How to Obtain Croatian Citizenship by Descent: Determining Citizenship

Lauren Simmonds



August the 6th, 2019 – I’ve recently been writing articles on the different methods of acquiring Croatian citizenship. There are numerous ways set out by the Law on Croatian Citizenship. The two we’ve covered so far are how a foreigner can naturalise as a Croatian citizen without being married to a Croat, and how a foreigner can naturalise as a Croatian citizen when married to a Croat. What about Croatian citizenship by descent?

In addition, I also wrote an extensive article last year on all of the ways a foreigner can obtain legal residence in Croatia, from kratkotrajni boravak (short term stay) to privremeni boravak (temporary residence) all the way to the much desired stalni boravak (permanent residence).

Just to preface this article, which will delve into how one can acquire Croatian citizenship by birth/origin/descent, which is sometimes referred to legally as ”determining Croatian citizenship”, I’d like to state that I will continually update these articles on residence and citizenship as and when new changes to the law come into force, in order to try to keep you as up to date as possible.

When it comes to Croatian citizenship by descent, it’s worthwhile knowing that Croatia’s citizenship law is based mainly on Jus sanguinis (right of blood). This means that if you have Croatian blood and can prove it, you can technically acquire Croatian citizenship. But hold on, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Croatia also has rules for Jus soli (birth in Croatia), but they’re less straightforward than those of Jus sanguinis are, and I’ll explain them in another article. That being said, and going back to my warning of it not being as simple as it sounds, there are countless cases of people who should technically be entitled to Croatian citizenship by descent having to jump through years of hurdles, and never getting anywhere. Some are lucky, some aren’t.

As I said in previous articles, everyone’s situation can play out differently, if I wrote about each one, my fingers would drop off. I will write what the procedure should be, in line with the current laws. Personal experiences may differ depending on respective situations, as will the documents you may need to provide.

Unlike cases of naturalisation, be it via marriage or not, if you believe you are entitled to Croatian citizenship by birth/origin/descent, you can immediately begin that process as soon as your documents are in order and you don’t need to wait for a certain period of time to pass before you can submit an application. I’ll explain what these documents should be later.

Determining Croatian citizenship means precisely what it alludes to: that your job is to get approval from the state, who will determine that you have been a Croatian citizen since birth and be admitted into Croatian citizenship legally.

You can acquire Croatian citizenship by descent (Jus sanguinis) under Article 4 of the Law on Croatian Citizenship and can therefore seek determination that you have been a citizen of Croatia since birth if:

1.)  Both of your parents were Croatian citizens at the time of your birth

2.) One of your parents was a Croatian citizen at the time of your birth, and you were born on the territory of the Republic of Croatia

3.) One of your parents was a Croatian citizen at the time of your birth and your other parent was either stateless or their citizenship was not known, and you were born outside of Croatian territory

In addition to the above three points, you can acquire Croatian citizenship by descent if you were born in another country to one parent who held Croatian citizenship at the time of your birth, and you were registered as a Croatian citizen before you reached the age of 18 (legal adulthood), either in Croatia or abroad. This can also apply if you move to Croatia, or if you wouldn’t be automatically entitled to the citizenship of any other country otherwise.

If you register after the age of 18 in the above-mentioned circumstance, you will likely have more of a task on your hands, despite the fact that legal moves have been made to attempt to make this easier. Like with many things in Croatia, it looks good on paper, but the reality can be somewhat different.

If you think the above applies to you, then read on to hear what you need to do, and how, according to MVEP which quotes the Law on Croatian Citizenship I linked above. Once again, I’d like to emphasise the fact that the requirements listed below do not necessarily apply to every single case, in fact many are hardly ever asked for anymore. I have stated numerous times throughout these articles that each individual case is often treated differently. Regardless of that, I want to be as clear as possible that you could be asked for any number, or all, of the documents listed below.

If you have had it confirmed that you have indeed been a Croatian citizen since birth, more specifically by origin or birth on the territory of Croatia, you will be entered in the register of births, and therefore admitted into Croatian citizenship. Your application for entry in these official records can be submitted either in person to MUP when in Croatia, or in person through a diplomatic mission or consular post of the Republic of Croatia located abroad.

