Working towards Permanent Residency in Croatia as Non EU Citizens. And why we decided to give up on the idea.

I’ve previously written about how we obtained a 1 year Temporary Stay in Croatia. It was relatively easy and when the time came to renew the stay for a 2nd year we were optimistic. Consulting with several lawyers however, it became clearer that things would be more complicated the second time around. Looking even further ahead at the prospect of Permanent Residency gave us even more reasons for wonder if it was all worth it.

* Note: we are Canadian, and like Americans, fall under the category of Third-Country nationals (ie. Nationals of third countries are foreigners who are not nationals of European Economic Area (EEA) members)


Firstly, to get a new Temporary Stay for a 2nd year, we needed to go through the same procedure as we did in year 1, PLUS get a non-paying working contract. Huh you say? A non-paying working contract or, as our lawyer calls it “a volunteer contract” means you contact a volunteer organization and come to terms with them on some kind of contract to perform services (hours and conditions being whatever is agreed upon). Once you have that contract, you can apply for a non-paying working permit from the government. Once you have that, our lawyer(s) told us, you can apply for your 2nd Temporary Stay. We were told that if we were going to apply for more Temporary Stays in the future (up to 5 allowed) that we would need this volunteer contract (on top of the other conditions we had gone through on our 1st Temporary Stay).

Ok, so a bit of a pain but a “volunteer contract” (which is the “Humanitarian Grounds” reason to allow Third-party nationals to stay) is something that theoretically should not be too hard to procure. I’m sure a donation would grease the way somewhat to whatever working terms you can fulfill.

Types of Visa in Croatia

You’ll find the different types of Visas in the link above. If you’re a non EU citizen (ie. Third-country National), scroll down to the bottom where it says ‘Everybody Else’. Our 1st year we filed under “Miscellaneous Visa”, but that’s only good for one year. The 2nd year we would have to file under “Humanitarian Grounds”.



Longer term however – and the reason to get that 2nd Temporary Stay – we needed to understand the conditions for Permanent Residency.

Here is how the conditions for Permanent Residency were laid out to us:

– Permanent residency may be granted if you, at the time of submitting the application, have had possession of a temporary stay permit for an uninterrupted period of 5 years before the submission of the application.
– It shall be deemed that your stay in the Republic of Croatia has been continuous, without any interruptions, if your several-time absence from the country within a period of five years has not lasted longer than 10 months or if your one-time absence within a period of five years has not lasted longer than 6 months.

Application for permanent residence must be submitted at the police department/station authorized according to your place of residence, and the application will be decided by the Ministry of Interior.

Permanent residence will be granted if you:

  1. a)   have a valid foreign passport,
  2. b)   have the means to support yourself,
  3. c)    have health insurance,
  4. d)   know Croatian language and Latin alphabet and are familiar with Croatian culture and social organization,
  5. e)   pose no threat to public order, national security or public health”

Addendum Feb 17, 2018: I’ve been told through the Split Expat group that Non EU Expats living in Croatia on a Temporary Visa are not allowed to leave Croatia for more than 30 days on any given trip. Doing so could affect your application for Permanent Residency. This new law, which supposedly came into effect in late 2017, was cited by the Split Chief of Police. Of course there doesn’t seem to be anything on that in writing anywhere so I can’t confirm 100% that this is accurate. Welcome to Croatia.



After speaking to the lawyer, Lissette and I decided not to get a 2nd Temporary Stay at this point, therefore interrupting any chance of working towards Permanent Residency.

The major sticking points for us:
– Being out of the country a maximum of 10 months over 5 years. We both like to travel, plus I have family outside Croatia. Being limited to 2 months per year out of the Croatia over the next 5 years is not something I’m ready to do at this point in my life.
– You can only apply for 5 consecutive Temporary Stays. That means you better be ready to pass your Croatian language test after 5 years. If we were able to apply for more Temporary Stays (7 or 8 for example) we might feel more comfortable with the prospect of passing a Croatian language test at a certain point…but being locked into a maximum of 5 Temporary Stays means that we would have to be able to pass the language test in 4 years*. Being realistic we know that won’t happen.

