I don’t keep any secrets of the truth behind the difficulty in dealing with Croatian bureaucracy when you meet me, or when I am sent questions via social media. It literally is a pain in the ass. I’ve spent countless mornings with my partner and diaspora friends mentally preparing ourselves before walking into certain official buildings manifesting positive vibes and a pain free issue resolution. The truth is, no matter how prepared you think you are, there is always a curve ball around the corner by a Government worker in Croatia who simply wants to make your life more difficult.
Croatian people in Croatia do a great job at making returnees to the country feel rejected and unwanted. If I received a dollar for every time I was asked for why I have returned to live and if I am mentally crazy, I’d be quite wealthy. Some people just can’t fathom that the country that they are so angry to live in (for legitimate reasons), makes another person so fulfilled and happy.
In the past six months my circle has changed drastically. I’ve started to spend more time with the Croatian diaspora community in Croatia and I am emotionally and mentally healthier for it. Look, not all Croatian people are bad and appear in your life with bad intentions but the reality is, most of them will never understand your mindset and why you choose to call Croatia your permanent home over countries like Australia, America and Canada.
I spent a few hours in the Central State office for Croats Abroad in Zagreb yesterday with the Director and the woman in charge of helping returnees return comfortably back home to Croatia and it was an interesting discussion. Being able to open up about the obstacles we as diaspora face on a day to day basis and observing a level of empathy, compassion and understanding was refreshing. Finally, a building that welcomed and wanted to help us.
Here are a few things I learned
・Your life is NOT supposed to be so difficult when you enter MUP in Croatia・
I’ve had some fun recently in the MUP in Zadar. I have a whole post coming soon about it in detail and it will all make more sense there. Here is something that I learned yesterday. When you go to your local MUP in Croatia and head over to the foreigners desk needing to sign in to an address, apply for residency, or even ask a simple question- THEY MUST HELP YOU IN A POLITE, PROFESSIONAL MANNER. They are there to serve YOU, you are NOT there to serve them. It is THEIR JOB to help you with whatever issue or question you have in the easiest and most professional way. The staff at MUP in Croatia have a reputation for being unkind, difficult and also lazy. You’ll understand after one experience exactly what I am talking about and by all means, please write your tales in the comments section below. They will go out of their way to make you feel unwelcome and as though you’re a nuisance because you’re asking them TO DO THEIR JOB.
They are NOT ALLOWED to INTERROGATE your decision to stay in the country if you’re eligible to apply for residency or citizenship, or attempt to talk you out of staying or applying. It is their JOB IS TO PROCESS YOUR PAPERWORK.
Following numerous visits to the MUP in Zadar for my fiancé’s sign in and residency, the staff (including the Director) turned on me and asked about my status, if I had “proper” citizenship and papers to live here and the funniest question, if I even worked in this country. After handing over my OIB card and her entering my OIB number into the system, she quickly ended that argument. But they ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO THAT!
・You’re ALLOWED TO ask for their name ・
At the MUP in Croatia there are conveniently no name tags on staff but if you do come across a staff member giving you a rather hard time with your paperwork or queries, ask for their full name and report them to the Central Office for Croats Abroad. They want to hear to about your struggles because they shouldn’t be there in the first place. The staff members are the MUP are there to SERVE YOU and if they don’t want to, REPORT THEM.
Think about it, if you had such a bad and unhelpful customer service experience at the NRMA office in Australia, you’d report them because it’s normal and encouraged to do so. Poor customer service is a reflection on the organisation, nothing will change here if people don’t speak up and demand professionalism.
・You DON’T have to speak Croatian. ・
If your Croatian language skills aren’t strong enough for you to have a formal conversation, speak english. You are not obligated to speak Croatian at the MUP, the staff at the foreigners desk all know how to speak and communicate in english. I know that some people will read this and think, “Well you’re in Croatia, you should speak Croatian if you can,” and yes, I get this argument and I have done this. But I have found that when you speak Croatian with your accent because every diaspora has an accent so it’s obvious “you’re not from here,” the staff at MUP treat you poorly. I despise that I have to say that but if your experiences have been different, then you’re lucky.
If you’ve decided to stay in Croatia for longer than 90 days and you’re applying for temporary residency, this is approved on the same day, granted that you have all the right documentation. This VISA lasts 12 months and you’ll need to reapply the following year too if you want to stay longer.
・Getting a Croatian Citizenship & Passport・
If either one of your parents are a Croatian citizen then you’re eligible for a Croatian Passport. If you’re under the age of 18, it is much easier to obtain a Croatian passport so if you can, get it done before you pass 18 years of age. If you’re over 30 and applying for dual citizenship, there are a few obstacles to overcome that I’ll get into in another post through a friend who recently went through this.
If you were born in Croatia and have spent most of your life living abroad, you’re also eligible for a Croatian passport, in fact this is a somewhat easier process, only requires time and patience.
Keep in mind that getting a Croatian passport can take over 12 months, particularly if applying from outside the country through a parent. If you were born here, it should take about 2 weeks, that’s how long it took for me. Since Croatia entered the EU, the passport has been a lot more desirable for people who are eligible to get their hands on it, slowing down the whole process.
・FREE Croatian language lessons for returnees!・
A general inititive provided by the Central State Centre for Croats Abroad, in collaboration with Centre for Croatian as Second and Foreign Language of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb is a FREE open e-course to develop your Croatian language skills. You can find more information here and apply here.
I encourage any Croatian disapora who have returned to Croatia to visit the Central State Centre for Croats Abroad in Zagreb, even if it’s just to say hello!
Central State Office for Croats abroad
Trg hrvatskih velikana 6
T: +385 (1) 6444 666
Monday to Friday
8:30 to 16:30 pm