Understandably, this question is usually bombarded with answers from different people from across the world who have residence based on all sorts of different reasons, from marriage to druge svrhe (other purposes) and everything in between, all of whom were approached differently by the authorities.
What Zdenka at the desk in Rijeka says to someone applying who happens to have a Croatian (or indeed Austro-Hungarian) distant relative and what Mirna at Petrinjska in Zagreb says to someone applying based on family reunification will likely be very different. So, let’s get to the point. Do you need to take a Croatian language test for permanent residence? The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Helpful, I know. Let’s look into who has to take it and who doesn’t.
If you hold the citizenship of a European Union, European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association Area country, you do not need to take a Croatian language test for permanent residence. Pure and simple.
The EFTA countries are Iceland, Norway, the Principality of Liechtenstein and Switzerland, none of which are EU or EEA member states or part of the Customs Union and negotiate trade deals separately to the EU, but which do enjoy a similar free trade agreement with the European Union.
Third country citizens
Third country citizens or nationals are individuals who don’t hold the citizenship of an EU, EEA or EFTA country. These people typically do need to sit a Croatian language test for permanent residence. The language test is at the B1 level and includes understanding, reading, writing, speaking and perhaps the worst of all for anyone who has spent time around the Croatian language – grammar.
If you pass this test, you’ll be presented with a certificate from any of the education institutes which run these tests which you can then take to MUP as part of your permanent residence application. A list of such institutes running the tests can be found on MUP’s website so that you can pick and contact the one closest to your address.
Exceptions for third country citizens
You do not need to take a Croatian language test for permanent residence if you’re 65 or over and are unemployed, if you’re of pre-school age, or if you’ve already completed your compulsory (mandatory) primary and/or secondary in Croatia, or if you’ve completed higher education here.
Citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland who had legal residence in Croatia before the 31st of December, 2020
British citizens who had legal residence in Croatia before the 31st of January 2020 and who as such fall into the category of those who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement do not need to take a Croatian language test for permanent residence.
British nationals were once also EU citizens, and as such had the rights to freedom of movement, one of the fundamental pillars of the European Union, until the 31st of December, 2020, when the UK’s transition period out of the bloc ended. Those British nationals who held temporary or permanent residence before the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc, more precisely before the end of its transition period, are protected and have acquired rights in Croatia. Their residence status and rights are unaffected.
That said, they did need to apply for a new residence document which demonstrates their protected status before the end of June, 2021. British citizens who are in this category who have not yet got their new document can still do so and their rights will not be affected, but they may face a small administrative fine for not having made the application before the specified date. The application for the new document is not a new residence application, but merely a demonstration to MUP that you are owed it. If you already held permanent residence in Croatia before the end of the UK’s transition period, this will be an extremely easy exercise.
Citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland who did not hold legal residence in Croatia before the 31st of December, 2020
If you’re British and didn’t exercise your right to free movement across the EU before the aforementioned date, you fall under the category of a third country national and as such need to take a Croatian language test for permanent residence.
Those married to Croatian citizens
If you’re an EU/EEA/EFTA citizen married to a Croatian citizen and are applying for permanent residence (which in this case can now be applied for after four years as opposed to five), you do not need to take a Croatian language test for permanent residence based entirely on your own nationality which affords you certain rights in Croatia.
If you’re a third country national married to a Croatian citizen and are applying for permanent residence (which is also now after four years in your case, too, not five), you may be asked to take a test, and you may not be. I realise how unhelpful that is, but people have vastly different experiences when it comes to this depending on when they’ve applied, where they live (and as such which administrative police station they’ve used), and quite frankly, what side of the bed the clerk woke up on that morning.
For more on nationality and residence in Croatia, keep up with our lifestyle section.