* Note: if you are 65 and over, you don’t have to do the Croatian language test.

Basically, I guess you can sum at it as not being fully committed to the process at this point in our lives.


These were the major reasons we decided to give up on the idea of working towards Permanent Residency at this point. Instead we are going to go back to visiting Croatia as tourists. We can still be in the country 6 months/year. So we’ll be keeping our Split apartment as a base when not travelling and, when we’re not here, will rent it out.


Note: While writing the above we received some very bad news that puts In question any future in Croatia. I’ll be writing about that in the next little while.


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  1. That’s tough Frank. Would Macedonia be any better?
    Ted recently posted…The Doors and PortalsMy Profile

  2. Sara Yoel says:

    Unbelievable! I thought I was familiar with a lot of the Eastern European Shenanigans, I was not. Hope your bad news is temporary and not that bad either. Good Luck.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I had a chat with a Brits guy yesterday and he said that they’re just not used to people wanting to move here. That’s why everything is backwards when it comes to immigration. Guess it’s understandable…but if they were a bit smarter about it they could attract retiring expats just like Portugal, Spain and Malta do. Maybe one day they’ll catch on – but they have a lot more important priorities to deal with before that.

      Nothing health wise Sara, so everything under control. But thank you so much for your concern 🙂

  3. Sad to hear because l know how much you guys really liked Croatia. Perhaps Portugal like so many others have done? I hope your bad news turns to good. Will keep thinking good thoughts :-).

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      We have very much enjoyed Croatia and Lissette especially is in love with it.

      Portugal doesn’t hold interest for us – if there is anywhere else in Europe long term it would probably be Spain. We enjoyed our 2 months there a couple of years ago and we both speak the language in varying degrees. But for now we’ll go back to full-time travel in March and explore again. Sometime in the future we’ll work towards a new base somewhere 🙂

  4. its often complicated. On the other had I worked as an english teacher in Georgia and we didnt need any kind of visa whatsoever. I’d imagine Croatian is a very tricky language to come to grips with to.
    Andrew Boland recently posted…2018 – To Somewhere… and Beyond!My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, I’ve heard that about Georgia! It’s actually a place I’d like to see in the near future.
      You’re also absolutely right about Croatian.

  5. Tough one guys. Some countries make it tougher to live there long term, because not many expats live their long term. Kinda like the process being a reflection of lesser prior demand. As more posts like these gain traction and more folks want to live there for a bit the rules will change. As you noted in comments though; not super high on their priorities list now. Good to see you again BBQ and Spanky 😉

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…2 Exciting Travel Announcements Plus a Pressing eBook QuestionMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      If Croatia gets into the Schengen I would imagine some of the rules will change. Let’s see if/when that ever happens.
      Thanks for your thoughts Ryan!

  6. Although you’ve discussed some of these stumbling blocks in the past, I’m still bummed to hear that the various bureaucratic hoops have proven to be major roadblocks at this point. However, one of the big appeals to residency in Croatia, besides falling in love with the country, was the ability to travel easily throughout Europe and elsewhere so I can definitely understand why you’d put the idea of residency on hold at this time in your lives. Like the language requirement in Croatia, we also need to learn Portuguese before we apply for permanent residency (Richard’s working on it but I need to get my butt in gear one of these days) and I imagine that learning Croatian and the unfamiliar alphabet would be even more daunting. (I do like the idea of Croatia waiving that requirement after age 65 though. Wish Portugal would do the same as that might be my only hope!) I’m hoping that your ‘bad news’ isn’t insurmountable and that you can figure out a path to “having it all.” All our best to you, Anita
    Anita recently posted…Living La Vida Lagos: How Much Does It REALLY Cost To Live In Lagos, Portugal?My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I wonder what travel restrictions are in either Portugal or Spain Anita? Croatia isn’t part of Schengen…but in the case of Portugal or Spain, do they tell you that you have to be in the Schengen zone X months of the year?
      I hope one day you’l be writing about Permanent Residency in Portugal. I’d be curious. Portugal less interesting to us than Spain, mostly because of the language factor, but I’m curious what the rules are.
      I’ll be writing about our ‘bad news’ situation in the next little while. But I guess I can let slip that we’ll be travelling full-time again starting in March which, 10 days ago, we didn’t expect…
      I know your cycling trip in SEA coming up Anita, I’m excited for you!

