Update: As of January 2021 a spouse of a Croatian citizen can apply for permanent residency without the need for the B1 test.
I am now trying again and will share my experience once it is finished.
I had a 5 years residency card and two months before it expires, I went to renew my residency. I was hoping to apply for “permanent residency” as I have been living in Croatia for 5 years and married to a Croatian but unfortunately as I am a third country national which means someone who holds a nationality of a country outside the European Economic Area, I had to have a certificate of level B1 of the Croatian language.
The Croatian language levels are A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1 so actually B1 is not a beginner level.
My learning Croatian experience
When I first Came to Croatia, I joined Croaticum which is the center of teaching Croatian as a second language. It is part of faculty of philosophy and is a legitimate way of learning Croatian as their language tests are acknowledged by the residency officials.
I finished level A1 with a good grade but it was so tense course and the teacher was refusing to explain in English which made it a continues daily struggle to catch up with all the grammar and hundreds of new words I am getting every day which are explained to me in pure Croatian. Coming from an Arabic background and English as a second language that was unbearable. The course was super expensive, about 600 Euros so I couldn’t quit.
The reason for this crazy way of teaching is the new fashion of believing that the best way to learn a language is to totally immerse yourself in it, including learning the language using that language itself. Everyone goes on repeating this without any consideration to the fact that this may work for young children as their brain waves are different from adults. You can immerse a child in a totally new language environment and they will learn it and speak it as a native language.
In my mid-forties the experience of learning Croatian in Croatian was traumatizing. I took a break for a while after finishing the course, I volunteered in an NGO to learn by practicing the language but most people were talking to me in English, others who didn’t speak English kept their sentences brief, they were from the old generation and were not that interested in a conversation with a foreigner.
My daily activities were in English as most of what I do in Croatia through my blog “UniqueZagreb” is related to expats and Croatians who attended the expats events were looking forward to speaking English.
Me and my husband communicate in English and we have misunderstandings while we use English which increases during our attempts to stick to speaking Croatian so we always switch back to English.
I finally decided to take a Croatian language slow pace course at a private center but it was too slow in addition to that I had a hiking accident that affected my ability to move so I quit the course and I am spending the time since then trying to recover and studying Croatian online at Croaticum.
The end result is that after 5 years of living in Croatia I couldn’t master the language or even guarantee passing the B1 level, plus having a health issue that affects my mobility.
No more 5 years residency
Renewing my temporary residency was my only option and the surprise was that they don’t give 5 years residency any more. The new rule is to renew your residency every year. What a shock! just when you hope that things get better you find they are actually getting worse.
What do you need for applying for a temporary residency?
So, what papers I needed to apply for renewing my residency
– Passport copy
– Copy of my previous residency card ID
– Marriage certificate
– Financial proof which is my husband’s support and proof of income as I don’t work
– Proof of payment for the last month of my health insurance
– Copy of my health insurance card
– A photo (which you can take at any of the photo studios around MUP)
– A form you fill, you can download and print from here
MUP stands for (Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova) or Ministry of Internal Affairs, it is Zagreb Police Department which is located at Petrinjska ul. 30, 10000, Zagreb and is the place where you apply for your residency.
You can find more forms for other purposes to download here
Also if you need information about issues related to foreigners / expats in Croatian check this page and using google translate can help you to get the information you need
My experience with the application for renewing the residency
Considering my health issues and not being able to sit or stand for long time, it was not easy to go take a number and wait for hours but luckily we waited for only one hour and I was able to submit my documents, faced with an innocent question from the employee “Why you are not applying for permanent residency?” and accepting with a smile my answer “I would like to but I don’t have B1 test certificate, can I apply without the certificate?” and the answer is Silence!
I even tried to explain my health situation and how I can’t commit to doing the test as I am in bed for almost one year and a half but it seems to me that employees apply a certain set of rules and if something is not mentioned in those rules they don’t know how to deal with it.
Anyway after 2 months we received a phone call from the police asking to speak with my husband, I guess to check if we are really married and he again asked my husband innocently ” Why she is not applying for permanent residency?”
It seems that everyone finds it logical for someone married to a Croatian and living in Croatia for 5 years to apply for permanent residency except people who put the law.
We were informed that if we didn’t get contacted by the MUP to go and pick up the residency within 6 weeks then we should go to room number $$.
I wasn’t feeling well, no one contacted us, so my mother in law went and discovered that they didn’t check the documents at all and upon her request they checked them and said that it is essential for me to come in few days before my residency expires so I don’t lose the continuity of my residency and it is essential that I be present.
I had to push myself, go to the assigned room hoping to get the new residency card, when I discovered that I have to go down, take a number and wait for hours, sign some papers and again wait for 3 weeks to get the card. I explained my health situation and they allowed us to go to the window without waiting which was a huge relief.
I was thinking why they don’t implement the system of taking a phone appointment like they do for getting visa application appointments at embassies. So people don’t have to wait for hours in a crowded room with no air.
Also is there a possibility to apply for the residency online if someone has health issues like I do or can’t go in person for any reason?
Corona epidemic period
Finally my mother in law picked up the card and once I received it I discovered that one name is missing. It was the beginning of the Corona isolation period so we didn’t know what to do, we wrote a letter with the issue and sent it to MUP address but we didn’t receive any reply.
During the isolation I learnt from some of the expats on the expats group that they contacted MUP through an email and they received a reply. Some replies were useful and they were able to get an appointment to go to MUP and do what need to be done but other replies were not useful at all. I was excited as I thought that the Corona epidemic made my wish come true and finally I can send an email, get an appointment and solve my issue without the long waiting, the crowd and suffocating waiting hall. I immediately sent an email with my residency missing name issue but I didn’t receive a reply yet. that was two weeks ago.
I am hopeful I will get a reply one day.
As for now I study Croatian every day.