I know, it might be funny to read ‘working in Croatia’ considering the reality that the Croatian economy isn’t exactly booming and an enormous number of people are out of work for various reasons. There is a demographic crisis which is still ongoing, a brain drain, and there are employers seeking employees but can’t pay them what they’d like to. It’s a complicated situation that requires a book of its own, but one of many Croatian paradoxes is that you just can’t get the staff, despite the fact that the staff are quite literally everywhere.
I’m aware that many expats in Croatia earn their money abroad, or are drawing a foreign pension. In that case, you can safely skip this part, but for those who want the experience of working for a Croatian company, read on!
Now, it’s important to note that being able to work in Croatia and under what conditions also depends, much like residence, on your nationality.
So, who can work in Croatia? Do I need a work permit?
If you’re an EEA citizen, or you’re from Switzerland, you are free to take up work or self-employment in Croatia much like a Croat can. You don’t need any type of work permit or special permission to do that. If a Croatian company wants to hire you, they can.
If you’re a third country national, then things are a bit more difficult. Not impossible, might I add, but more difficult. If you’re a third country national and you haven’t yet been granted permanent residence, then you’ll need to seek a work permit if you’re offered employment.
If you’re a British national covered by the Withdrawal Agreement (a pre-Brexit Brit), then you can work without a work permit. Post-Brexit Brits, however, fall under the third country national category.
If you have permanent residence in Croatia, you can work in Croatia regardless of your nationality, be it an EEA citizenship or a third country one, being a permanent resident in Croatia more or less equals you with a citizen, especially in this regard.
Seems simple enough… How do I get a work permit?
In order to get a work permit, you’ll need to either apply from within Croatia if you’re already here, or at a diplomatic mission in your own country. Should you need to extend the work permit you’ve been granted when here in Croatia, you may do so in person at your local administrative police station (shock, horror, it’s the police again!)
Please note that the law states you must begin the work permit extension procedure 60 days before your current work permit is due to expire. There are exceptions of course, and discretion is commonly used by MUP, but it’s best to stick to this rule to avoid needless complications and possible extra paperwork, not to mention a fine.
What does a third country national need to present when applying for a work permit for Croatia?
You’ll need to present an official (government issued) ID, such as a biometric ID card or a passport, and a copy of the information page.
An employment contract (it’s wise to make a couple of copies), or other appropriate proof of having concluded (signed) a work contract
If you’re not technically being employed by a third party, and you intend to carry out your work in Croatia as a self employed person, you’ll need to provide proof of you having registered your company/trade (tvrtka or obrt), etc, in Croatia. (Extracts from the relevant registers should not be more than six months of age).
A completed application for the work permit (this can be picked up at the administrative police station when you apply, or at the competent diplomatic mission outside of Croatia).
Your OIB (personal identification number used for tax purposes that was touched on earlier).
If you’ve registered your address in Croatia, you’ll need to provide proof of you having done so (either via a registration certificate, proof of you having submitted that particular document, or your Croatian ID card if you already have it).
A photo of you (this is done in the same way as with the residence permit, so MUP will tell you more).
Proof of having paid the applicable fees for the application.
You may be asked for proof of your education and qualifications, proof of sufficient funds, and other documents depending on your individual situation.
You’ll notice that unlike when you as a third country national applied for residence in Croatia, you may not need to provide proof of having Croatian state health insurance when applying for a work/stay and work permit if you are being hired by a Croatian employer/company, as this will be paid by them anyway.
In some cases, however, third country nationals continue to be asked for this, and it is prescribed by law even though this often isn’t asked about, so do be prepared for the question.
Is Croatia part of the EU Blue Card scheme?
Croatia is indeed part of the EU Blue Card scheme, which often proves useful for third country nationals in Croatia. If you’re highly skilled and are offered an EU Blue Card, this can entitle you to two years of being able to work in Croatia. Other work/stay and work permits typically only allow for twelve months at a time and in some cases can prove problematic to extend.
For certain jobs, you don’t need a work permit, but a work registration certificate, and your employer can get this for you from the police. If you’re unsure of whether or not this applies to you, ask MUP and your employer.
I’m a third country national going through this process, does my Croatian employer need to be involved at all in this process?
The work/stay and work permit procedure can either be done by you, or by your employer who has their company seat in Croatia. You’ll both be required to provide supporting documents as and when asked for them. You may also be asked to provide official translations for any documents you provide which are not already in Croatian.
There used to be a quota system in place, but it has been abolished… Why?
Croatia used to use a quota for the employment of third country nationals in various sectors in need of workers. This has been abolished, so I won’t go too deeply into it.
