Find A Job
Croatia has been increasingly in popularity as a destination over the last decade and if you are planning on relocating to this EU member state, you will find a number of opportunities. However, salaries in the region are not high in comparison to other EU nations, and the cost of living is high as well.
The country has been struggling economically and currently has a high rate of unemployment. This may affect you as an expat if you are intending to look for casual work, for instance in the tourism or hospitality sectors. Service industries in Croatia currently account for 70% of its GDP.
You are more likely to have success in your job search if you concentrate on the cities, on the north, and on coastal areas. However, from 2018, the Croatian government started a program of heavy investment (around €336 million) into employment in the country.
If you are a non-EU national, you will need a contract from a Croatian company before you are allowed to apply for a work permit. If you come from another EU member state, you are likely to find this an easier process as you are already entitled to work in the country, but note that Croatian companies have been legally obliged to try to employ Croatian nationals first. The quota system itself, however, will be discontinued from 2020.
The exception to this is if you are an Austrian citizen: you are not allowed to work in Croatia without a work permit (this is due to restrictions that the Austrian government has placed on Croatian nationals).
If your employer applies for a work permit for you (or if you are self employed), and you are not an EU national, you will need all or some of the following documentation:
• a copy of your passport
• proof of your health insurance
• proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
• a contract of employment or other proof of work
• proof of your qualifications
• proof of registration of your employer’s company in Croatia (this should not be dated more than 6 months prior to your application)
• a consular fee if the application is submitted at a Croatian diplomatic mission/consular post or a revenue stamp of 20 HRK if the application is submitted in Croatia itself
Expats resident in the country warn, however, that the bureaucracy is constantly changing, so it is wise to keep an eye on any new regulations and if necessary ask the Croatian immigration authorities.
Employment contracts must be made in writing and issued prior to the commencement of employment, and there are heavy fines for employers who violate these conditions.
As an expat, you will have the same rights as a Croatian national.
You may have some success in more professional sectors – for instance, international education and medicine.
Typical working hours are 40 hours per week over 5-6 days (Monday – Saturday). Most businesses are open from 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. You will be entitled to overtime if you are working beyond these hours.
If you are working a 6 hour day, you are entitled to a 30 minute break. You will be eligible for 4 weeks’ annual leave, plus the 14 Croatian national holidays.
You are entitled to flexible working hours, which can be negotiated with your employer (this might apply if, for example, you are working from home).
You will be given 18 days of annual leave (most Croats take their holidays in July and August).
The Croatian minimum wage is currently €505.90 per month and is recalculated every year. Wages will obviously depend on the sector that you are in – a doctor, for example, could expect to earn up to €3500 per month; working in a supermarket, you could expect about €400.
If you are pregnant you will have to take compulsory maternity leave for 28 days before the birth and up to 70 days after the birth. You will be eligible for additional leave up until the child is 6 months old, and you can transfer this leave to the child’s father.
Your spouse will be able to seek employment without a work permit if they are also an EU national (with the exception noted above). However, if they are not from an EU member state, they will need to apply separately for a work permit. Casual work may be difficult to find, due to the high rate of unemployment in the country.
Speculative applications to Croatian companies are common and you will not be discouraged from doing so. However, you are likely to have more success if you submit your CV/resume and any queries in translation into Croatian, as a large number of Croatian companies are not English-speaking.
There are a number of well established Croatian job portals. The Croatian national press also lists job vacancies. A number of recruitment agencies also cover Croatia including several public employment agencies. You should be able to register as a job seeker.
Applying For A Job
It is advisable to have your CV/resume and any covering letter translated into Croatian, particularly if you are applying to a local Croatian company rather than an international one.
During the application process (including your job interview) an employer is not allowed to ask any questions that are not immediately related to employment: for example, information about your personal life, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political preferences, pregnancy and other information as defined in the Anti-Discrimination Act.
However, you will be expected to inform your prospective employer about any illnesses which could affect your capacity to carry out your job and you might also be required to take a medical test.
Qualifications And Training
Employers will ask for proof of any relevant qualifications and it is advised that you have these both translated into Croatian and apostilled.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
Before you arrive to stay in Croatia, make sure you have all the necessary permissions to remain in the country. That way, you can concentrate on building your new life there.
