Split almost entirely down the middle, the vote to leave the EU came as an enormous European and global shock, sending pound sterling tumbling and causing turmoil following over 40 years of the UK being one of the first and indeed among the wealthiest and most powerful member states. I won’t get into the multitude of issues surrounding the Brexit vote, as more than enough time has passed for certain aspects of it to become clear, we’ve all read about them, and that isn’t the point of this article.
Article 50 was eventually triggered, an article which enables a country to leave the bloc and which, according to its creator, was never really designed to be used as such a move was deemed deeply unlikely to ever happen. The UK ended up having numerous extensions, or Brextensions if you will, prolonging the exit process and seeing the country remain a member state for significantly longer than was initially envisaged.
The end eventually came, and the country entered into a year long transition period during which all EU law continued to apply to the UK, which included freedom of movement, one of the fundamental pillars of the functioning of the European Union. The transition period, which was spent tying up loose ends and seeing additional agreements and arrangements dealt with, ended on December the 31st, 2020, with new rules coming into force on the 1st of January, 2021. That date automatically created two sets of British nationals; those who had exercised their right to freedom of movement when the UK was an EU member state, and those who hadn’t.
What does that mean for a Brit in Croatia?
Put simply and shortly, there are now two types of Brit in Croatia – a pre-Brexit Brit and a post-Brexit Brit. These two sets of people are treated entirely differently in this country, should they live here or want to live here, despite having the exact same nationality.
New residence permits
As a pre-Brexit Brit, you’re not a third country national, and you’re not an EU citizen, you have a category all to yourself, but it is up to you to be able to demonstrate that.
First of all, you need to request a new residence permit which separates you as a a pre-Brexit Brit in Croatia from a post-Brexit Brit. This card will state that you are protected by the Withdrawal Ageeement and you can request it from MUP. This is not a new residence application, just a scheme of declaration. You were supposed to request this before the end of June 2021 but some still haven’t. You can still request it, your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement will be unaffected, but you may face an administrative fine for not respecting the aforementioned date (around 200 kuna). You can read more here.
For those who had temporary residence before the 31st of December, you need to download and fill in this form.
For those who already had permanent residence before the same date, you need to download and fill in this form.
Those who are already permanent residents will be asked less questions than those who are temporary residents. This is because permanent residents, regardless of their nationality, no longer need to abide by any conditions in order to live in Croatia permanently. Temporary residence are still ”provisional”, so to speak.
The rules for pre-Brexit Brits in Croatia:
If you’re a Brit in Croatia and you were granted legal residence here before Brexit occurred, you’re covered by something called the Withdrawal Agreement. That agreement provides what are known as acquired rights for those British citizens who had exercised their right to free movement when their country was an EU member state and as such moved to Croatia before the clock timed out on the 31st of December, 2020.
It’s important to note that the ”pre-Brexit” type of Brit in Croatia’s time period also includes the transition period during which all EU law continued to apply to the UK.
As a pre-Brexit Brit in Croatia, you’re afforded a series of special rights which clearly distinguish you from post-Brexit Brits (which we’ll get into later) and see you treated much more like an EU citizen than a third country national.
The ins and outs
As a pre-Brexit Brit in Croatia, you had temporary or permanent residence granted and a document/permit to prove that before Brexit was concluded, when you were an EU citizen. As such, you’ll continue to be broadly treated as such. This means that:
You are free to continue living and working (if you worked) as you did before, under the same conditions as you did before,
You are free to be self-employed or take up another form of employment without the need for a work permit,
You can continue to receive healthcare from the state (through HZZO) on the same basis as you did before,
You will be exempt from needing to fill out and pay for an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) when it comes into force,
You can enter and exit Croatia with your valid passport. You don’t need any additional validity on the passport beyond the dates on which you’re travelling,
Your entry into Croatia is always facilitated, but you must proactively show your residence permit demonstrating your rights along with your passport when entering. Your passport may be mistakenly stamped, but this is voided upon demonstration of your right to live in Croatia,
You can continue to drive in Croatia and will be issued with black printed license plates which separate you from post-Brexit Brits. You should bring your new residence permit proving your status when undertaking this procedure with MUP,
Your family members (such as current spouses and registered partners, parents, grandparents, children) will be able to join you and live in Croatia at any point the future,
Any children born after the end of the transition period will also be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement because you are, wherever they are born,
You can be gone from the country for five consecutive years without losing any of your rights or your permanent resident status,
All in all, your rights are largely unaffected by Brexit and you can continue living permanently in Croatia without the need to meet any conditions,
If you’d like to see more details about travel restrictions as a Brit in Croatia covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, click here.
