:

  • Agreement with the volunteering host which must include:
    • Description of the volunteer program
    • Duration of volunteering
    • Conditions of volunteering
    • Number of hours of volunteering
    • Resources available to cover the costs of stay and accommodation
    • Minimum amount of pocket money during stay
    • Training program for work with children and vulnerable groups according to the regulation governing volunteering
  • Proof that the host entity is in possession of a third-party liability insurance policy unless it comes from the European Voluntary Service (EVS)

There is an exception when work permits for volunteers can be issued to third-country nationals who don’t participate in the program of international exchange and cooperation of volunteers. This can be done if additional requirements are met.

These requirements are:

  • All requirements for temporary stay are met
  • They have volunteering agreement in accordance with the regulation that defines volunteering
  • Body responsible for implementing the volunteering program agrees

In this case, a work permit can be approved for a period of up to 1 year. It can be extended for another 6 months if this is required by a volunteer program.

A residence permit is required for all foreign citizens, and citizens of Slovenia, Austria, Malta, Netherlands, Great Britain, and North Ireland. However, citizens who come from member countries of EEA and the Swiss confederation are entitled to residence permits automatically regardless of your purpose for coming to Croatia. If this is your situation, then hop over to this post to learn how you can apply for a residence permit in Croatia as an EU national.

How to apply for temporary residence as a volunteer

You can submit your application on the basis of volunteering at the nearest administrative police station to where you will live and volunteer.

The requirements for your temporary residence application include:

  • Completed form for Zahtjev za prijavu privremenog (Request for temporary residence, provided by the police)
    • Form for non-EU national volunteers
    • Form for EU, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Swiss Confederation national volunteers
  • (1) 35×45 mm passport photo
  • Registration of your address in Croatia
  • 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.
  • A copy of a valid identification document (an ID card or passport)
  • Tourist visa, if required for your nationality
  • Proof of a valid health insurance (one of the following)
    • European health insurance card
    • HZZO state health insurance card
    • Proof of foreign health insurance
    • Travel insurance (if a volunteer doesn’t have any of the insurance mentioned above)
  • Dokaz o osiguranim sredstvima za uzdržavanje (Proof of sufficient financial sources)
    • Proof of all costs that the organizer will cover, which may include the cost of accommodation, food, health insurance, or travel.
    • If the organizer isn’t able to cover all the costs, a volunteer must provide a confirmation from a Croatian bank showing that they have sufficient funds to support themselves during the term of volunteering . For every month of volunteering, a volunteer must have 1000 kuna on their bank account. For example, if the volunteer will be in Croatia for 7 months, they must show that there is 7000 kuna in a bank account.
  • Volunteering agreement (in Croatian language)
  • Tax stamps in the amount of 70 kuna

When the application is processed, the volunteer or organizer will be informed about the status of the application by telephone. If the application is approved, a volunteer must come to the police station to pay the fees. The fees are:

  • 800 kuna for the residence and work permit
  • 240 kuna for the boravišna iskaznica (identification card)

It takes 3 weeks for the ID card to be printed.

Based on the issued residence permit, a volunteer can work for the same volunteer organizer all over Croatia. For every new contract term, a new residence permit is needed.

What does a volunteering contract need to include?

Not all contracts are created equal. When you submit a volunteering contract to the police as part of your application for residence, it must include specific items for it to be accepted.

A volunteering contract must include:

  • Name of the udruga, their OIB and their address
  • Name of the volunteer, their OIB or relevant ID number, and their address
  • Place and period of volunteering
  • Description of the volunteering activities (what the volunteer will be doing)
  • Rights and obligations/responsibilities of the volunteer and the udruga
  • Safety of volunteer while volunteering
  • Ways of ensuring the volunteer’s rights
  • Statement that the volunteer will not be paid
  • Allowances and reimbursements that will be covered, if any
  • All the clauses from the law on volunteering
  • General clauses from the law on civil obligations
  • Procedure for termination of the contract
  • Signatures of both the volunteer and the udruga

Here is an example of a volunteering contract.

Volunteering and permanent residence

According to the law on foreigners, residence based on volunteering doesn’t count towards permanent residence.