If anyone under the age of 18 enters Croatia, they must be accompanied by their legal guardian. If that is not possible, an official letter must be held in the prescribed format.
Overseas teenagers can be caught out by these rules as travel agents and airlines do not widely publicise them. This means they can arrive for holidays just to be met by armed border staff who confiscate their passports. Some will be deported the same day, whilst others are detained for a number of nights awaiting clearance to be removed. All of these will be officially recorded on deportation lists and have their passports stamped accordingly.
Most EU Citizens Have The Right To Live In Croatia – But Not All
Croatia became a member of the European Union (EU) on 1st July 2013, and therefore also a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). One of the fundamental rights of EU/EEA membership is the free movement of workers between member countries.
However, five other EU countries were worried about opening up their borders to Croatian people immediately, and therefore imposed transitional arrangements for a few years. It was agreed that until 30 June 2018, Croatian citizens could not arrive to work there without obtaining a work permit. These arrangements are reciprocal, so the citizens of these same five countries cannot arrive in Croatia to work without official permission.
These arrangements affect citizens of:
• The Netherlands
• The United Kingdom
If you are a citizen of an EU country, apart from these five, you can live and work in Croatia whenever and for as long as you wish. However, you must register your address with the local police, by law.
The UK is currently negotiating the transitional phase for its departure from the EU, a process commonly referred to as Brexit. It is unlikely that the requirement for UK citizens to obtain a work permit before moving to Croatia will be removed. This issue has caused some difficulties during the Brexit negotiations. Once the UK has completed its transition period, its own citizens will be outside the EU and subject to the same visa and work permit requirements as all other non-EU citizens.
The rules presently require exempted EU citizens to apply for a work permit once they have received a written job offer.
Some nationalities – including UK, Australian and Canadian citizens – can stay in Croatia for a maximum of 90 days in any period of 180 days, but not to work. Most other non-EU citizens must apply for a visa before arriving even for a holiday or leisure trip.
If you decide you want to live in Croatia, whether or not you want to work there, you must obtain permission to stay. This applies even if you are joining a relative who is an EEA citizen, or if you are a non-EU citizen who has permanent residency of another EU country.
If you are a highly qualified non-EU national and wish to live and work in Croatia, you should apply for the EU Blue Card from the Croatian embassy or consulate in your home country. In order to qualify for the EU Blue Card, you must meet the criteria set out in Article 54 of the Croatian Foreigners Act. A wide range of original documentation must be presented in the format, condition and timescale specified in the regulations.
If you are accepted for the EU Blue Card, you will receive a biometric residence permit which will be valid for up to two years.
Further information about the application process can be found on the website for the Republic of Croatia’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.
Croatia Is Not Yet A Member of the Schengen Area
On 14th June 1985, the Schengen Agreement was signed by 10 EEA member countries. They agreed to remove border controls between neighbouring signatory countries, to enhance the free movement of goods, services, labour and capital which are the four freedoms of the European Union.
Croatia is legally required to become part of the Schengen area, but is still working towards it. By September 2017, more than 60 of the previously identified 98 recommendations which were holding their membership up had been implemented. Some EU officials have expressed hope that Croatia will be ready to join the Schengen area sometime in 2019.
If you are travelling from one Schengen member’s territory to another, you are not subject to border checks. However, anyone entering or leaving the Schengen zone should have their identity documents entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS). Unfortunately a number of EU/EEA countries have SIS issues and problems.
• Ireland has not yet been connected to the SIS. They are preparing to do so, but as they are not members of the Schengen area they will not have the ability to receive or create Schengen-wide alerts for refusing entry or stay.
• Cyprus is legally obliged to join the Schengen Area but has not done so, and so has not yet been connected to the SIS. Issues about the movement of Turkish Cypriot people across to the EU side and the movement of staff on and off the non-EU sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia have prevented Schengen implementation.
• The UK uses SIS but cannot create or receive Schengen-wide alerts for refusing entry or stay because it is not a Schengen member.
• Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria have restrictions on their use of the Schengen-wide SIS alerts until they each receive Schengen membership.
Becoming A Croatian Citizen
If you wish to apply for citizenship of Croatia, you must be eligible under the terms of family origin, your birth on Croatian territory, naturalisation or by international treaties.
