Journey to Get the Croatian Digital Nomad Permit

Total Croatia News

Updated on:

March 26th, 2021 – Zagreb

The email is in Croatian. They’re always in Croatian. Which makes sense because I’m in Croatia and it’s the government that’s writing to me.

There’s a moment of terror because, ya know, I don’t speak Croatian and I’m certain this email holds the fate of my next 12 months within it.

December 8th, 2020 – New Jersey

“Will I get the results within 48 hours?”

“No, not a chance”

And with that, the swab goes further into my nose than I thought possible. I was equal parts impressed and uncomfortable to be honest.


September 2014 – Dubrovnik

The story of the 7th digital nomad permit somehow starts in 2014.

The first time I set eyes on Croatia.


Among other things, I drank an Ožujsko (I’ve since learned there are better beers) while soaking in the splendor of the Adriatic and bought a dark blue t-shirt with an anchor on it. Still have it somewhere. The shirt, not the beer.

The love affair didn’t start there though.

It wasn’t until 2019 that that happened. Unbeknownst to me at the time it was a few days in Zagreb in the dead of winter, just after New Year’s, that would set the wheels of this journey in motion.


December 9th, 2020 – JFK Airport

Routinely ranked among the worst airports in the United States, it was my great joy and pleasure to be there on that crisp Wednesday evening. Traffic, due to covid, was non-existent so getting to this place where aggravation springs eternal was a breeze.

I snake my way through the check-in line, finally making it to the counter.

The woman looks at my papers in that way that makes you feel unnecessarily nervous.

She calls over a supervisor.

JFK truly living up to its ranking.

“Do you have your PCR test?”

I had printed an encyclopedia of papers including emails to the Polish border security to make sure I could transit Warsaw, to MUP here in Croatia to ensure I was in fact allowed to enter the country, health insurance documents, proof of accommodation, etc. But I never considered checking with JFK to see if they’d let me fly without a PCR result in hand.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do”

In keeping with Jersey tradition – unexpectedly delivering or being wrong all the time, whichever you prefer – it turns out I got my results within 24 hours.

The gods of getting to Croatia were smiling upon me and just like that, myself and about 100 Hasidic Jews were en route to Poland on a packed 788.


January 10th, 2019 – Zagreb

Fingers and toes utterly frozen with a dusting of snow on the ground, I was only in town for a matter of days but it was the whirlwind of people and their spirit, the beauty of the centuries-old architecture and more that warmed me to the core.

We don’t have that in Cleveland, where I’m originally from. I mean we have buildings and great people and the cold but the alchemy is somehow different.

It was the streets flowing into one another in an enchantingly chaotic way, making each turn a magic little mystery. The ease of getting across the city by foot or tram (which run on time! Looking at you New York). The stunning tiled roof of St. Marks Church with the medieval coat of arms of Slavonia, Dalmatia and Croatia on one half and the symbol of the city on the other.

The first meal I had was quite literally a mountain of cevapi.

Was it a little slice of heaven?

December 10th, 2020 – Zagreb – Franjo Tuđman Airport

I’m still not convinced I’m going to be allowed in. Such is life when your inner monologue isn’t your cheerleader.

The folder I’m holding contains basically every communication I had with everyone on the off chance I need to prove even the most minute detail of the fact that I’m allowed to enter Croatia.

The line is short but agonizingly long.

Finally, I get to the gatekeeper’s booth.

Slide over the passport.

“PCR test?”

Slide it over.

You never know where to look in these situations. Eye contact? Minimal eye contact?

I always feel I’m guilty of things I haven’t done at checkpoints.

Weeks pass in the space of a few seconds.

“Welcome to Croatia”.

August 2020 – New Jersey

Frankly, speaking for earth, this was a low period.

My work as a video producer and photographer had all but evaporated months earlier and I was in the midst of transitioning to being a full-time writer. Transition being a relative term. Writer too.

This is also around the time I started to see stories pop up for the digital nomad permit and it completely captured my imagination.

The more I read, the more excited I got. The daydreams got richer. Visions of city and sea crisper.

The seed was planted to get back and make it a longer stay.

I set an internal goal to be back in Zagreb by December and maybe get that visa if it was available. A longshot though.


October 2019 – Zagreb

That handful of days in January weren’t enough and the brevity of it all left me wanting more.