Under the no-more-quotas-rule, an employer from Croatia seeking to hire a foreign (non-EU) worker will have to contact their Croatian Employment Service’s (CES) regional office to verify whether or not there are any unemployed persons in their records who meet their requirements.
If there are any, the CES will mediate the employment of that (usually Croatian or EEA) individual, otherwise, it will issue an opinion on the basis of which MUP will issue work permits for foreigners. Once again, this refers to third country nationals, not EEA citizens, who can work freely just like Croatian citizens, without the need for any type of permit. If you’re an EEA citizen, just ignore this entirely.
It’s worth bearing in mind that these tests aren’t carried out in the case of seasonal agricultural workers, and there’s no need for the test in certain other professions either. I’m aware this comes across as somewhat vague, but these tests are also overlooked for occupations that are lacking on the local and regional labour market and cannot be ‘stoked’ by migration into the country, the implementation of strategic and investment projects, and ‘other circumstances relevant to economic growth and sustainable development’.
In other words, it’s all about context and the situation at hand. Much like just about everything else in Croatia.
Now that bit is (hopefully) cleared up, how do I actually find a job?
I’ll be honest, it’s no easy feat. Croatia is a nation of paradoxes in many regards, and this is just one of them. There’s an ongoing demographic crisis, employers can’t get the staff, everyone is out of work, there is plenty of work and there’s also no work. I know, it’s difficult to wrap your head around.
Employment in Croatia is, on the whole, very seasonal. The unemployment rate traditionally drops like a tonne of bricks the closer we edge to the summer tourist season, and we all get to read about it each and every year in the newspapers like it’s some economy-rescuing phenomenon. Talk about groundhog day. I digress, finding a job in the catering, hospitality and tourism sector isn’t that difficult as the warmer weather approaches, especially as the demographic crisis is biting even harder.
Traditionally, citizens of Croatia’s neighbouring countries such as Serbia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina come to work as bar staff, waiters and chefs in coastal Croatian destinations to fill labour market gaps. Many people from Bosnia and Herzegovina also hold Croatian citizenship and of course speak Croatian, so it’s easy for them to hop over the border and get a job. Given that Dubrovnik for example is so close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, people from a town called Trebinje which belongs to Republika Srpska often travel the few miles into the extreme south of Dalmatia and gain employment as seasonal workers during summer, repeating the same thing each year, much to the disdain of Dubrovnik’s locals.
More recently, Croatia has been importing labour from much more distant countries, including India, Nepal and the Philippines. There are even agencies which facilitate precisely this. Since the war broke out in Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February 2022, many Ukrainians have also taken up residence and work in Croatia. Ukraine is hardly a distant country, but it is a third country (a non-EEA member state) and this is worth mentioning because the number of Ukrainians working in Croatia has increased significantly since Croatia facilitated this for refugees.
Many Croats have gone off to Ireland, Germany and all over the place to seek work and better prospects. This was made extremely easy when Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, allowing Croats to work in most countries across the bloc without the need for a work permit, with only a few continuing to maintain labour restrictions which would expire after a period of however many years. The United Kingdom and Austria were just two of several of the countries which imposed this. Those restrictions were eventually dropped.
Background over, let’s get back to the practicalities.
How do I find a job in Croatia?
There are a multitude of ways. In a country so set in the ways of connections and someone’s friend’s uncle knowing someone else’s cousin who used to work for so and so (apparently it’s called networking now), word of mouth is king.
Talk to who you know, and ask them to talk to who they know
Word of mouth is, as I stated above, king in Croatia. Many people find jobs through someone who knows someone else, so put yourself out there. If you’re fluent in a language like English or German, you can absolutely use this to your advantage.
The Croatian Employment Service (CES)
In Croatian, this is Hrvatski zavod za zapošljavanje, or HZZ for short. It is a state institution which implements employment programmes. It is by no means a legal requirement as a jobseeker to apply to be kept up to date with new jobs on offer linked to your desired field of work, education and profession in this way, but it might help you. What you need to commit to if you do choose to do this is to visit their office once a month, then once every two months after some time passes. You’ll need to find the office closest to your place of residence if you choose to take this route.
You can unsubscribe from their service and from receiving information on available jobs from them at any time, whether you’ve found work or not.
There’s a Facebook group for just about anything, and finding jobs and staff is no exception. Numerous Facebook groups exist solely for this purpose. Many of these groups are regionally based, or city/town based. A quick Facebook search will allow you to narrow down the sort of thing you’re looking for, be that freelancing, work in the blossoming Croatian IT sector, seasonal work, or even work as a skipper, videographer or photographer.