The state administration offices nearest to where you live will deal with applications for citizenship on the basis of family origin or location of birth.
If you are applying on the basis of naturalisation, your application will be processed by the police authority and assessed by the Ministry of the Interior. Contact your local police station in the first instance.
Claims for citizenship under international treaties are assessed by the Ministry of the Interior. The application should normally be made at the Croatian embassy or consulate in your location overseas.
You must supply all documentation in the format, condition and timescale requested by the officials and specified on the application forms.
Deportation From Croatia
If you do not hold the required documents to stay in Croatia legally, you will probably be deported. Heavy fines may also be applied.
Your passport will also be stamped to show you have been deported, and data on your removal will be held on long term records. Croatia and other countries may refuse visas in the future.
Legal Permission To Stay
Visas, residency permits and work permits are often seen as a bureaucratic inconvenience, but their purpose is to protect the security and peace of the society you are hoping to join. Once all your legal documents have been processed and you have been issued with your visa and work permit, you can start building your new life in Croatia.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
The standard of rented accommodation in Croatia is generally very good, meaning there will be few home comforts you will miss. However, it will come at a price, so you may need to plan carefully for the longer term.
Rental accommodation is a serious investment for any owner, Croatian or expat. With the average domestic monthly net salary at 700 euros, the best way to capitalise on property assets is to rent them to migrants or holiday makers during the summer.
In addition, Croatia has one of the highest home ownerships rates in the EU. Just over 10 percent of the population live in rented accommodation, compared to the EU average of almost 30 percent.
As a result, your choice of rental property with be fairly limited. There are no rent controls in place, so landlords charge whatever the market will bear. There will be little room for negotiating a bargain unless you just need somewhere for October to April, in which case you will have your pick of empty holiday homes and can suggest a figure a landlord may be happy to take rather than leaving the property empty until May.
Consider Sharing A Home
If you need somewhere to live during the summer months, you may find your best option is to share a home with someone else. This could be another tenant, so that at least two or three of you are able to share the rent and other costs. Alternatively, investigate renting a room in someone’s family home. Sometimes families offer this arrangement on websites such as HomeStay.com and others may be suggested by a friend or colleague.
The difficulty with these arrangements is that you have to be able to live with your co-tenants or host family without being irritated by them, plus you will have to observe both specified and unwritten house rules at all times. That said, if you get on with the people you live with, this can work out really well and mean you have friends in your new home.
Using An Estate Agent
If you know where you would like to live, especially if you are heading for a city, estate agents are a good place to start looking for a rental home. The website Rent In Zagreb, for example, states that the agency has rented properties to individuals, embassies and companies for more than five years. They even run ‘expat Thursday nights’ to help new expats socialise with others who are in the same position.
Licensed real estate agents will be registered with the Croatian chamber of commerce. You can therefore check that the registration number is genuine and you are dealing with a bona fide company. Within the registration will be a requirement that staff are fully trained and have an appropriate level of qualifications.
On the downside, you will be expected to pay the agent a fee when they have secured a rental property for you. However, this will be the easiest way to assess what’s available on the market, plus your agent will give you a helping hand with understanding how things work. Those agencies geared up towards international customers will have staff who speak good English, which saves awkward moments of trying to negotiate a lease with a landlord who only speaks Croatian.
Never Pay In Cash
Regardless of whether you are renting via a real estate agent, through the recommendation of a friend or colleague, or in response to an advert, never pay in cash.
Make sure you see the property before you decide to rent it, and only pay the first month’s rent and the security deposit on the same day after each party signs the contract.
The funds should be transferred bank to bank, so there is a clear audit trail. Every landlord and real estate agent is required to have a business bank account, known as a ziro bank account, completely separate to the one used for personal banking.
You must agree to everything included in the contract, so either sign a copy written in English, or ask an independent person who is fluent in Croatian to talk it through with you. Once the contract is signed, you are legally bound by its terms and conditions regardless of what you did or did not understand.
Each monthly rent payment should also be made via a bank to bank transfer.
On the day you move in, take a lot of photographs. If something is damaged or missing, contact the estate agent or landlord, and use photographs as evidence of your observation. If you don’t think it’s important enough to need fixing or replacement, that’s fine as long as you don’t get charged for it when your security deposit is being returned.
