August the 4th, 2019 – Before I begin – I can already hear the confused questions of Croats asking why anyone would want to naturalise as a citizen of Croatia. Well, it might shock you to hear that many people do seek a Croatian passport for various reasons, and no, it isn’t just to be able to fly to Ireland with.
Many foreigners are rocking up on these rugged shores and their numbers have increased ever since Croatia joined the European Union back in July 2013. In those few years of freedom of movement having been adopted by Croatia in order to obtain full EU membership, foreigners from across the rest of Europe, from the UK to Greece, have come to try their luck in this little country. Not to leave out non-Europeans of course, as many people from outside of our continent have also made the move, some of them coming from distant lands like New Zealand and Australia.
I once wrote a long (very long, sorry) article on how one goes about obtaining residence in Croatia. There are many ways, the laws change more quickly than even those trying to enforce them can keep up with, and there are many administrative clerks at MUP who have all the warmth of an arctic breeze trying to ”help” you along the way. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? You bet.
I’d like to preface the rest of this article by stating that I am very aware that many foreigners (particularly non EEA citizens) who have gone through, or are currently going through the residency process have had varying experiences. Some of them, for whatever reason, have been drastically different. If I spent all of my time writing about individual experiences with this, I’d get nowhere fast. Therefore I’m going to be as brief as I can when listing the general provisions which should get you residency, all of which of course have exceptions, as this is primarily about naturalisation. Let’s continue.
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE (PRIVREMENI BORAVAK)
Let’s say you’ve successfully completed the first hurdle and you’re officially a temporary resident, you’ve got your OIB, you’ve got your ID and you’ve still got a smile on your face.
If you’re from the EEA, you’ve now likely got five years of freedom from having to face the living dead at MUP printed on a card, and if you’re not from the EEA, you’ve got another year before you need to re-enter the twilight zone and try your luck at approval for another year.
Excellent – Level 1 complete!
PERMANENT RESIDENCE (STALNI BORAVAK)
You’re from the EEA, you’ve racked up your continuous five years of residence on Croatian territory, and now you’re automatically a permanent resident of Croatia under European Union law. You’ve gone to MUP following the expiration of your temporary residence, and you’ve registered your permanent residence. The powers that be have deemed that you have indeed been there for five years (absences of six months per year don’t matter if you’re from the EU), you’re not a criminal, and your permanent residence in Croatia has been confirmed. Time for a large rakija.
You’re a third country national, you have dodged the endless reams of red tape and managed to bag five continuous years of residency in Croatia and you’ve applied for permanent residence. You waited for a much longer time than an EEA citizen with gritted teeth, but the news finally came that the overlords at MUP have granted your request and the sigh of relief which escapes your lips is enough to cause propuh. Hats off to you, you’re not from the EU and therefore you’ve likely not had it very easy. Time for an even larger rakija. Or two.
Cheers to you as that’s Level 2 complete!
CROATIAN CITIZENSHIP (HRVATSKO DRŽAVLJANSTVO):
Now, some would have you believe that this is the golden egg that nobody can get to unless they have a Croatian parent or are married to a Croat. While it’s true that you’ll likely (not always) need to jump through many a hoop in order to get your hands on that little blue passport, it isn’t mission impossible.
Once you have approved permanent residence, you have almost all the rights of a Croatian citizen anyway. You’re an equal to a Croatian citizen in every sense (or should be), you just can’t vote. Certain crimes may see your residence revoked, but assuming you’re not a criminal, the only way your permanent residence can be revoked is if you have been outside of Croatia for a continuous period of two years, or if you’ve suddenly decided to take up terrorism or something of that nature.
Once you have that little card that says you’re a permanent resident, you can choose to stop there and avoid the potential issues that come with naturalising as a Croatian citizen and going the full nine yards, as they say. But, if you want to have absolutely no worries about your rights ever again and be able to vote, you’ll need to naturalise.
Croatian citizenship can be obtained on various different legal grounds, from marriage to the very grey area of being ”of special interest” to the Republic of Croatia. In this article, I’m going to be focusing solely on naturalisation as a foreigner, without marriage to a Croat. Let’s look at that in more detail.
Naturalising as a Croatian citizen after having lived in Croatia for a continuous, lawful period of no less than eight years, and holding valid permanent residence at the time of application:
If you’re a foreign national and you’ve been living in Croatia lawfully and continuously for eight years, and you’re not married to a Croatian citizen, then this one applies to you.
Permanent residency is the key here. You need to have it in order to apply. You cannot have been here on and off for eight years being in ”residence limbo”, you can’t have been out of legal status at any point during that time, and your residence in Croatia has to be deemed by the authorities to amount to eight years.
