The Lowdown on Croatian Residence Permits and Travel Regulations

Lauren Simmonds

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Once you’ve received your first temporary residence permit, be it valid for a year, two years, three years, four or the full five year stretch before you can typically apply for permanent residence, you’re faced with certain limitations when it comes to how long you can be absent from Croatia without risking the termination of your permit. The same is true for permanent residence holders, albeit far more lenient. Let’s look into what those restrictions are and who they apply to.

Temporary residence for EU/EEA/EFTA citizens

If you’re a citizen of a European Union, European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association country (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein), then you’ve got the best deal out of the lot when it comes to Croatian residence permits and the freedom to travel in and out of the country.

Once you’ve been granted a Croatian residence permit, in this case temporary residence, you can be gone for up to six months per calendar year, and as such you only need to be physically present on the territory of Croatia for the other six months per year in order for your temporary residence permit to remain valid.

This is primarily because as a citizen of one of the aforementioned groups, you are entitled to live and work in Croatia on the same basis as a Croatian national owing to one of the fundamental pillars of the functioning of the European Union – freedom of movement. This pillar also applies to non EU countries which are still part of the EEA or EFTA.

Permanent residence for EU/EEA/EFTA citizens

The same applies to citizens of the above-mentioned group of countries once you’re granted permanent residence in Croatia. Permanent residence is precisely that, permanent, and it’s rather difficult to lose. As a a citizen of the EU, the EEA or an EFTA country, you’re automatically entitled to permanent residence in Croatia after five years and one day of uninterrupted, lawful temporary residence. In some cases, permanent residence can be obtained earlier, and you can click here to learn more about that.

Once you’ve been approved and granted a new Croatian residence permit, a permanent one, you can be gone for more or less as much as you’d like. The only catch is that you can’t be outside of Croatia for more than two consecutive years, which is unlikely in itself.

Temporary residence for third country nationals (non EU, EEA or EFTA citizens)

If you aren’t a citizen of any of the aforementioned countries which belong to one of those three blocs, you have more restrictive limitations when it comes to travelling outside of Croatia. Once you’re granted a Croatian residence permit (temporary residence), you’re only free to be outside of the territory of Croatia on multiple different trips for a period of up to 90 days (three months) or 30 days from the day you’re given the green light and your application for temporary residence for one year is granted to you by MUP.

This ”freedom” time increases as your time approved to be living here does, so you can be outside of the country on multiple different trips for up to 180 days (six months), or a maximum of 60 days in one stretch from the day you’re approved for two years of temporary residence. The latter is also the case if you’re registered as a Croatian citizen’s family member.

There are exceptions to these rules of course, much like with everything else in Croatia, and if you have a valid reason to be outside of the country for a longer period, such as illness, childbirth, military service, etc, you will likely be given permission to remain outside for longer, but you must explain this and ask for permission. If you’re found to have been outside of the country for longer than is permitted and you haven’t contacted MUP, you could run the risk of your Croatian residence permit and those of anyone connected to you being invalidated.

Permanent residence for third country nationals (non EU, EEA or EFTA citizens)

Once you’ve reached the time at which you can apply for permanent residence as a third country national, which is typically five years (but it could be three or four, depending on your circumstances), you get much, much more freedom. It’s a little bit like serving time and then getting some sort of reward, if you like. 

As a third country national with Croatian permanent residence, you can only have your permit cancelled if you’ve spent more than 12 consecutive months outside of the European Economic Area, or if you’ve resided outside of the territory of the Republic of Croatia for longer than 6 years.

Temporary residence for British citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement

British citizens were once also EU citizens until the country voted very narrowly to leave the European Union back in 2016. The process was long, arduous, and frankly a little bit embarrassing. With numerous extensions and with a year-long transition period out of the bloc, heading out of the door took a long time for the UK, one of the EU’s then most powerful and wealthy member states. 

British nationals who had exercised their right to freedom of movement when the UK was an EU member are protected by what’s known as the Withdrawal Agreement, and they aren’t quite EEA citizens, and aren’t quite third country nationals either. They have what are known as acquired rights and they enjoy now broadly what they did when the UK was an EU country.

They need a special Croatian residence permit in order to evidence their right to live and work in Croatia, free them from ever needing to pay the upcoming ETIAS, facilitate their entry into Croatia whatever the situation might be, and to separate them from British nationals who moved to live in Croatia after the end of the UK’s transition period (31st of December, 2020), who are now third country nationals.

If you’re a British national protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and you have temporary residence in Croatia, you are free to be absent from the country for no more than six months per calendar year. Essentially, you have the same rights you would have had as an EU citizen with Croatian temporary residence.

Permanent residence for British citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement

If you’re a British citizen and you already have permanent residence in Croatia, you are free to be absent from the country for five consecutive years without losing any of your rights whatsoever.


SOURCES: MUP, Sredisnji drzavni portal,, GOV.UK

For all you need to know about Croatian residence permits, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.


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