Early Break Clause
The tenancy agreement will specify how long your contract is in place for. Expats have a higher than average risk of something happening that requires them to leave earlier. It could be the new job doesn’t work out, a family member gets sick or dies, or the expat has trouble settling into their new home.
To avoid having to pay the rent for the full period of the tenancy, you can invoke a break clause if you had one included in the original contract. Many landlords and tenants are happy with a three-month clause as it is better to pay rent for the next three months than for the rest of the contract.
Do not think it is possible just to pack up and leave the country. Landlords insist on at least a month’s rent in advance and the security deposit is usually the equivalent of a further month’s rent. Even so, the landlord will still be entitled to take the matter to court if you break your contract. The legal proceedings can then be charged against you, meaning the bills mount up.
If you stop paying the rent the landlord can apply for an eviction order.
Renewing Your Tenancy
If your contract was for a specific amount of time and you want to stay longer, make sure all terms and conditions for the new period are agreed in a signed contract. If you just accept the landlord’s word that it’s fine to carry on, you will be powerless to prevent a sudden hike in rental charges or stop a termination of tenancy coming out of the blue.
Don’t Forget To Budget
With all the hard work focused on getting a place to live, it’s easy to forget the ongoing costs. In a new country everything is different, so it can be hard to work out what is reasonable or expensive.
Your priority must be to keep a roof over your head and pay the essential bills. Once that is done, and you have a small rainy-day fund to make sure next month’s rent is covered, you can then spend your hard-earned cash by going out and about, and enjoying everything your new home has to offer.
There are many reasons to be attracted to the Croatian property market. However, your nationality and residency status will determine your legal right to buy, and there are many pitfalls everyone should avoid.
Reasons To Buy Property In Croatia
Croatia is a country which has many interesting geographic areas that offer tourists and residents the opportunity to enjoy mountains, woodlands and beaches. It has plenty of small and large cities, each with their own distinct character. The climate is pleasant.
Croatia joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 2009 and the European Union (EU) on 1st July 2013. It is legally obliged to join the borderless Schengen Area and the Eurozone, although a number of financial, security and legal barriers mean this has yet to be achieved in 2018. The expectation is that Croatia will develop commercial and cultural relationships with other EU partners, which will benefit the country and its residents in numerous ways. The long-term value of housing stock is therefore seen as secure, albeit subject to fluctuations, especially as Croatia’s tourism market has grown strongly.
Factors To Consider When Buying Property In Croatia
Croatia first formally applied to be admitted into the European Union in February 2003. Progress towards this was delayed. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, operating from the Hague, wanted to try a number of military leaders from the Croatian War of Independence, which lasted from 1991-1995, for war crimes. Since these leaders were seen as national heroes, this process took years to achieve.
By 2008, the EU warned Croatia that they needed to take tougher action against corruption and organised crime if they wanted to conclude EU negotiations by 2011. A number of high-profile trials have subsequently occurred, including those for the murder of investigative journalist Ivo Pukanic as well as a trial against former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on corruption charges.
This history is important to bear in mind, because the independent country is still relatively young. Expats must therefore be culturally sensitive when talking to local people.
Waterfront Properties Are Rare And Expensive
Croatia has thousands of miles of coastline, and numerous islands. The Istrian peninsula in the north-west of the country is particularly popular with overseas buyers who are looking for a holiday home.
In the 1980s, development on the waterfront was legally constrained. This was to protect the nation’s coastline and prevent over-development. As a result, it is difficult and expensive to find homes that have waterfront views or are located in beachfront resorts, especially if you want to obtain a freehold property.
Find a Reputable, English-Speaking, Independent Solicitor
International buyers who are looking for property to purchase must be very careful about confirming their right to buy, as well as ensuring that the property is owned by the person from whom they are buying it. They will need assurance that a local developer has building permission and is likely to complete the promised homes. Even purchasing an existing property from a large family can cause legal headaches.
Furthermore, there are a number of ongoing costs and obligations you incur by buying property. Some of these may be significant, and hidden. If you are buying a holiday home, you may be subject to a legal requirement to rent out your property when you are not resident there. Local property companies can offer services to help you do this, although this may cost as much as 50 percent of the rental income. If the property is part of a resort or development, you may have a number of management and maintenance charges to pay each year.