You need to be 18 or over and be able to work, you need to have the above-mentioned registered eight years of lawful, continuous residence in Croatia, you need to show proof of your knowledge of the Croatian language and the Latin script, Croatian culture, and the way Croatian society is arranged, and it must be able to be seen from your behaviour that you respect the law and customs of Croatia and aren’t a threat to national security or public order.
If you’re over 60 years of age, then you don’t need to prove your knowledge of the Croatian language, the Latin script, or the culture and society.
If you tick all of those boxes, then you can apply. As with everything else official in Croatia, you’ll need to submit your application in person with the police or at a diplomatic mission of the Republic of Croatia. The application form can be downloaded here.
The following documents should be enclosed with the application:
Your curriculum vitae (CV)
An extract from the birth register (and an extract from the marriage register if you’re legally married), issued within the last six months (the said documents need not be submitted if your birth and marriage have been entered in the national registers of Croatia)
Proof of your current citizenship
A police clearance certificate issued by the competent foreign authority of your country of citizenship and the country of your permanent residence (which by this point would be Croatia), issued within the last six months
A certified copy of an official (government issued) valid identity document (such as a passport) containing a visible photo of you
Proof of knowledge of the Croatian language and the Latin script, as well as proof of knowledge of Croatian culture and society (this is done by filling out a questionnaire on the culture and societal structure of Croatia, independently and without consultation in front of the official you’re submitting the application to, and knowledge of Croatian and the Latin script is proven by providing appropriate evidence, such as the filling out of the application form in Croatian)
Proof of release from foreign citizenship
Cases are often dealt with on a very individual basis when it comes to MUP. This has both good sides and bad sides to it, so it depends entirely on your situation if other documents are needed from you during the process.
If you’re also submitting these documents for your children (if they’re under the age of 18), you’ll need an extract from the birth register and proof of your child’s citizenship, too.
While some people get lucky with timing, typically this process drags on and on, and then on a bit more. Don’t let the process get you down. You’ll be informed of the outcome of your request in official, written form eventually.
There’s one rather disappointing catch here that you’ll have noticed at the end of the list of requirements. If you’re applying for naturalisation and you’re not married or in a registered life partnership with a Croatian citizen, and you cannot gain Croatian citizenship by descent/ethnicity, then you technically need to provide release from your current citizenship. If you’re asked to do this, you can be given what’s known as a ”guarantee” of Croatian citizenship as soon as release is given, valid for two years. However, there’s another catch there, too.
Here’s the first catch: If you’re stateless, or you will automatically lose your citizenship upon being admitted to Croatian citizenship, for example, if your country of citizenship doesn’t allow dual citizenship, then you don’t need to provide proof of release, or proof of having requested release.
Here’s the second, little known, but much more interesting catch: Croatian law is full of grey areas and this is the perfect example of not all being as it seems. While you do technically need to provide release from your current citizenship in order to be admitted to Croatian citizenship when applying to naturalise, a little known loophole is that if your country of origin doesn’t allow you to do that, or makes it unreasonably difficult by demanding things you cannot fulfil, then a statement from you that you will renounce that citizenship upon being granted Croatian citizenship is enough.
Need proof of that? Here is the updated Law on Croatian Citizenship for those of you who can read Croatian. Have a quick scroll down to Article 8. Here is the English translation:
‘’The requirements from point 2, paragraph 1 of this article will be deemed fulfilled if the request [for citizenship] is submitted by a person who is stateless or who will lose the citizenship of the country of which they are a citizen according to the laws of that country, by obtaining Croatian citizenship.
If the foreign country doesn’t allow release [from foreign citizenship] or puts up requirements that cannot be met, a statement from the person who has submitted the request that they will renounce their foreign citizenship upon acquiring Croatian citizenship is enough.’’
What is considered to be an unreasonable demand that you can’t fulfil is a bit of a grey area and I wouldn’t like to profess to know what that means in detail. But, the proof is in the pudding, as they say in the UK. Release from your other citizenship isn’t actually always necessary, these cases are usually treated in a highly individual manner, and there is a way around everything, even in the Cursed Land of Bureaucracy.
While I am perfectly aware (painfully is perhaps a better word) that many will have tried and likely failed at this process and that for residency, the situation can be very different from one person to the next, I can’t write about every single instance and bump in the road without this turning into a personalised novel.
As with almost everything with MUP, everything can depend on who you deal with and what side of the bed they got out of that morning. Still, the above are the general provisions, written with the most leeway as I can think of. If you want to try your hand at naturalisation after eight years, let us know how it goes! I will continue to update this article as and when law changes come into effect.
If you’d like to know more about acquiring Croatian citizenship, gaining legal residence and living in Croatia, give our dedicated lifestyle page a follow.