Legal novelties on the acquisition of Croatian citizenship for expatriates and their descendants, as well as members of the Croatian people

This article presents novelties related to the process of acquiring Croatian citizenship for members of the Croatian people abroad and expatriates, or their descendants.

Acquisition by origin

A child acquires Croatian citizenship by origin:

1. whose parents are Croatian citizens at the time of its birth;
2. whose parent is a Croatian citizen at the time of birth and the child is born in the Republic of Croatia;
3. who has a foreign citizenship or is stateless and was adopted by Croatian citizens under the provisions of a specific law

A person shall acquire Croatian citizenship if he or she was born abroad and his/her parent was a Croatian citizen at the time of birth, following that he or she is registered at the diplomatic mission or consular office of the Republic of Croatia abroad or at the Registrar’s Office in the Republic of Croatia as a Croatian citizen by the age of 21.

A person acquires Croatian citizenship if he/she is older than 21, born abroad whose parent was a Croatian citizen at the time of birth, if until 01.01.2022. he/she submitts an application for entry in the register of Croatian citizens, and the Ministry of the Interior has previously determined that there are no obstacles for that.

Acquisition by naturalization

Croatian expatriates are all persons who emigrated from the territory of the Republic of Croatia before October 8, 1991, with the intention of permanently living abroad, while expatriates are not considered to be:

  • persons who emigrated from the territory of the Republic of Croatia on the
  • basis of international agreement,
  • persons who have renounced their Croatian citizenship,
  • persons who have changed their residence to other countries of the former Yugoslavia,
  • and persons who emigrated from the territory of the Republic of Croatia but did not have a former Croatian citizenship, or were not native to the land in the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

Exceptionally, the expatriate is also a member of the Croatian people who emigrated from the territory of the former states in which, at the time of the emigration, the territory of the present-day Republic of Croatia was located. So, if a member of the Croatian people who lived in one of the other countries of the former Yugoslavia emigrated from that area, he or she could be considered as an expatriate.

The new legislation, which came into force on January 1, 2020 left out the generational restriction on the acquisition of Croatian citizenship by the descendants of expatriates in the straight-line and their spouses. Therefore, the expatriate’s grand-grandchildren and relatives in a straight line, with their spouses can also apply for Croatian citizenship.

An important novelty that will enable many descendants of Croatian expatriates to acquire Croatian citizenship is the abolition of the obligation to satisfy the conditions for knowledge of the Croatian language and Latin script, as well as Croatian culture and social order. Namely, the majority of expatriates gave up applying for Croatian citizenship due to lack of knowledge of the language, ie Croatian culture and social order, which was proved by completing a questionnaire in Croatian before a police officer and with a corresponding certificate. It is also not necessary to fulfill the condition of a registered residence of at least 8 years continuously with the declared status of a foreigner on permanent residence, which also significantly simplifies the acquisition of Croatian citizenship.

Members of the Croatian people have so far been able to acquire citizenship if they prove that they previously declared themselves Croats nationally in legal transactions, by stating that belonging in certain public documents (eg school certificate, work or military booklet, birth certificate, etc.), that they protected rights and promoted interests of the Croatian people and actively participated in Croatian associations abroad. Since Croatia joined the European Union, the conditions for proving the declaration of belonging to the Croatian people have become more strict.

The new legislation simplifies the proving of belonging to the Croatian people in such a way that the process of proving belonging to the Croatian people, for persons who do not have any personal evidence of belonging to the Croatian people, recognizes the belonging to the Croatian people (which has to be indisputably established) of their parents. It should be emphasized that the law provides that there must be an indisputably established belonging to the Croatian people for both parents.

The amendments allow for the acquisition of Croatian citizenship by naturalization for underage children whose parent has acquired Croatian citizenship as an expatriate, descendant of an expatriates from the Republic of Croatia or by belonging to the Croatian people.

In conclusion, it is important to note that expatriates and members of the Croatian people who acquire Croatian citizenship in the manner described above do not have to have a registered residence in the Republic of Croatia or prove their intention to live permanently in the Republic of Croatia. Also, they do not have to prove that they obtained a release from foreign citizenship, so it is to be expected that in practice such persons will retain dual citizenship.