Article 151 of the law says:

(1) U vrijeme potrebno za odobrenje dugotrajnog boravišta iz članka 150. stavka 1. ovoga Zakona ne uračunava se:
4. boravak na temelju izdane dozvole za boravak i rad volonterima

Which translates as:

(1) The time required for the approval of a long-term residence referred to in Article 150, paragraph 1 of this Act shall not include:
4. residence on the basis of a residence and work permit issued to volunteers

Who can you volunteer for?

You can volunteer for any udruga (non-profit organization) in Croatia. Here are some great organizations in Zagreb and some in Split where you may volunteer either short or long-term. We would also like to call out the fantastic organization udruga Domine in Split as a great place to volunteer. Read our profile about them here.

Volonterski centar Zagreb

Volonterski centar Zagreb (Volunteers’ Center Zagreb) is a NGO who promotes volunteering and serves as a relevant source of information about local and international volunteering. They mediate, educate, and counsel volunteers and volunteering organizations all across Croatia.

VCZ provides:

  • Latest news regarding volunteering
  • Education and counseling
  • Engaging citizens into volunteering actions
  • Connecting different organizations and associations
  • Organizing different volunteer activities with the emphasis on organizations within EU
  • Volunteering research
  • Promotion of the values of volunteering

If you have any questions regarding volunteering or wish to be connected to an udruga in Croatia, contact VCZ.

Volonterski centar Zagreb

Working hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 – 17:00
Address: Ilica 29, 10 000 Zagreb
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +385 (0)1 3013 058

Website

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.

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6 thoughts on “How to volunteer in Croatia and get residence: Guide for 2021

  1. Chad Pringle
    May 9, 2020 @ 9:44 pm

    Great article, thanks for all the helpful info. I wanted to know if I volunteer and get my residency based off this, can my wife and kids liver here in Croatia with me? I would of course prove proof of income to support myself from my US pension and pay into the HZZO system for all in my family like I do now. My family and I have 1 year residency now just based off wanting to explore the country but I know this type “other” visa can’t be renewed unfortunately.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 11, 2020 @ 9:30 am

      Hi Chad,

      Thanks for the question!

      Unfortunately, your family can not join you with this type of permit within the first 2 years.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  2. Anna
    March 18, 2021 @ 6:24 pm

    Hello! I will share my experience so far with temporary residency.

    I moved to Zagreb June 2020 from Canada. My plan was to apply for temporary residency for volunteering. Prior to leaving Canada, I sent inquiries to around 35 organizations, received responses from around 5 of these, had 2 online interviews, and arranged for 2 placements.

    I hired an immigration lawyer through your website and was so glad I had. It made the application process so much easier. It ended up that the lawyer suggested I apply for temporary residency as a tourist rather than as a volunteer because there was a lot less documentation required. My lawyer said he checked with MUP and I could apply for a different reason within the year in order to remain in Croatia at the end of the 1st year, which I intend to do. I am learning Croatian and am hoping to find a place of employment that will sponsor me so I can stay for a 2nd year. In the meantime, I have volunteered my time with 2 organizations while being here.

    I applied for residency in September 2020 and I was approved in October 2020. It is mid-March 2021 and I am still waiting to be contacted by MUP via my lawyer to finalize everything. My lawyer said not to worry to much about it taking time to be finalized.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      March 19, 2021 @ 5:39 pm

      Hi Anna,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience!! It sounds like it’s been a positive one. Also very glad to hear that you have had a great experience with the lawyer we recommended.

      I hope all continues to be smooth sailing. If you ever need anything, please let me know. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  3. Sofia Poznansky
    May 11, 2021 @ 4:31 pm

    Hello,

    I have a question. I am going to Croatia on June 14th 2021 as a volunteer for an NGO. As a volunteer I need to obtain a working certificate from the nearest police station. However, I am a third country national so I cannot obtain this document prior to arrival. Will I be granted entry without this document? What documentation do I need in the airport prior to consulting with the police station? Does that make sense?

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      May 17, 2021 @ 4:28 pm

      Hi Sofia,

      To enter Croatia, you need a passport and a tourist visa if required for your nationality. Then you need to apply for the working certificate in Croatia.

      We recommend you to call or email MUP/police before your trip. They will reconfirm this information. You can see the list of all MUP offices in Croatia here: https://www.expatincroatia.com/administrative-police-stations/ Call the one closest to your future Croatian address.

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

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