      • We’re eligible for permanent residency in Portugal after 5 years but, like Croatia, we have to demonstrate a certain level of language proficiency which is the biggest hurdle. As far as travel restrictions with our 1 and 2-year temporary residencies, we’ve traveled freely within the Schengen zone and our passports aren’t stamped so there’s really no way to monitor if we’re in our resident country or not. At one point we asked our lawyer the hypothetical ‘What If” regarding how long we could leave Portugal without endangering our resident status and the answer was 6 months/year although I haven’t seen that written anywhere.
        We got hit by the Portuguese Plague after Christmas and I feel like I’ve lost a few weeks. I’ve been scrambling to catch up, get my exercise mojo back and prepare for the trip which starts next week. So far, I’m a little scattered in all directions but I can feel my excitement starting to grow… !
        I’ll wait to hear more about your future plans but it sounds like some changes and challenges are ahead for you. Portugal has a low-key beauty when compared to Croatia but, if you’re exploring alternatives, we’d love to show you some of the Algarve’s charms anytime (during the off-season). We found a 5-BR villa to rent that we’re moving to in April and will share with some Canadian friends. There are extra bedrooms for guests and we’d love to have you and Spanky visit so, give it a think. And, speaking of visits, I’m looking forward to meeting your mom.
        Wishing you and Lissette all the best and here’s to finding an alternative plan that gets you both excited!

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          I was wondering Anita – how did you handle finding an apartment in Portugal, signing a lease, then having to go back to the US to do the paperwork? Sounds tricky. What was the timeline for you with that? (you probably have a post somewhere on that and I’ve have to go through your archives. But if you have a link handy feel free to reply it here).
          After doing some preliminary reading, I see it’s the same situation in Spain.

          Here in Croatia at least that part of the process was easier – we found an apartment, signed a lease, then were able to go through the paperwork while still in Croatia and while being in the apartment (ie. you don’t have to go home, you can stay in Croatia while they process your application)

          I heard about you being sick and glad to hear you are recovering in time. I can’t wait to hear about your bike trip, it will be very exciting! And you’ll no doubt meet lots of interesting people.

          One day we will for sure take you up on your offer Anita. Would be a pleasure to finally meet up. I went to the Algarve many years ago and I remember how beautiful it is. Travelling full-time we’ll be looking at alternatives as you say and we want to explore more of Spain and Portugal. Malta as well. And thanks again for showing my mom around, I know she’s very excited to be going to Portugal.

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience. Getting residency outside the US is something we have been really interested in and Montenegro has been of particular interest. Your posts have been super helpful for us to see what the process looks like. I think I would agree that would be a hard commitment to be limited on how much you can travel outside of Croatia for 5 years. Now I’m curious if Montenegro is the same. I’ll be doing some research on that soon!
    Brittany recently posted…Our 3 Week Balkan Road Trip: Itinerary and HighlightsMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Montenegro is a place I’ve never heard anyone wanting to get residency in Brittany! I’d be curious what you find out. My guess is that it may be just as complicated as Croatia (and maybe you have to learn some of the Cyrillic alphabet if a language test is required?).
      I think that the language in the end is probably the biggest obstacle. But there were a few other factors in Croatia that you would also experience in Montenegro: cultural differences, the huge discrepancy between high and off-season living, the remoteness…I’ll probably write about that one day when I’ve had some time to think about it.

