If you're wondering how to get Croatian citizenship, here's a personal guide outlining the different ways to get it, how long it typically takes, some insider tips, the benefits, and more.
Why Croatian Citizenship?
If you're not a citizen, you can't vote (and I think it's important to have your say in the place you're living for many years). You also can't buy property if you're not a citizen (depending on your native country).
I also wanted to get citizenship because I genuinely love Croatia, it's a great, safe country to live in, and my children were all born here. It was also important for me that as a family, we all have the same citizenship. I want my children to know that I love and respect their home country, and pursuing citizenship is one example of that.
My mom has a different citizenship than me and she never wanted Canadian citizenship, so I always felt growing up that Canada wasn't "good enough" for her. I don't want my kids to feel this way, so showing them I truly want to be a Croatian citizen was important to me.
Don't get me wrong, I still love Canada and will always be Canadian, but if I can have dual citizenship, why wouldn't I?
One other reason for getting citizenship is you don't have to worry about counting the days you're outside of the country. If you're just a resident, you can only be outside of Croatia for "x" number of days, or your residency permit expires. So this alleviates more administrative stress ;)
Now I don't ever have to worry about renewing my residency permit, because I'm a citizen!
(Administrative processes are one of the very frustrating parts of living here... but there are so many great things that outweigh this, so don't worry :)
A couple other benefits:
The EU Passport: Being able to work and live anywhere in the European Union? That's definitely a plus.
Quality of Life: Between the affordable living, great people, amazing food, scenic beauty, rich history, free healthcare, good education - Croatia ticks all the boxes for me.
How long did it take me to get my citizenship?
The first step was going to the nearest police station where they gave me a list of documents I needed to get in order.
When I submitted all documents, I was told it would take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
It wasn't a rush for me since I already had permanent residence, but thinking about waiting 2 years to get it... I felt impatient already.
Luckily, I had ALL documents in order when I submitted my application (or so I thought...more to come a bit later in the story about that...).
I got citizenship through marriage, which is typically the simplest and fastest way to get it, so with Ivan's help (and a bit of his borrowed patience since he's used to this system - I'm not there quite yet), we dropped everything off at the local police station and started the long wait...
About 2 months later, we were surprised by a police check at home (I was surprised by how quickly they came, not that there was a check). They came to see if I really lived at the address, and to check things out.
A nice officer came and asked some questions. Everyone was home at the time, it was a full house - Dida probably offered her some dried meat, Baka probably offered her some coffee, but she was quick and after a few notes she jotted down, she left and then we continue our wait for the next step...
A few months later I got a call from the office that was dealing with my case. Turns out I submitted the wrong birth certificate from Canada (to anyone reading this, make sure you send the birth certificate with parental information).
This prolonged the process slightly since I had to order a new birth certificate from Canada, which then had to be shipped here, and then I had to bring it to the ministry of foreign affairs to get it apostilled again, and then back to the police station for them to put it in my file, again.
I definitely had a mini meltdown here because why couldn't they have just put that on the list from the beginning (the exact type of birth certificate needed). Maybe they did and we just didn't read it properly, but when we submitted all documents in the original application, the person who accepted our application could have told us "Hey, you have the wrong birth certificate, please get the right one and submit it when it's all properly in order."
If there's one thing you'll learn from dealing with Croatian administration - it's that you will never ever ever submit a complete application the first time around. There will ALWAYS be a paper missing. You will ALWAYS be turned back to get something that wasn't on the original list.
You just have to accept that that's the way it is. Then you can have a quick meltdown. Cry if you need to (I always do). Get frustrated at the system. Complain to whoever is with you (hopefully, like me, you have a great partner by your side to walk you through your tantrum), contemplate giving up on your application, then take a deep breath, get the right paper, and submit it again.
After submitting the CORRECT birth certificate from Canada, we waited again...
We went every now and then to pop into the police station to see if there were any updates, but each time the lady said no, they will call when it's ready. Unfortunately there isn't any place online where you can check your file, and in which stage it's in, you just have to blindly wait.
A few months later, I got THE call! It was from the lady who was in charge of my file and she said my citizenship was approved!! The last step was she would have to send it to the police station closest to us, and we would have to pick up the documentation there.
This was after only 7 months!
It's weird because it's not like I was waiting for it to be approved in order to move here or something, but it was such a relief for it to be done.
Once we got the "rjesenje" (paperwork showing my citizenship was approved), we had to go over to the Maticni Ured to get my Domovnica (certificate of citizenship). This was super fast and was done within a week.
Then after getting my Domovnica, I went back to the original police station to apply for my new ID card - my Croatian citizen ID card! Up until now, my ID card always looked a bit different since I was a permanent resident.
And that's that! I'm officially a Hrvatica! The last step is waiting for a the ceremony that will be in the next few months or so where they'll officially welcome me as a Croatian. Details to follow!
If you're looking to get citizenship, here are a few tips and some info about how to get yourself!
What are some was to get citizenship? Here are a few!
1. By Descent: If you're born to Croatian parents, you already have an edge.
2. By Residency: Living and integrating into Croatian society for a certain duration can pave your way.
3. Through Marriage, like me :): Tying the knot with a Croatian citizen? That could be your golden ticket.
4. Ancestral Connection: Croatian ancestors in your family tree? You might have a shot.
5. Affiliation: Feeling a deep-rooted connection to Croatia, even without a direct lineage? This could be your route.
6. Special Interest: This is a unique category for those who hold a particular significance for Croatia.
Insider Tip: The legal intricacies can be daunting. It might be wise to consult a Croatian lawyer specializing in citizenship matters to streamline the process.
To Register or To Apply: The Crossroads
- Registering: This is primarily for those who inherently have a right to Croatian citizenship. For instance, if one of your parents was a Croatian citizen when you were born and you're under 21.
- Applying: This involves individuals who seek citizenship based on lineage or other reasons.
The Lineage Lifeline: Article 11
Going the Naturalization Route
- 8 continuous years of residence.
- Mastery of the Croatian language (with exceptions for seniors).
- Adherence to Croatian customs and legal norms.
Decoding the Croatian Citizenship Test
- Proficiency in the Croatian language and the Latin alphabet.
- Familiarity with Croatian culture and societal norms.
Certain categories of applicants can skip this test, like lineage-based applicants and those over 60.
Submission and Decision
A crucial point to remember: applications have to be made in person. No postal submissions or proxies.
Dual Citizenship: Embrace Two Worlds
In essence, while the journey to Croatian citizenship can seem labyrinthine, the rewards, from personal to professional, are manifold. Whether it's for the love of the land, its people, or the opportunities it presents – Croatia awaits with open arms. Safe travels on your citizenship journey!