By Andrej Žmikić Attorney - Croatia Divjak Topić Bahtijarević & Krka
From 1 January 2021 UK nationals who wish to work, live or travel to Croatia are subject to new rules, explained here.
1.1 Has any guidance been issued on how UK nationals can obtain settled residence status and permission to work from 1 January 2021 and what proof of residence is needed for current residents to maintain their status?
In relation to UK nationals currently residing in the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian government has prepared contingency rules in the new Act on EEA nationals and their family members (OG, No. 66/2019, the ‘Act’). These contingency rules will become effective on the exact Brexit date in the event of a no-deal scenario.
According to these contingency rules, and as the legislation currently stands, UK nationals and their family members who had temporary or permanent residence in Croatia on the day before the exact Brexit date maintain their entitlement to residence in Croatia, according to their already issued and valid residence permits. Family members of these UK nationals who did not have official temporary or permanent residence entitlement in Croatia on the day before the exact Brexit date must regularise their residence in Croatia, depending on their nationality (for UK nationals, the same rules as for any other third-country nationals shall apply). The contingency rules do not give an explicit deadline for this and individuals concerned are advised to contact the authorities for clarification on timing.
However, temporary residence permits (which are, according to Croatian law, issued to EEA nationals and their family members) issued to UK nationals and their family members who are UK or other third-country nationals residing in Croatia will be valid for one year from the exact Brexit date, or until expiry of the current temporary residence permit, depending on which date is earlier. After that, these individuals will have to establish their residence status in Croatia based on the same rules as any other third-country national.
UK nationals arriving in Croatia after Brexit date are in the position of third-country nationals and the same rules as for any other third-country nationals apply. This basically means they need to regularise their status in Croatia based on a residence and work permits. These can be issued based on an annual quota or outside of the annual quota (depending on the nature and type of work they will perform in Croatia), unless they can rely on some of exemptions expressly prescribed by the law (please see under 3.1 below).
However, the Croatian government has recently proposed new rules in relation to UK nationals currently residing in Croatia in the latest amendment to the Act on EEA nationals and their family members (the ‘Amendment’). The Amendment is still in the legislative process but if adopted, it will become effective on 1 January 2021. By the provisions of the Amendment, the contingency rules described above will no longer apply. The Croatian legislature appears to operate under the assumption that there will be a Brexit deal in place on 1 January 2021. Still, it is possible that the Amendment will not become law if a no-deal scenario becomes likely as the end of the year approaches.
According to the proposed Amendment rules, UK nationals and their family members who had valid temporary or permanent residence in Croatia on 31 December 2020 will maintain their entitlement to residence in Croatia. They will have to apply for a new temporary or permanent residence permit, which will be issued under the same conditions applied to EEA nationals. The applications must be submitted between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021. The same rules apply to UK nationals who won’t yet have a valid temporary or permanent residence permit on 31 December 2020, but who will have been lawfully residing in Croatia on that date and will continue to do so.
UK nationals who are not physically present in Croatia on 31 December 2020 can submit their application within six months from the date of next entry into Croatia provided that they meet the criteria for continuity of residence under Article 11 WA.
Details on ways to prove residence should be determined in an Ordinance issued by the Minister of Internal Affairs.
The Amendment also establishes rules applicable to UK nationals who are frontline workers. For more detail, see 4 below.
2. BUSINESS TRAVEL
2.1 Do UK employees need a business visa from 1 January 2021?
Regulation (EU) 2019/592 of 10 April 2019 exempts UK citizens from the requirement for a Schengen visa. It will apply from the day the UK is no longer subject to EU law. When it takes effect, UK citizens will be able to enter and stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.
Please note that the territory of Croatia is still not part of Schengen area: however, according to the Croatian Foreigners Act (Official Gazette, No. 130/11, 74/13, 69/17, 46/18 and 53/20) rules on entry and stay of third-country nationals in Schengen area prescribed by the relevant Schengen legislation apply to entry and stay of third-country nationals on the territory of Croatia.
The Schengen exemption will apply from 1 January 2021.
2.2 What documents are needed on arrival for business travel from 1 January 2021?
For a stay of no longer than 90 days in any 180-day period UK nationals will need to have a valid passport with an expiration date no less than three months after the planned departure date from Croatia, and which has been issued no more than ten year prior to arrival.
On the assumption that UK citizens will be considered third-country nationals, additional documentation may be required to demonstrate they meet the following conditions:
- they have a justification for the purpose of their stay in Croatia;
- they have sufficient funds for living expenses during their stay in Croatia and for return to their country of origin or travel to another country;
- their return to their country of origin or travel to another country is determined to be safe;
- they are not prohibited from entering and staying in Croatia,
- they do not pose a threat to public order, national safety or public health in Croatia.