  8. Marti Bridges says:

    Frank, I passed the Croatian language test with a 4th grade level and had only studied in the US for a year with a tutor. After taking Croatian language for 6 weeks, 4 hours per day, 5 days a week, I tested out at 8th grade level. It’s not that hard to learn, and the expectation isn’t that you speak fluently but rather than you can passably get around. any Croats I met in the countryside had no more than an 8th grade education to begin with. In 5 years you’d be very fluent. It’s not an unreasonable thing to ask. To be honest, I wish the US had a rule like that. Every country should expect a full time resident to be able to speak passably within 5 years.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Marti,
      That’s great info. I belong to a Split Expat group and I’ve seen many people questioning the exam. And I’ve never seen a straight answer. So this is useful – maybe not to us right now (because there were other factors) but who knows in the future.
      So are you now a permanent resident of Croatia? If so what brought you here?
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Tourism…and when the locals hate youMy Profile

  9. Whew… Frank, those are some hefty hoops. I’m just now catching up with a bunch of reading including your blog posts, and I just read aloud to Abi all of the requirements for Croatian residency. The language would kick my butt for sure. And, although I can understand the premise that if you want to have residency in Croatia then you need to keep your feet in Croatia, but at the same time in today’s world with people on the go, those seem to be some fairly stringent mandates.

    We just got our 1-year residency in Portugal, but now that we’re back in the US for a while, we have some serious thinking/planning to do. We definitely want to get the next 2-year renewal which would give us some breathing room as we move forward. It’s a constant dance, isn’t?

    I don’t know what the very bad news is, but I’m wishing the best for you and Lisette.

    • Also, as a follow-up question…

      How do you think these “stay in Croatia” mandates will play out once Croatia is fully immersed into the Schengen Regions? With the open borders, how would they enforce entering/exiting the country? It would seem they wouldn’t know one way or the other if you actually had your feet in Croatia.
      Patti recently posted…A Tale of Two Portuguese Residency Permits ~My Profile

      • Frank (bbqboy) says:

        If/when it happens (which you hear contradictory info on) I would think they’ll have to change their laws to be consistent with other Schengen countries like Portugal and Spain. But who knows? But you’re right, I don’t think they could enforce it.
        Croatia has a major geographical problem – that long range of mountains that is basically no man’s land. In order to get into Schengen they’ll have to secure that. I honestly have my doubts on the whole question of Croatia in Schengen…
        Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Things that seem weird when you go to EuropeMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Patti.

      I just got some word last week of additional hoops which I just updated above, namely “I’ve been told through the Split Expat group that Non EU Expats living in Croatia on a Temporary Visa are not allowed to leave Croatia for more than 30 days on any given trip. Doing so could affect your application for Permanent Residency. This new law, which supposedly came into effect in late 2017, was cited by the Split Chief of Police“.
      It sucks but it confirms that we made the right choice. We love Croatia but there are too many restrictions and laws change on a whim.

      As I understand it from Anita the hardest part in Portugal is getting that initial Visa which you achieved. Once in country, you just have to complete your 5 years and the language test. And she mentioned that theoretically you need to be in Portugal 6 months of the year – but as she says, how can they check that being within the Schengen?

      Thanks Patti 🙂
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Things that seem weird when you go to EuropeMy Profile

  10. Yes, that about sums it up (what Anita posted). For us, we haven’t even thought long-term 5 years from now. Our initial intention was to travel indefinitely for a couple of years and see where it took us. Then, the phone rang. 🙂 We needed/wanted the residency #1 because we love Portugal and #2 so that we could travel without Schengen restrictions. In the fall of this year we hope to renew for 2 years, it will take some thinking/planning to figure out how we can make it happen because the biggest hurdle for us is having a lease to present with our application. .
    Patti recently posted…A Tale of Two Portuguese Residency Permits ~My Profile

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