The determination of Croatian citizenship by descent on this legal basis is performed by competent state administration offices, more specifically the City Office of the City of Zagreb.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide and do:

Your application for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship by descent should be, as previously stated, submitted in person at an administrative police department or station, unless you have a disability which prevents you from doing so, and if that applies to you then you can submit your application through a legal representative or an authorised representative, but you must make this clear with MUP first.

If you live abroad or have no intention of coming to Croatia to hand in your application for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship by origin, you are free to submit it through a diplomatic mission or consular post of the Republic of Croatia in your country/abroad. Your application will then be dealt with and decided upon/determined by the Croatian Ministry of the Interior.

1.) You must include your CV, and this should include all of your relevant personal information, your qualifications, your employment status, your residence either in Croatia or abroad if you don’t live here, your marriage/relationship status, all relevant information about your children should you have any, information about your parents (regardless of whether or not they are alive or have passed away), and information on the closest relatives you have who hold Croatian citizenship.

2.) You will need a certified copy of your birth certificate

3.) A valid official (government issued) identity document containing a clear photo of you

4.) Proof that you have not been entered into the Croatian birth register which you should have been entered into at the time of your birth, in line with the laws which were then in force

5.) Proof or the domovnica of one or both of your parents that they have been entered into the birth register of Croatian citizens

6.) You might be asked to clearly state your own reasons for wanting Croatian citizenship by descent, and depending on the legal basis of your application, your attitude to the legal order, customs and your acceptance of the Croatian culture, however, this may not be asked of you.

7.) You might be asked to provide information on where your Croatian ancestors resided before moving away, when they did so, and for what reasons they moved, as well as the time they left Croatia. You might also be asked to state what documents they used when they immigrated abroad, and what their way of expressing their allegiance/belonging to the Croatian people throughout their lives were. This can include participation in sport, cultural and other Croatian societies abroad which promoted the interests of the Republic of Croatia abroad (this is according to Article 11 and Article 16 of the appropriate law, but as stated, this isn’t necessarily asked for).

If you are admitted into Croatian citizenship by descent, you do not need to provide release from any other foreign citizenship.

Many people who have undergone this process have claimed that doing so here in Croatia was quicker for them than doing it abroad, as many have made numerous attempts abroad or in their own countries and have stated how slow the procedure was, leading many to simply give up on it after being sent on a wild goose chase.

Some have had a lot of luck and managed to claim their Croatian citizenship with minimal effort and next to no issues either here in Croatia or abroad, others have been plagued by problems and have waited for years for any sort of response. Some who are perfectly entitled to citizenship by birth/origin/descent are still waiting

The Central State Office for Croats Abroad have pushed for amendments to the Law on Croatian Citizenship to make things easier for the descendents of Croats (diaspora) who moved abroad. As/when/if these proposed amendments come into force, we’ll be sure to update this article.

As with everything official in Croatia, particularly when dealing with residence and citizenship, it can unfortunately depend on who is dealing with your case. There are sadly people working in state administration who simply like to make things more difficult for you than they should be, and although that is a difficult fact to confront and one that might shock those unfamiliar with how things sometimes work in Croatia, it’s an unfortunate reality in certain situations.

It is all to easy to say ”it shouldn’t be that way”, but the fact of the matter is that it sometimes is, and it’s better to be prepared for that possibility than not to be when dealing with matters such as these.

Amendments to the Croatian Citizenship Act coming in 2020:

The Croatian Parliament has amended the Croatian Citizenship Act, and these alterations will come into force on January the 1st, 2020. 

The amendment states that the right to Croatian citizenship by a parent has been extended past the age of 21, which has been and will continue to be the age limit until the beginning of 2020. 

Citizenship by descent (origin) will now be made available to individuals born outside of the Republic of Croatia who are over the age of 21. The individual in question must have one parent who was a Croatian citizen at the time of their birth if they submit an application for entry into the register (of births) of Croatian citizens within the following two years.

The Ministry of the Interior (MUP) would have to determine there being no legal obstacles standing in the way of the process for acquisition in this case.

THE AFOREMENTIONED LAW IS NOW IN FORCE. Please click HERE for more details.

If you’d like to learn more about obtaining Croatian citizenship or legal residence, make sure to give our dedicated lifestyle page a follow. As I have stated in previous articles on citizenship and residence, I intend to update them as and when law changes come into effect, so it might be worth bookmarking them for future reference.


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