Retire to Croatia- The Croatia Retirement Visa Guide (Costs, Requirements, and Process)

10/26/2021

QUICK SUMMARY- Retiring To Croatia

  • A one year visa for non-EU citizens to live in Croatia long-term <jump to visa requirements>.
  • Available if you prepay a rental agreement for one year; OR
  • Invest in real estate by purchasing a home
  • Must have a minimum monthly income of $530 / 450 Euro / 3,381 Kuna per month.

Croatia has been making waves as an affordable retirement destination for expats looking to live abroad. It's a beautiful country filled with a rich history and culture, plenty of Mediterranean sunshine, stunning beaches, and delicious foods. Even better, Croatia offers a low cost of living and several one-year retirement visa options that allow expats to stay and potentially work in the country. 

But before you pack your bags, know life in Croatia has involves a complicated bureaucracy and upfront costs. In this article, I'll cover everything you need to know about retiring to Croatia, including upfront costs, estimated living expenses, visa requirements, health insurance, and the myth of the Croatian Retirement Visa.

Quick Facts On Retiring To Croatia

You will need to pay $13,500 in upfront expenses and deposits. The best way to save money when you retire to Croatia is by using Wise to transfer money and make payments in Croatia Kuna. Wise offers you the best exchange rates and lowest bank fees..

Private healthcare coverage is mandatory. Your home insurance will not qualify, but you can find affordable international health insurance for less than $50 that meets the residency application requirements until you are eligible for Croatia's universal healthcare.

49% of the population speak English. If you want to get around without a problem, learn some basic phrases before your trip. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.

Retiring to Croatia may reduce your taxes in the US. However, you may be responsible for income tax in Croatia as there is no double-taxation treaty with the US. Get a FREE consult with an expat tax specialist to understand how tax in Croatia can impact your retirement.

The Cost of Living in Zagreb-$1300 a Month As An Expat In Croatia’s Capital
Is Croatia Safe For Expats? Advice, Scams, And Warnings On Safety In Croatia
Dos and Don’ts In Croatia- What Not To Do and Cultural Mistakes To Avoid in Croatia
The Ultimate Guide To Living In Croatia For Expat Retirees and Digital Nomads
The Cost of Living in Split- $1400 a Month To Live a Mediterranean Dream In Croatia

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Does Croatia Have A Retirement Visa?

No, a retirement visa for Croatia does not exist. Like the Loch Ness monster and my post-pandemic abs, the Croatian Retirement Visa is a myth. 

What??? I thought the wrong purpose of this article was to explain how to retire to Croatia.

Instead of a "Retirement Visa," Croatia offers a Temporary Residence Permit allowing you to live in Croatia. Among several qualifications (see Visa Requirements section below), you must have adequate funds to support yourself and any family members on your visa. As the Temporary Residence Permit does not allow you to work, your "sufficient funds" must be passive income, retirement savings, or pension, i.e., you are retired. Hence, for easy reference, many folks call this residency permit a "Retirement Visa."

young woman retire to Croatia Split Diocletian's Palace

This residence permit is an ideal option for Americans looking for an early retirement destination in Europe.

What is the biggest drawback to Croatian Visas?

Duration. If you are a European Union or EEA citizen, you get Free Movement rights allowing you to work or live in Croatia for as long as you want. However, Americans can only stay in Croatia short-term. Short-term is defined as living in Croatia up to 90 days out of every 180 days.

Canadian, British, or Non-US citizens can visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for their countries' specific Croatian visa requirements.

90-days is not very long. How can an American stay in Croatia over 90 days?

Any third-country national staying in Croatia over 90 days must apply for a temporary or permanent residency permit.  

While a Permanent Residence Permit is indefinite, a Temporary Residence Permit only allows you to stay in Croatia for 6 months to 12 months, depending on which reason you used to get your long-term visa. 

 INSIDER TIP : Third-Country National-  a foreign national who is neither a Croatian citizen, citizen of the European Union (EU), nor a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA). Americans, British (post Brexit), Canadians, etc. fall under this category.

How can I retire to Croatia with a Permanent Residence Permit?

Short answer, you cannot. Croatia has very narrowly defined reasons to grant permanent residency. Unless you were born in Croatia, are ethnically Croatian, or are married or have a domestic partnership with a Croatian, you are not allowed to stay longer than one year.

Instead of a permanent residency, Third-Country Nationals without Croatian family, can apply for Temporary Residence Permit. 

Note that neither the Temporary Residency Permit nor the Digital Nomad Visa offer an upgrade path to permanent residence or citizenship.

RELATED POST ON EXPAT LIFE IN CROATIA

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How can I get a Temporary Residency Permit?

According to the  Minister of Foreign Affairs website, there are 8 ways to stay longer than 90 days in Croatia that do not involve being Croatian or marrying a Croatian. 

  • 1) Working for a Croatian company
  • 2) Be a student at a Croatian university
  • 3) Scientific Research
  • 4) Open a business with Croatian employees
  • 5) Be an unpaid volunteer
  • 6) Being a Digital Nomad
  • 7) Invest in Real Estate
  • 8) Prepaying your apartment rent for one year

Options 1-6 don't sound like retirement. Since we are looking for ways to retire to Croatia, let's strike off any work or school-related opportunities. However, since there are ways to be a Digital Nomad without "working," I will be writing about Croatia's much-anticipated Digital Nomad Visa soon.

How-To Retire To Croatia Based On Real Estate Investment Or Prepaid Rent.

Buying a house in Croatia

Retired expats can get a temporary residency permit by purchasing real estate in Croatia. The temporary residence permit acts as a Real Estate Investment visa similar to property investor visas in Colombia, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and Turkey. 

The key facts of Croatia's real estate investor visa are:

  • No Minimum Investment Required- Unlike other EU countries, which require a minimum investment of up to 500,000 Euro or over $585,000 USD, Croatia does not have a minimum investment. 
  • There is no path to become a permanent resident nor Croatian citizenship.
  • Property must be zoned residential, and you must live on the property. 
  • You can only stay in Croatia for 9 months out of the year. A temporary stay visa based on buying property has a maximum duration of 6 months, plus you get an additional 3 months as part of a normal short-term visa. 3 months short-term permit + 6 months temporary residence permit = 9 months total. 
  • You cannot renew or extend a property investor permit and must wait 6 months before reapplying.  

The last two points are the biggest drawbacks. Expats can buy a house in Croatia to qualify for a long-term visa, but they can only stay a maximum of 9 months.

Prepaying for a one-year rental

retiring to croatia apartment

I rented a large furnished 2 Bedroom apartment near the water in Split for $531 per month

My recommended method to stay long-term in Croatia is applying for a 1-year temporary residence permit based on prepayment of rent. Simply signing a housing lease is an odd visa requirement, but for a non-EU citizen, this permit is the closest thing to a Croatia retirement visa. To apply for this permit, a retired person needs a signed one-year rental contract.  

The key facts of Croatia's prepayment of temporary residency permit are:

  • You will need a notarized on year rental contract.
  • You must prepay 12-months of rent.

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Finding Long-Term Rentals- You may need to hunt for a long-term apartment you like. Many landlords prefer to keep leases short to rent their flats during the busy summer months. Don't fall in love with something you find on Airbnb because you will unlikely get the same rate during the warmer months.

Check here for local apartment rentals. The listings will state expressly if the apartment is available year-round (look for the term dugoročno).

If you want local help, contact a Real Estate agent and let them know how long you are looking to rent for. 

  • There is no path to become a permanent resident nor Croatian citizenship.
  • Your rental must have an address registered for residents, not tourists.  

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Registered Address-  You cannot stay at a hotel or other housing rented for tourists. You need a properly registered address on your rental contract. Not every landlord in Croatia will let you register for this permit using their address. I'm not sure of the exact reason why, but I suspect it has to do with taxes. If you are working with a real estate agent, let them know you need to register at the residential apartment or house address. 

  • Maximum duration is for one year.
  • After the permit expires, you must leave Croatia for 90 days.
  • You cannot renew or extend this permit and must wait 6 months before reapplying.  

 INSIDER TIP : Reapplying based on prepaid rent-  At the discretion of the police station handling your permit, the MUP (Ministarstvo Unutarnjih Poslova) can limit you to two consecutive permit applications. After two successive permits, you would need to leave Croatia for up to 18 months. 

Additional Requirements For Temporary Residence Permits 

For both prepaid rent or buying a house, all expat retirees will need to meet these requirements:

  • Must be retired, as you are not allowed to work
  • Have sufficient funds to support yourself and any family on your visa
  • Can pass a criminal background check
  • Maintain private health insurance until your application is approved.

Sufficient Funds and Minimum Income Requirements

You will need to show bank statements providing proof you have the financial means to support yourself.

Amount of Financial Support Required To Retire in Croatia (12 month totals as of 2021):

  • For one person = $6364 / 40,578 Croatia Kuna per year 
  • For a two-person family (spouse, domestic partner, or child) = $8,273 / 52,751.40 HRK per year
  • Additional dependents, add $1,273 / 8,11,60 HRK per dependent per year

Health Insurance Requirement

Will my home health insurance work in Croatia?

Most likely no. Most private healthcare coverage does not cover you for any medical services outside of your home country. You need expat health insurance or international travel insurance

Can I buy Croatian healthcare coverage?

After your application is approved, you have roughly one week to purchase Croatian Health Insurance (HZZO). You will pay a fee equal to one year of insurance premiums as a "buy-in." In addition to the one-time fee, you will need to maintain monthly insurance payments. Payments vary by age, family size, and sex; most expats and retirees budget $75 per month for insurance premiums. 

What is the application process for a Croatian Retirement Visa?

The step-by-step approval process for a long-term stay permit is the same for purchasing property and signing a prepaid lease.

Step 1- Get required documents from your home country

While you can technically start your application in Croatia, the process gets significantly more complicated. Some documents need apostilles, notarization, and translations from your home country. 

Documents to get from your home country:

  1. Criminal Background Check- for Americans, this is the FBI background check, not from your state. You will need to get certified fingerprints to send to the FBI offices in Washington, DC. 
  2. Marriage certificate, birth certificates, civil union documents- if you are applying with a spouse, domestic partner, or children
  3. Evidence of health insurance. Ask your insurance company; they have specific forms for visas.
  4. A valid passport with at least 3 months before it expires

You will need apostilles for items 1 and 2. Items 1 to 3 will need certified Croatian language translations.

Step 2 - Arrive in Croatia

You can apply at the Croatian Embassy or Consulate in your home country, but to maximize the amount of time you can stay in Croatia, enter Croatia on a short-term tourist visa. 

Entering under a short-term visa allows you to stay in Croatia for 90-days out of every 180 days. However, once you submit your temporary residence application, they won't kick you out of the country until the MUP makes a decision, even after the initial 90 days expires. 

 INSIDER TIP : Croatia is NOT a part of Schengen-  United States citizens do not require a visa to enter Croatia. Americans can stay up to 90 days visa-exempt. While part of the European Union, as of 2020, Croatia still falls outside the Schengen zone.

You can visit another European country for 90 days and still enter Croatia for and additional 90 days. 

Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, or Cyprus are in the EU, but not part of Schengen

Step 3- Required Check-In at the police station

Pay a visit to the administrative police station in the city you plan on living within 3-days of arriving. If you need to, write the MUP at nja@mup.hr to find out the nearest administrative police station to you. 

Inform the foreigners (Stranci) desk and let them know you intend to apply for a temporary residence permit. The foreigner desk will provide you the application and other documents they require. 

 INSIDER TIP : Croatian Bureaucracy-  Different police stations sometimes have different requirements. Some want more information; some want different information. Sometimes the requirements change based on the mood of the bureaucrat processing the permits. 

Step 4 - Get an OIB identification number

Like a United States Social Security number, Croatia uses a Personal Identification Number (OIB) to track fees and taxes owed and paid by foreign nationals and Croatian citizens. To open a Croatian bank account, apply for public healthcare coverage, or purchase a house, you will need an OIB. 

You can sign up for an OIB at the Ministry of Finance website.

Many financial transactions in Croatia require an OIB number.

Step 5- Prepare and submit your residency application

For this step, you should find a translator. The person processing your permit at the police station may ask for additional information or reject parts of your application. You will want to understand in detail what they are requesting.

Though the requirements could change, in general, you will need the following:

  • A notarized prepaid one-year rental agreement OR certificate of property ownership from the Croatian land registryApplication for Approval of Temporary Stay (Dobrenja za Privremeni Boravak)
  • Proof of expat health insurance, travel health insurance, or another form of private medical care coverage 
  • Passport with at least 3 months of validity before expiration
  • Two passport photos- Europe has different passport photo requirements than the US. The EU passport photo size is 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm. Also, the EU does not allow you to smile in your passport picture. 
  • Clean criminal background check
  • Application Fee of $69 USD, 460 HRK, or 60 EUR
  • Bank statements providing proof you have the financial means to support yourself.

 INSIDER TIP : Avoid Fridays and Lunch Hours At The Police Station-  This advice is accurate when dealing with any Croatian Government bureaucracies. Getting an impatient administrator ready for their weekend or irritable and hungry for lunch increases the odds of complications. 

If you happen to get someone in a bad mood, my advice is don't get angry or argumentative. It doesn't help. Just suck it up, leave and try again another day.

Step 6- The waiting game begins

Another lesson about retiring to Croatia, learn patience. Everything will take longer than you expect. Bureaucracies run very slowly here. 

Your application can take a week or several months, depending on various factors primarily out of your control. 

The good news is once you submit, you are legally in Croatia. The Croatian government will not kick you out until they decide on your application. While you cannot leave the country during this time, you can explore your new host country. You can drive down the Dalmatian coast and explore the coastal cities (Split, Rovinj, and Zadar are popular retiree destinations) or head inland and check out the capital city of Zagreb. 

If the MUP decides they need additional information or documentation, they will call you, so it is vital to have a Croatian phone number. 

Step 7- Final Steps

Croatia's Ministry of the Interior will inform you of their decision by phone or mail at the registered address on your application. After you pay the fees and taxes, the police station will issue you a temporary card. At this point, you are officially retired in Croatia. However, you will need to return to the police station to exchange your temporary permit for your official temporary residence permit. It is important not to lose your temporary card. As you have learned, Croatia's bureaucracy is not to be tested. 

Congratulations, you now have one year to enjoy your retirement in Croatia. 

Do they speak English in Croatia?

49% of Croatian people are fluent in English. However, most of the people you deal with at the "foreign nationals desk" at the police station oddly do not. Bringing a Croatian friend to translate when dealing with the MUP will make your retirement visa application go much smoother

two friends retire in croatia

Making friends in Pag Novalja Zrce Beach

RELATED POST ON CROATIAN CULTURE

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Do I need to learn Croatian?

Are there other Croatia long-term visas?

Canadians and New Zealanders between 18-30 (extended to 35 years old for Canada) can study and work in Croatia for up to one year under the Croatia Working and Holiday Visa program

Croatia also has a new Temporary Stay of Digital Nomad permit. If you work remotely for companies OUTSIDE of Croatia and you can show a monthly income of 16,907.50 Croatia Kuna per month (roughly $2,651.53), then you may qualify for Croatia's new Digital Nomad Visa.

Is Croatia safe for a retiree?

Yes, Croatia is one of the safest EU countries. Like many European countries with heavy tourism, a retiree needs to be alert of petty theft in Zagreb or tourist cities on the Adriatic Coast. Still, robbery and violent crime are nearly unheard of. Read my article on whether Croatia is safe to retire for more data and insights.  

eurostat showing Croatia is safe

This residency visa is one way a foreign partner who is a citizen of a non-EU country can become a permanent resident. 

RELATED POST ON SAFETY ADVICE IN CROATIA

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Will I pay tax on my pension income in Croatia?

In Croatia, you might pay taxes on your retirement income (pension, social security, 401K, or IRA) if your home country does not have an international treaty or agreement that allows tax-free treatment of pension payments from foreign countries.

Learn more about the different taxes in Croatia here

International taxes are complicated. Consult with an expat tax specialist for details. 

How much does it cost to retire in Croatia?

There are two parts to this question. The upfront costs and monthly expenses.

Initial cost of retirement in Croatia

A single person looking to retire in Croatia will need between $13,000 to $15,000 upfront to pay for one year of prepaid rent, one year of Croatian health insurance, one year of "sufficient funds", various legal fees and real estate agent commissions. 

* Average apartment rental estimate. Actual rent varies; apartments in the city center will cost more than apartments in the outskirts.

** Sufficient funds for an individual. Additionally, you will need adequate funds to cover any family members

***Note that if you use a Real Estate agent, know that in Europe, is it normal for the renter (i.e., you) to pay the agent a 1-month commission for finding you an apartment.

Monthly retirement living costs in Croatia

An expat retiree can enjoy life in Croatia for $1200 to $1500 per month. You can see my detailed monthly budget in Zagreb and monthly expenses in Split in my Croatia cost of living guides.

RELATED POSTS ON MONTHLY BUDGETS IN CROATIA

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WRAP UP: Retire In Croatia

Retire to Croatia for an affordable and relaxing Mediterranean lifestyle

Expats retiring to Croatia have two primary options for a temporary residency permit: prepaying for a one-year apartment lease or buying a home. While neither option allows retirees to stay longer than one year, unless you are an EU or EEA citizen, have immediate family Croatian citizens, or marry a Croatian, this retirement visa is the best alternative to stay long-term.

FAQs: Retiring To Croatia

How does BREXIT affect the visa process for someone from UK retiring in Croatia?

British families living in Croatia BEFORE January 1, 2021, can request a new biometric residency card (Dozvola boravka) based on their rights under the BREXIT Withdrawal Agreement.

How can I get Croatian citizenship?

Here are some of the ways to get citizenship in Croatia:

  • Jus sanguinis (Latin for Right of Blood)- If at least one of the parents is Croatian, you may be eligible by descent. 
  • After 5-years as a permanent resident, you can apply for Croatian citizenship. The catch is getting permanent residency is highly unlikely unless your immediate family is Croatian (parents or spouse).

Does Croatia have a retirement visa?

There is no official Croatian retirement visa available. However, there is a de-facto retirement visa. If you have passive income, don't need to work, and want to retire to Croatia, you can apply for a Croatian residence permit by prepaying your rent for one year or purchasing real estate.

Is Croatia good place to retire?

Yes. Croatia is safe, affordable, a beautiful country, and has an excellent healthcare system. But, retiring to Croatia is not ideal for everyone. The major drawback to retiring in Croatia is the lack of a proper retirement visa. Croatia's temporary residence permit period is only valid for up to one year. Retiring to Croatia means moving to another country every year.  

What are the best places to retire in Croatia?

The best places to retire in Croatia balance quality of life and affordability. The Dalmatian Coast is a popular place for expats because it has both. The Adriatic coast has everything from sunny beaches to towns that are full of history and culture. However, with the recent surge in popularity of the country's inland capital city, Zagreb, there are plenty of other options.


About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

  • Michael Cannon says:

    I am US citizen and my wife is Finnish/US dual citizen… so EU citizenship. Would her EU status make a difference as far as the temporary living arrangements? Could we stay longer than 9 months?

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi Michael,

      Sorry for the late response. I was in Cairo with limited internet access. Your wife’s EU citizenship makes ALL the difference in the world. Croatia is an EU country, so she can live and work in Croatia with no restrictions. You, as her spouse, would apply for a temporary residence card as a “Non-EEA family member of an EU citizen.” The residence card is valid for up to 5 years or for as long as your wife stays in Croatia. After 5-years, you can even apply for permanent residency.

      When you get to Croatia, ask your local MUP (the police administration for your town) for a Form 2b. You will need your marriage certificate translated and apostilled, along with the standard background check, health insurance coverage, and proof of sufficient financial means.

      You’re lucky. As a spouse of an EU citizen, Croatia and most of Europe is legally your playground.

      If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

      Cheers,

      Marco

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