Most of these groups will contain the words ‘trebam’ (I need), ‘tražim’ (I’m looking for), ‘nudim’ (I’m offering) and posao (work/a job). Add your location if that is important to you and you’re not a remote worker, and off you go. Just watch out for scams and spam posts. They’re usually obvious and properly administered Facebook groups will quickly take such posts down, but sometimes they aren’t as obvious as one might hope. This is a very legitimate way to seek and find work, with thousands of people doing it, but it always pays to keep your wits about you.
Websites and platforms
Just like in most other places, Croatia has its own array of websites and platforms dedicated to job searches. Posao (posao.hr) is a very popular one, as is Moj Posao (moj-posao.hr), Jooble (hr.jooble.org), Oglasnik (oglasnik.hr), Freelance (freelance.hr) and even Njuškalo (njuskalo.hr) all have a huge amount of jobs on offer spanning a very wide array of different fields and professions. There are some which offer information and even live chats in English, such as danasradim.hr, which is a Croatian language website with a live English language chat option, and PickJobs, which is available in multiple languages.
I’m not endorsing any of the above websites, nor do I have any affiliation to them, but this is just an example of (only a mere handful) the amount of websites in Croatia dedicated to employment, be you the employer or the would-be employee. LinkedIN is also extremely helpful and will show you jobs best suited to you, as will websites like the aforementioned Moj Posao which have a newsletter you can subscribe to.
Target Croatian companies specifically
If you’re qualified and interested in a highly specific field, such as engineering for example, the likes of Rimac Automobili and Infobip might well be on your radar. There are many rapidly growing, wildly successful companies in Croatia (contrary to what you might hear and read), and they’re more or less constantly expanding and trying their hands at new things. These are the types of companies that you need to contact directly. They might be a safer option if you’re a non-EEA national without permanent residence, meaning you need a work permit in order to legally work in Croatia, as highly qualified employees who aren’t EU Blue Card holders are still deeply desired by companies like the aforementioned who are willing to go the extra mile to get you sorted legally.
There are multiple language schools spread across Croatia who are often on the hunt for native English speakers (and indeed the native speakers of a number of other languages). A quick Google search will reveal their details. It’s absolutely worth contacting them.
Things to note
There are more and more large multinational companies popping up in Croatia, particularly in larger cities Zagreb and Split, who require staff who speak other languages. Some don’t even make speaking or understanding Croatian a requirement.
When the quota system (which I talked about a little bit in the Working in Croatia chapter) was in force, things were a bit different for companies seeking to employ third country nationals. They didn’t have to contact the Croatian Government and were free to facilitate the employment of a third country national (and have their work permit approved) as long as their skills matched what the quota needed. That is no longer the case. Now quotas are a thing of the past (and have been since January the 1st, 2021), employers must still contact the powers that be and make sure there are no Croats or permanent residents registered on the labour market who would fit the bill for the job before being able to hire you.
Many job posts being posted on Facebook groups in particular will state that they want people who have ‘EU papers’ (meaning either an EU passport, or someone who isn’t an EU citizen but who does have permanent residence in Croatia).
The economy isn’t ideal at the minute (it feels like we’ve been saying that for an eternity, doesn’t it?), and finding a job is not easy, so don’t be put off if you don’t hear back from some of the places you apply to. Unfortunately, ignoring applications as opposed to sending out a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ in response has become the norm just about everywhere.
As I talked about before, because Croatia’s demographic crisis is becoming more and more problematic, many Croatian employers are importing foreign (non-EEA) labour, either from neighbouring countries or from much further afield. If you are a non-EEA national and you manage to land a job, just be prepared for MUP to take a while to approve your work permit. They have been struggling with an increasing backlog and there are unfortunate (and infuriating) cases in which Croatian employers in the tourism, catering and hospitality sectors are waiting for weeks for their employees’ work permits to be processed, leaving them short of staff in the height of the summer season purely due to complicated red tape.
Because of this, if you’re a non-EEA citizen and you want to work in Croatia’s tourism, catering or hospitality sector, you must begin your job hunt months before summer arrives to make sure (as best you can), that your paperwork is all done and dusted and you can begin work and legally receive a wage before the tourist season hits.
You’re much more likely to find work in less formal ways than through the CES. I’m not saying that it doesn’t help, but most people simply don’t fall into jobs through that service, particularly if they’re foreign, and every other way I’ve listed is more popular and usually yields more fruit.
For more on our How to Croatia series which is published each week, check out our lifestyle section.