We cannot stress enough that you need to find a reputable, English-speaking independent lawyer who can undertake important checks before you hand over your money. If this lawyer is based in Croatia, they will have an awareness of the systems and any potentials for abuse, as well as useful local knowledge.
As a minimum, the lawyer will check the ownership title, land registry, Kataster register, building permit and usage permits, as well as preparing the contracts, keeping your funds in a client account and transferring them to the correct parties.
The ministry of justice sets the maximum fee any solicitor in Croatia can charge for their work on a property purchase transaction. It is currently one percent of the purchase price plus standard VAT of 25 percent. This is money well spent to protect your investment.
Real Estate Agents In Croatia
If you use the services of a licensed estate agent, especially one who has been recommended to you, many of the pitfalls of dealing with unknown individuals may be avoided. You are less likely to be the victim of a property scam, and can ask for information in English.
Estate agents in Croatia receive commission from both the property buyer and seller. Somewhere between three and six per cent is normal, plus the standard rate of VAT at 25 percent. You should be advised of the rate – along with all other terms and conditions – in writing before the agent does any work for you or property viewings begin.
Estate agents usually have websites displaying properties currently available, with photographs. You will see properties advertised for sale in euros, rather than the Croatian kuna.
However, do ensure that you visit the property before making an offer. You can’t tell from the pictures whether the property is set in an undesirable area, has a hidden damp problem, or has noisy neighbours.
Buying A Croatian Property As An EU Citizen
In expectation of joining the EU, Croatia changed some of its property purchase rules. EU citizens can now purchase property in Croatia with the same rights as local people. They no longer require additional approval, nor do they need to set up a local company to purchase the property.
As long as you remain the owner of the property for at least 24 months, you will not be liable to capital gains tax when you come to sell.
Buying A Croatian Property As A Non-EU Citizen
This is a complex area which you must resolve before you embark on a property purchase.
If you are a migrant who is not an EU citizen, you can only buy property in Croatia if there is a reciprocal property purchase agreement in place with your country of citizenship. And even then, you need to obtain permission from the ministry for justice.
Agricultural land, woodland and properties that have a cultural monument are all excluded from sale to international buyers. Permissions will otherwise depend on the reciprocal agreements in place with your nation of citizenship.
Permission is likely to take about six months to obtain. In practice, you will buy your chosen property, take possession of it and await permission. When that is granted, the court approves your property purchase and the new title deeds are issued.
If a reciprocal arrangement is not in place between Croatia and your home country, you cannot legally purchase property there as an individual. Instead, you must set up a local company which will become the property’s legal owner. This is a common procedure, so your solicitor should be able to arrange this without any problems. The one issue for you as the company owner is that you will have to place a deposit in a bank account, pay the lawyer and notary for setting up the company, and be liable for a number of annual taxes.
If you are a US citizen, your right to purchase Croatian property as an individual will depend on which state you come from.
The Property Purchase Process In Croatia
Once you have found your ideal property and wish to buy it, you can make an offer. If it is accepted, both parties will sign a contract and you will immediately pay a 10 percent security deposit.
If you pull out of the process later, the deposit is forfeit. If the seller pulls out, they must back the deposit and pay you an equivalent amount out of their own funds as a fine.
You must also pay a five percent purchase property transfer tax, known as RETT, at the time of registration. If the property is a new build, you will pay standard VAT of 25 percent instead, but this will normally have been included within the agreed purchase price.
Mortgages for expats in Croatia are not common. They can be obtained through Croatian banks if you meet their eligibility criteria, although you will probably be asked for a high level of deposit, such as 40 percent of the property purchase price.
Alternatively, you could obtain a mortgage from your home country, especially if you are buying your property in Croatia as a holiday home. Look for a mortgage broker who has experience of lending for property purchases in Croatia. Be careful to check they are reputable and regulated by the relevant financial regulators.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Croatia health insurance
If you are planning on living and working in Croatia, you will require health insurance of some form. The country currently has a two-tier system, consisting of both private and public cover. The latter is compulsory but you can also take out private health insurance for extra peace of mind or as a top-up for the national system. There is also a form of supplementary insurance available.