Let’s now move onto post-Brexit Brits, the British nationals who moved to Croatia, or who still plan to, now that Brexit and the transition period have come to an end. These British citizens are third country nationals, as despite being a European country, the UK is no longer an EU, EEA or EFTA member state.
The rules for post-Brexit Brits in Croatia:
As a Brit in Croatia who did not exercise their right to free movement when the UK was an EU member state, you are not afforded any special rights. You can no longer get residence easily as a British citizen like you could when the UK was part of the EU. Let’s look at how you can gain residence as a Brit in Croatia now that EU membership is a thing of the past. You can apply for residence in Croatia if:
You’re a British national but you already hold permanent residence in another EU/EEA/EFTA country
You’re a digital nomad
You’re a student in Croatia
You’re coming here to start a company of your own
You’re going to be working for a Croatian company
You’re going to be undertaking scientific research
You’re coming here to learn the Croatian language
You are already married or are going to be getting married to a Croatian citizen or an EU citizen living here
You’re going to be volunteering here
You want to live here for one year only and you can prove the pre-payment of a year’s worth of rent on a house, apartment, etc
All of the above grounds for application come with their own rules and requirements, and frankly, I’d be here for forever and a day if I went through each and every possible requirement and potential twist and turn. That said, these are concrete grounds for a residence application for a post-Brexit Brit in Croatia, and if you state one of them as your reason, MUP will be able to tell you what they require from you in your individual case. Here’s what you will need in each and every case, however:
A completed application form for temporary residence which MUP will provide you with,
A valid identity document such as an ID card or British passport. Brits know that ID cards aren’t really a thing in the UK, so the latter will most likely be the case. You must have three or more months longer on your passport than the period you intend to remain in Croatia for,
A criminal background check from the British police that is no older than 6 months, and if you hold permanent residence in another EU country, you need one from their authorities, too,
A health insurance policy. You can use a private health insurance police, a GHIC, or an EHIC if you live in another EU country and have health insurance there,
Proof of accommodation, and as such a registered address in Croatia. You’ll then need to show your proof of ownership, a valid rental contract, or the accommodation provider/landlord can accompany you to MUP if you have a different situation,
Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself unless you’re applying based on family reunification with a Croatian spouse,
A photograph (30×35 mm) which will either be taken at MUP upon approval of your application, or at a nearby photo studio which provides photos for identification documents. There are usually several such facilities within walking distance from an administrative police station,
An application fee to be paid into the Croatian state budget,
Your rights as a post-Brexit Brit in Croatia:
You will require a work permit in order to gain lawful employment in Croatia,
As a temporary resident, you will need to be in the country for a certain amount of time each year before being able to apply for permanent residence. Click here for travel restrictions for third country nationals, and for detailed information about time you must wait before you can apply for permanent residence, click here,
You may need to get your professional qualifications recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in Croatia,
If you plan to study in Croatia, you must meet all of the requirements before you travel here. It’s wise to contact the relevant higher education provider in Croatia to check what fees you may have to pay during this process,
The UK has a double taxation agreement with Croatia so that you don’t pay tax on the same income in both countries. This remains the case regardless of the EU or of Brexit,
You can’t renew or replace your United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man licence if you live in Croatia, but here’s what you can do,
Once you are able to apply for permanent residence, you will be afforded vastly different (and much more favourable rights) which are very similar to those enjoyed by nationals, here they are:
You are free to come and go from Croatia as often as you please, as long as you aren’t outside of the country’s borders for longer than two consecutive years,
You are free to access education,
You can undergo professional development of any kind,
You are free to take up employment without any need for permission or a work permit
Student (but not state) scholarships,
Child benefits (allowance),
Social/state benefits (welfare)
Various forms of applicable tax relief,
Free access to the goods and services market,
The freedom to become a member of an association or organisation which represents either employees or employers,
You can live in Croatian permanently and without any conditions,
SOURCES: MUP, Sredisnji drzavni portal, Europa.eu, GOV.UK
For everything else you need to know as a Brit in Croatia, keep up with our lifestyle section.