Unless s/he stays in a hotel or a guest house, a UK business traveller will need to notify the competent Croatian Ministry of Interior office of their presence within two days of entry into Croatia and arrival at the relevant address of stay or residence in Croatia.
2.3 Do UK nationals need additional permission to work for business travel from 1 January 2021 in the event of no deal?
No, UK nationals will be able to travel to Croatia for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training.
3. EMPLOYMENT AND RESIDENCE
3.1 Will UK nationals need permission to work and stay in Croatia from 1 January 2021?
Yes, unless they can rely on an exemption such as:
- holders of a permanent residence permit in Croatia;
- granted asylum and/or international protection in Croatia (subject to conditions);
- holders of a temporary residence permit for humanitarian reasons in Croatia;
- holders of a temporary residence permit for scientific research in Croatia (subject to conditions);
- holders of a temporary residence permit for education in Croatia, if he or she has a regular college student status and is working up to maximum of 20 hours per week;
- family members of a Croatian national, third-country national holding a permanent residence permit in Croatia, someone who has been granted asylum and/or international protection in Croatia (subject to conditions);
- family members of a third-country national holding a temporary residence permit for scientific research in Croatia (subject to conditions);
- family members of an EU national or a non-EU national who has authorisation to work in another EU country or a permanent residence permit in another EU country (subject to conditions);
- holders of an EU Blue Card (issued to a highly qualified third-country national, subject to conditions);
- holders of a work registration certificate, enabling stay and work in Croatia for up to 90, 60 or 30 days in one calendar year, depending on the exact profession and/or purpose of work in Croatia.
3.2 If permission to work is needed after 1 January 2021, do any quotas apply to the employment of third-country nationals?
In Croatia, this permission is called a residence and work permit. It can be issued based on an annual quota or outside of the annual quota. On an annual basis, the Croatian government decides on the number of residence and work permits for activities in which employment of third country nationals will be allowed. In contrast to this annual quota system, residence and work permits can also be issued outside of the annual quota, but only in cases explicitly prescribed by the law.
A residence and work permit is issued for a maximum period of one year, with a possibility of extension.
3.3 If permission to work is needed from 1 January 2021, what categories of permission are commonly granted?
The current law in Croatia sets out the following categories:
- Leading or key personnel in companies. The main conditions are:
- Minimum monthly remuneration equal to the average monthly salary paid in Croatia in last calendar year according to officially published data from the Bureau of Statistics;
- The company employs at least three employees who are Croatian nationals and are not leading or key personnel,
- The share capital of the company exceeds HRK 100,000.
- Professional athletes (subject to conditions).
- Trainees (subject to conditions).
- Highly skilled employees (subject to conditions).
3.4 If permission to work or stay is needed from 1 January 2021, how long does the procedure take?
The employee can apply at the Croatian diplomatic or consular office in his or her state of origin abroad, or at the competent Croatian Ministry of Interior office in Croatia. A Croatian employer can also apply for a residence and work permit on behalf of an employee.
If the application is submitted in Croatia, the competent Croatian Ministry of Interior office is required to issue a residence and work permit within a period of 30 days following submission of a complete application.
3.5 If permission to work and stay is needed from 1 January 2021, what Government fees are payable?
Currently, total Government fees are around HRK 900 (approximately EUR 121).
4. FRONTIER WORKERS
4.1 What formalities apply to UK frontier workers working in Croatia but living in another country from 1 January 2021?
According to the pending Amendment rules, UK nationals who are considered frontline workers on 31 December 2020, must apply for a so-called Frontline Pass which confirms their status as a frontline worker. The applications must be submitted from 1 January 2021 to the competent police station relative to the place of work. The application will consist of:
- a valid passport or an ID card; and
- proof that they have performed a business activity as a frontline worker prior to 31 December 2020 and will continue this activity after that date.
Technical details for issuing the Frontline Pass will be provided in the Ordinance to be issued by the Minister of Interior Affairs.
5. PERMANENT RESIDENCE
5.1 From what date are third-country nationals entitled to apply for permanent residence?
Five uninterrupted years of legal stay in Croatia (subject to conditions).
6. SECURING RESIDENCE AND WORK STATUS
6.1 What steps could UK nationals take currently to secure their residence and work status?
- Applying for an EU residence card, or EU residence card for non-EU family members as soon as possible.
- Applying for a permanent residence permit in Croatia or another EU country, if conditions are met.
- Applying for Croatian, EEA or Swiss nationality, if conditions are met, but individuals should consider the consequences before doing so.
- Preparing documents for family reunification with a Croatian or EU national, if relevant.
Preparing documents for a residence and work permit (inside or outside of the annual quota), or documents for securing another type of residence in Croatia not related to work (e.g. for humanitarian reasons, scientific research or education), or for securing their status under some other exemption expressly established by law (please see under 3.1 above).