Croatia is well supplied with medical institutions, both in the state and private sectors. Healthcare is governed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, and institutions are run both regionally and by the central government.
Having national health insurance is mandatory for everyone in Croatia. It is state run and governed by the HZZO (the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance). Once you have registered you will be issued with a card, which you must bring with you to all your medical appointments.
Note that if you are an EU citizen and have an EHIC card, you will be able to use this in Croatia as the country is a member of the EU. However, the EHIC is intended primarily for emergencies.
Once you are registered, you will be entitled to sign up with a GP, who can issue you with a referral (uputnica) to a specialist if necessary. You will not be able to see a specialist directly and referrals are used at all levels of the medical system, including for some quite minor procedures such as blood tests. If you do not use your referral, you must return it to your doctor.
HZZO healthcare is mandatory for all residents of Croatia, so if you are an EU citizen, or are applying for residency but are from outside the EU, and are working in Croatia, you will have to pay contributions into the system. You will also need to pay contributions into the HZZO if you are self employed.
If you are from another EU state, then you will need documentation from your own health insurance provider to inform the Croatian authorities that you will need to be signed up with the HZZO.
If you are from outside the EU, in order to be registered, you will need to have initiated the process for residency in Croatia. This is done via the police (MUP) and they will need to provide you with documentation for the HZZO, who will in turn provide you with a document that you can then take back to the police and add to your visa application. It will take 1-3 months to get your registration processed by the HZZO, but they can give you a letter in the meantime in order to access any health provision that you may need.
Open A Bank Account
When it comes to important jobs to do as you settle into your new life in Croatia, sorting out your money and banking issues will be top of the list.
Currency Use In Croatia
The kuna is the national currency of Croatia, and has been since 1994. It can be divided into 100 lipa.
Coins are issued in units of one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 lipa, as well as one, two, four, and 25 kuna. Meanwhile banknotes of five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 kuna are available, although the five and 1,000 kuna notes are not often used
The country is now legally obliged to join the Eurozone and implement the euro as its national currency. However, there are a number of legal and financial barriers which must be overcome before this can be achieved.
The political situation and local currency in Croatia is stable, and the country has had several years of low inflation. The Government’s commitment to the protection of human and minority rights is strong. Unfortunately, the government’s many attempts to curb tax evasion have had limited success. Organised crime is still a reality, as is the strictly illegal practise of bribery. Whilst these are matters of concern, they are unlikely to affect the lives of law abiding expats.
Debit And Credit Cards In Croatia
Debit and credit cards are accepted at most large businesses, including branded hotels and upscale restaurants. Mastercard and Visa cards are much more likely to be accepted than American Express cards, as the latter have higher transaction fees levied against the retailer.
However, small businesses often work on a cash-only basis. This applies to family hotels, restaurants and tavernas. The cashless society will not be happening in Croatia anytime soon, although the EU rules capping interchange fees may help attitudes and behaviour work towards this more quickly.
In common with most countries around the globe, Croatia uses chip-and-pin technology to reduce card fraud. If you hold a chip-and-signature card from the US, and you are using it at a location where the staff have experience of these cards, it will be accepted. However, be prepared for the staff to be unsure what to do or even to refuse the card.
Make sure you pay in the local currency. If you allow a retailer, hotel or restaurant to convert to a different currency, the conversion rates means you will overpay the original bill.
ATMs In Croatia
If you are using money from an overseas bank account, an ATM will offer you local currency, usually at a better rate than you can obtain at an exchange bureau, hotel or airport kiosk. However, be aware of the foreign exchange fees you will incur for the credit or debit card you are using, including the rate of currency exchange.
You will need to enter your four-digit pin number to access your cash at the ATM. Withdraw the amounts in local currency and refuse on-screen options to convert the charge into a different currency. Otherwise, an unattractive conversion rate will be applied and you will pay over the odds for the cash you have withdrawn.
Even if you are not in a position to open a Croatian bank account, perhaps because you will only be living there for a few months, you can obtain the best overseas cash-access card available in your home country before you arrive in Croatia. Small differences in exchange fees and currency conversion rates mount up over time. However, do remember to tell your card retailer where you will be staying, in case they stop your card while you are in Croatia.
Since cash is still widely used across Croatia, especially by family and small businesses, ATM coverage is fairly good. Obviously, remote rural areas will necessitate a trip to the nearest market town, but in cities, the ATMS will be located near most retail centres as well as at supermarkets, train stations, post offices and banks. Most machines will give you the option to see the instructions on screen in English.
Maximum withdrawal amounts apply to most machines, so don’t expect to withdraw your month’s salary in one go.
Bank Opening Hours
Most mainstream businesses run Monday to Friday, 7am to 3pm or 8am to 4pm, and give workers the weekend off. These are quite early hours compared to the European average. Obviously, there are a lot of business, such as restaurants and other leisure-based industries, where staff are busiest when the general population are not at work. Retail stores are often open 8am-7pm on weekdays plus 8am-2pm on Saturdays. They can only open on Sundays during peak tourist season; even restaurants may close on Sundays at quieter times of the year.
Bank branches and post offices vary in their opening hours depending on where they are located. However, in cities the likely opening hours are 8am-7pm Monday to Friday, plus 8am-12 noon on Saturdays. They are all closed Saturday afternoon and all-day Sunday.
Banks For Expats
To open a bank account in Croatia, you will be required to visit in person and bring along your passport. Depending on the location, you may struggle to find someone at the bank who speaks fluent English. Italian and German have been more important languages in Croatia for a while, but the growing number of English speaking tourists means that over time, there should be an increase of staff with basic English skills.
You can open an account in Croatia in kuna or euros, or sometimes both. Each bank will have its own set of charges, and often a monthly fee. Consider how you use your account to decide which is best for your personal circumstances, as well as your work and home proximity to a branch.
Accounts are normally opened quickly, while you are still in branch. It can take a further week before you have your confirmation documents and ATM PIN code, and you may have to pick up the debit card from the bank branch when it is ready. Luckily, the long banking hours make this fairly easy to do.
You have plenty of options when deciding which retail bank to choose. These banking websites offer pages written in English and will provide a starting point for your search:
• Hrvatska postanska banka
• Zagrebacka Banka
• Primorska Banka
• Jadradska Banka
• Privredna Banka
• Erste & Steiermärkische Bank
• Societe Generale Splitska Banka
• OTP Banka
In addition, take note of which bank branches are located near your home or business, and then look them up online. You’ll soon get a clear picture of what your options are.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
Save On Money Transfers
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Learn The Language
If you are intending to live and work in the beautiful country of Croatia, the issue of learning the local language will be one of the first things on your mind. We will take a look at the language and dialects in the country, how widespread the use of English may be, the languages most commonly used in the workplace and other linguistic aspects of the country.
Croatia is surrounded by different countries and like most European nations, its population speaks a number of languages. The official language is a South Slavic language called hrvatski (standardized Serbo-Croatian), and this is also an official language of the EU. It is spoken in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and is recognised as a minority language in Serbia and other neighbouring nations such as Italy and Austria. Around 95% of the population of Croatia are hrvatski speaking.
Hrvatski is based on a Croatian dialect called Shtokavian, which became standardized in the 18 – 19th centuries; there are two other main dialects, Kajkavian and Chakavian. In diplomatic circles, terms such as “Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian” are often used: the issue of language and identity is a thorny one in this region and is often subject to political agendas, so it is probably wise not to use ‘Serbo-Croatian’ locally, even though the two languages are linguistically very close.
However, hrvatski is not the only language spoken in Croatia. Other tongues are:
• Czech (spoken by the Czech minority resident in the country)
• Italian (recognised as a minority lanaguge in Croatia and spoken mainly in the province of Istria)
Note that there are also different alphabets in use: Croatian uses the Latin alphabet, like English, but Serbian still uses the Cyrillic alphabet, like Russia.
It is estimated that around 80% of the Croatian population are at least bi-lingual, and of those people, over 80% speak English. The second most popular language is German. This will depend on the region that you are in: most English speakers are concentrated in the capital, Zagreb, and on the Adriatic coast, due to the influx of English-speaking tourists. Younger people tend to have a higher level of English, whereas the over-65s tend to speak more German, but bear in mind that a relatively high number of Croatian nationals have retired back to their native country after living in places such as the USA and will thus be fluent in English.
You will encounter English widely in the working environment, particularly if you are working in the tourism/hospitality industries: it is a requirement to speak English if you are a Croat employed in the hospitality sector.
You should have relatively little difficulty communicating with Croatians, especially if you are working in Zagreb. However, it is always advisable to learn some basic phrases:
• meet and greet
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)
This is particularly important if you are working in rural areas away from the coast where the prevalence of English or other European languages might not be so widespread as in cities and towns. Thus your need for fluency will be proportionate to your locality and your industry: you will need more Croatian if you are not working in Zagreb or on the Adriatic, and if you are not working in a hospitality-related sector. These days, one can use digital translation, such as Google translate, on a phone but note that this technology is still not perfect and it is advisable to rely instead on more old-fashioned methods such as a phrase book!
However, like most countries, showing some willingness to learn the basic language always goes down well with the Croatian population, even if your linguistic capability is only limited to a few phrases. Croatian is not an easy language to learn if you are a native English speaker: the grammar is particularly tough, with seven noun declensions, and English speakers will find the pronunciation difficult. Perseverence will be required and you may like to take a few lessons if you are going to be in the country for any length of time particularly if you are going to be working in a rural area.
A number of native English speakers travel out to Croatia with the specific aim of teaching English. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
If you are intending on teaching English, it is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality.
Most private schools in Croatia also require at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. You will find a range of opportunities, from teaching children to teaching adult professionals.
There is also a demand for translation and interpretation between English and Croatian, but your Croatian will need to be of a high standard if you are to seek work in this sector.
You will need a work visa to teach, translate and interpret unless you are a EU national. You can expect a comparatively decent salary in private schools, of around the equivalent of £900 – 1100 per month. Hiring takes place year round although some job agencies suggest that September and January are peak periods. Your best line of approach is to either sign up with a TEFL job registry, approach a private school with your CV, search online TEFL job forums which cover the region, or rely on your existing contacts.
Choose A School
Croatia is a small independent Adriatic nation, bordering several other Eastern European states, and has a population of about 4,000,000, a little over half of whom live in urban conditions, and more than 80% of whom are Roman Catholic. There is an expat community here, many of whom are based in and around the capital, Zagreb.
State education in Croatia is well developed and well regulated. It is controlled by the Ministry of Education. Tuition is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 15, and college and university education is also provided free through grants. School meals and buses are organized locally, and are state subsidized. All children attending state schools must have a vaccination certificate.
If your child needs Croatian language training to be able to attend state school, this can be provided through the local authority (typically a minimum of 70 hours is offered), and extra support can be continued at school as necessary.
Children can be enrolled at a very early age in nurseries or in kindergartens, but the immediate pre-school year (age 5) is now compulsory and also state-funded.
Primary schooling starts at age 6 with a State Graduation Exam taken at age 11.
Secondary education is then exam-dependent, with opportunities to continue academic education, or to enrol in vocational colleges, where the duration of tuition will vary depending on the profession chosen. For those attending vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.
For those continuing their studies in the state system, a further State Graduation Exam is taken at age 18, with many expected to go on to university, depending on exam grades.
Croatian universities are run on the familiar three-level model – BA/BSc, MA, PhD. Colleges and specialized colleges are available for those who may not achieve the grades necessary to go to university.
State education will be conducted in Croatian throughout, but the Roman alphabet is used, removing at least one stumbling block for expat children who may wish to enter the system.
Homeschooling is a consideration for many expats. However, it is not a realistic option in Croatia. It is still held as illegal by the state, and there are few if any resources to call upon if you are exploring this route.
There are a number of private schools in Croatia, mostly denominational. These offer tuition at various levels. Their curricula will be closely aligned to the state system, with additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school.
There are also a few fee-paying international schools catering more specifically for expat children of all ages, some with day care for infants, and separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3-6) is also available privately in some of the larger cities.
International schools situated in Zagreb include:
• American International School of Zagreb Full IB program)
• British International School of Zagreb (English curriculum)
• The Learning Tree International Kindergarten
Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and it is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up – for example many schools have additional contributary Capital Funds for improvements/repairs.
High school or international school graduates will have the choice to continue their studies in Croatia, but many will want to pursue their higher education abroad. Successful graduation from Croatian schools will give your child an internationally recognised high standard qualification, which is accepted at major universities worldwide without the need for additional assessment tests.