I got a second helping, spending an entire month in Zagreb and letting the details of it wash over me.

I know what you’re thinking by now, why did I spend so much time in Zagreb and not by the sea?

Oft skipped in favor of the dreamy and luscious Croatian coast, Zagreb is secretly the whole fairy tale. You wouldn’t think it, perhaps because you haven’t even considered it, but finding yourself there is like discovering treasure. If Dubrovnik is the pearl of the Adriatic, then Zagreb is one of the (hidden) gems of Europe.

The joy of time seeming to slow as people enjoyed afternoon coffees at a million cafes. Investing meaningful time into relationships. Circling each Square – Jelačić, Britanski, Kralja Tomislava and more – and the majesty of finding yourself walking through history, all with a through line of that Austro-Hungarian charm. The delectable eats. The charming fact that the lanterns in Upper Town are still manually lit. The parks that dot the city, the mountain trails of Sljeme.

And it was good. And I was sold.

Monday, January 4th – March 25th, 2021 – Zagreb

This won’t come as a surprise to those who know, but Croatian bureaucracy is not famed for its expediency, so it came as a tremendous shocker that the digital nomad permit went from idea to reality in less than 6 months.

The goal I’d set in August felt tantalizingly achievable.

I assumed arriving in December meant I’d 100% be leaving by the middle of March. Which would’ve been disappointing but fine. I’d already been living a nomadic sort of life, working for cruise lines for a while, producing content for other companies around the globe and then hopscotching from country to country – generally 1 month at a time – before the pandemic. It was exhausting.

Fun, but exhausting.

3 months in one place was already marginally better though.

And then, all of a sudden, one year in Croatia was actually on the menu.

January 4th was the first day back to work and I promptly sent an email asking how to apply.

I received a detailed message the next day listing what was needed and 11 days later I submitted (almost) everything.

That email was swiftly lost and it wasn’t until February 1st, after a follow-up email, that the process formally got underway.

The only thing missing was a background check and let me tell you what, it is not easy to get fingerprints taken. It’s not something you think about every day or really ever but when you truly need them, in a foreign country, let’s just say getting them is not straightforward or effortless.

By the beginning of March my application was finally complete and it was back to the waiting game.

In the interim, my tourist visa expired (thankfully, you’re allowed to stay if your paperwork is in process) so the stakes increased considerably.

It’s worth pointing out here that I never made a backup plan on the off chance Croatia said no.



March 26th, 2021 – Zagreb

The email is in Croatian. They’re always in Croatian. Which makes sense because I’m in Croatia and it’s the government that’s writing to me.

There’s a moment of terror because, ya know, I don’t speak Croatian and I’m certain this email holds the fate of my next 12 months within it.

I’m at “home” across from Ribnjak Park. Birds are chirping. Spring is in the air.

I pop open Google Translate – my trusted companion though I rarely need it since basically everyone speaks English here – and paste the text.

I’m slightly disappointed it didn’t come on the 22nd, not a pleasant day in recent Zagreb history but it is my birthday and that would’ve been a nice present.

The email tells me what I’d been waiting patiently to hear and to come to their office.

Pro tip: save yourself an hour and make sure you’re not smiling in the picture you supply the government because you will 100% have to go print a new one.

Today, tomorrow and why Croatia to begin with?

Croatia obviously grabbed hold of me pretty quickly. It’s a sun-kissed land of seemingly endless, varied beauty and rich tradition that I’ve clearly only barely scratched the surface of.

Maybe it’s my own Slavic background, scroll back up and check out that last name, that helped make it click so instantly. Whatever it was, there’s now a deep and burning passion for the country and getting to know it better.

The permit means a lot to that end; stability, exploration, relaxation, adrenaline, learning, living, a home of sorts, an office and more.

Living here and working remotely with absolute ease is a privilege and joy that’s hard to overstate. There’s peace of mind that comes with knowing I can explore the country at my own pace, supporting local businesses along the way. Not having to rush to see everything and getting a chance to be really immersed in the places that I do go and, of course, meeting more of the generous, proud people who make the country such a welcoming place.

With the weather warming and summer fast approaching, that splendid coast beckons and that’s exactly where you’ll find me.

To be continued.


Now check out Zagreb through Steve’s eyes in this stunning video. Check out more of his work on

For more on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment