How I Became a Croatian Citizen

Did you know that even if only one of your grandparents or parents was born in Croatia, you’re eligible to obtain your Croatian citizenship? Assuming you can provide the required documentation, you may be one year away from becoming a dual citizen. The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time and Croatia allows its citizens to hold foreign citizenship in addition to their Croatian citizenship. Massive perk alert: as Croatia is part of the European Union, you’ll also receive the privilege of EU citizenship.

My father, born 1944 in Croatia.

Interesting ‘details’ about my father, like that he’s considered tall!

I’m American by birth but Croatian by descent – both of my parents are Croatian-born immigrants – and I’d been itching to become a Croatian citizen for several years by the time I submitted my application at the consulate in Los Angeles. What took me so long? First, my parents had to obtain new birth certificates (rodni list), new Croatian citizenship certificates (domovnica), and new marriage certificates (vjenčani list). Though they’re ethnically Croatian, their original documents showed the now-defunct Yugoslavia as their country of birth. Once they basically became Croatian citizens themselves (ha!) and subsequently received their freshly-issued Croatian paperwork, their work was done.

House in Obrovac Sinj, Croatia.

The house in which my father grew up in a village outside of Sinj, Dalmatia.

Next I ordered a copy of my Missouri birth certificate online – it must be the long form version with your parents’ information included. And it has to be a fresh copy, as your birth certificate can be no older than six months at the time of your application submission. They’re sticklers for details, indeed!

Once you receive your birth certificate in the mail, it’s time to get an apostille! The apostille ensures that public documents issued in one signatory country will be recognized as valid in another signatory country. The sole function of the apostille is to certify the authenticity of the signature on the document; the capacity in which the person signing the document acted; and the identity of any stamp or seal affixed to the document. Since I’m born in the state of Missouri, I had to send my birth certificate to the Secretary of State’s Office in Jefferson City, Missouri. If you have the time, the process is fairly straightforward and inexpensive: for me it took $10 + a letter stating what country the documents will be sent to; a return address; and a contact phone number and email address along with the birth certificate. If you don’t have much time, overnight the documents and include a pre-paid overnight envelope for the way back.

My grandma and me in Obrovac Sinj, Croatia.

Saying ‘goodbye for now’ to my beloved maternal grandmother.

Whew! Are you still following along? Okay good, because there’s still plenty more to be done. So now that a week or so has passed, you should have your birth certificate with apostille document in hand. Super – next, it’s time to get those documents officially translated and notarized. If you don’t have a friend in the Croatian translation business, now you do: meet Boris, owner of Croatia Travel in New York City. He was able to translate my birth certificate and accompanying apostille into Croatian within just a few days. And conveniently, he offers notary services as well (and he can be reached at notary@croatiatravel.com).

Family time in Mimice, Croatia.

Spending time with family in Croatia.

Last step (for me anyway, as the reqs are slightly more relaxed for those with both parents born in Croatia): write a biography explaining why you are seeking Croatian citizenship along with an account of your personal connection to the country and the culture. I found this exercise to be fairly easy; the words just spilled out of me as they came straight from the heart. I first visited Croatia as a 3-year-old girl and fell even more madly in love with the country as an adult. So much so, that I purchased a home on the coast with a panoramic sea view and an endless bounty of ripe figs that I enjoy sharing every summer with my family and closest friends. As my cousin Julie is 100% fluent in Croatian, she made some edits to my bio because of course, I wanted it to be perfect and her Croatian is exactly that. I’ve heard that if you’re not born to two parents from Croatia, you may be required to take an exam testing your knowledge of Croatia and inherently, your Croatian language skills as the test is written in Croatian. However, it was recently reported that soon the Croatian language/culture exam will no longer be required to obtain citizenship!

Dogs love Croatia, too.

Croatia is my dog Sasha’s favorite place in the world!

By this point, I had accumulated an extensive collection of documents: parents’ Croatian citizenship certificates, birth certificates and wedding certificates; my long-form birth certificate with apostille and translated from English to Croatian; my bio written in Croatian; and this daunting application which requires some specific dates and information (best filled out alongside your parents/grandparents who were born in Croatia). Once this form has been completed, bring everything along with your passport (to prove identity) and a check for $73 (price at press time) to your nearest Croatian embassy or consulate! Don’t forget to check their business hours ahead of time as the windows can be quite specific for drop-ins.

Croatian consulate in Chicago.

Picking up my passport at the Croatian consulate in Chicago. Such a proud day!

Now what? Most likely you’ll end up waiting a year before receiving an update on the status of your application (give or take a few months). But when you do finally receive that email, oh how sweet it is! A few days later, I visited the consulate to apply for my passport and domovnica. For those items, I wrote a check for $125 (as of September 2017) and needed to present the letter or email confirming my citizenship along with my U.S. passport and a set of passport photos. A Croatian passport and/or domovnica can also be requested by mail if you don’t live close to an embassy or consulate.

I hope this helps demystify the intimidating process of obtaining your Croatian citizenship by descent. Best of luck, and don’t forget your patience and attention to detail… and perhaps a shot of rakija!

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on the ever-changing requirements so you should directly contact your nearest Croatian Consulate or Embassy with your questions, please.

13 Discussions on
“How I Became a Croatian Citizen”
  • Hi I’m just curious – is it frowned upon to obtain dual citizenship if you aren’t fluent in the Croatian language? My mom’s father’s family immigrated to the US from Yugoslavia. We visited when I was a child just as the war was getting very bad. I went back in 2004 and really fell in love with all things Croatia then. Loved reading about your journey to dual citizenship. Was just curious about the language aspect, as I would not want to be disrespectful toward the country…I’ve tried learning but it’s not an easy language at all and my mom was also not raised speaking it (though her father & grandparents spoke Slavic fluently. My grandfather died when my mom was just 8 years old so that’s why she wasn’t able to learn the language or culture either really, as her American mom moved them to another state after his death.) Thanks so much, best wishes to you. 🙂

    • Hola !!
      Mi abuelo era Croata ,mi madre ya tiene su nacionalidad y dos de mis hermanos….
      Yo no creo que sea irrespetuoso no saber el idioma, más bien creo que es un derecho que tenemos por ser descendientes ….yo estoy empezando a ver lo de mis papeles me encantaría ir a conocer la tierra de mi abuelo el contaba cosas maravillosas y viéndola en fotos pues tenía mucha razón …mi hermana y mi madre han viajado y dicen q es realmente hermoso .

  • Puno hvala, Jelena! I’ve just stared the process myself, so it’s good to read your experience. Very helpful! I live in London, so it’s a little easier for me to get over there when I can. I look forward to checking out your other posts.

    Ben

  • Hi was born in Travnik Bosna Croatia . Came to Australia 1968. Had a family my Dauther 24 years old went live in London to work for 2 years. I tried to see if we could get a Croation passport for her. Way to complicated especially that we were from Bosna but Croatia. We gave up. She’s currently holiday in Dubrovnik and Spain ,Greece then hopping to get another visa go back to London.
    You made it sound so easy . Wish it was the case for use.
    I enjoy reading all your blogs.

  • Love reading this blog! My (new) husband was born and raised to adulthood in Hr. The new regulations removing the culture and language portion are very exciting for me as I absolutely adore Croatia. I’m so lucky to have visited 4 times in the last 5 years and have many many more plans to continue to visit my family there. Thank you for sharing! Ps I’m from Missouri also!

  • Thank you for this info, it’s very helpful! I have a question – you said your parents had to become citizens before you could. Was this necessary? For example, if you just prove your parent was born in Croatia and emigrated, is this enough?

    • It wasn’t in my case, but you should check with your nearest Croatian Consulate or Embassy as they’re the experts on the case-by-case guidelines. Good luck!

  • They weren’t terribly strict about the language requirement when I filed back in 2008 and now they’ve gotten more strict. In theory yes, this is being relaxed but it makes it quite difficult if you don’t speak the language at all when dealing with the Embassies and Consulates. While American, I live in Spain and I usually have to resort to English or Spanish when talking with the staff in Madrid for passport renewal, etc. Most all of the terms are pretty archaic.

    Jelena, one thing that should be noted as that while you get citizenship, you don’t automatically have a personal identification number or OIB. This is quite crucial in order to do pretty much anything, much like the SSN in the United Stats. I believe you have to actual reside in the country in order to get it which is a whole other process.

  • Hey Jelena! First off, thank you for taking the time to share your story!

    I have begun to gather all my documents for applying for Croatian Citizenship as well, but I have not come across anywhere which mentions the Apostille. I was curious if you could share the link as to where you found this requirement?

    So far I’ve been going off of the information on this webpage: http://www.mvep.hr/en/consular-information/citizenship/acquiring-croatian-citizenship/

    Any info would be much appreciated 🙂 thanks!

  • Hi, Jelena!

    Thank you for sharing this information; it is very helpful!

    I have a technical question, and it’s not an easy one! I’m a 41-year-old Mexican citizen, living in Mexico. My maternal-paternal great-grandfather (whew, that’s a mouthful!) was born in 1880 in what is now Rijeka, Croatia; however, back then it was called Fiume and belonged to Austria-Hungary. Here’s where it gets dicey: although my great-grandfather was born in Fiume, he was registered in Trieste at the British Consulate; this is because both his parents were born in Trieste, and his father was a British citizen since he was the son of an English immigrant. Anyway, to make a long story short, my great grandfather emigrated from Trieste to Mexico in 1905. I have his original birth certificate, which states he was born in Fiume, as well as his original Mexican naturalization certificate. I know this is not your area of expertise, but I thought I’d give it a shot and ask you this question: considering Article 11 of the Law of Croatian Citizenship, would this be enough for me to claim Croatian citizenship? The reason I’m asking here and not directly at the Croatian Consulate in Mexico is that I want to have as much info as possible when I do that, which will be soon.

    Thanks!

    • Not sure, but I’m guessing the Croatian Consulate will ask for his Croatian school or military records as well if you only have a birth certificate showing Fiume as the birthplace.

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