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How to Retire in Croatia: Costs, Visas and More


Dubrovnik, CroatiaWhen you think of Croatia, do you think of the beautiful Dalmatian seacoast where they shot “Game of Thrones”? Or perhaps Croatia conjures up visions of Plitvice Lakes National Park’s waterfalls and blue water. Or, if you’re a city person, maybe you dream of the markets in Zagreb. Croatia seems to have a little bit of something for everyone, especially retirees. So, if you want to retire in Croatia, here’s everything you need to know. Before taking the leap, however, you may want to work with a financial advisor to help you get your finances prepared for retirement and your new country of residence.

Getting a Croatian Visa

One of the first steps to retiring in Croatia is to get a visa. To stay for more than 90 days, you will need to have a visa and apply for a temporary residency permit. If you plan to spend your retirement working in Croatia, you will also need to apply for a work permit or the business permit. Crotia does now allow a digital nomad visa where you can stay in the country on a visa for up to a year if you work for a business outside the country, including your own business.

You will need to apply for your visa in the U.S. Visas are issued by the following: Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Washington, D.C., or the  Consulate General in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. You can call these offices or visit their websites to begin your visa application process.

Within your first few weeks in Croatia, you will need to go to a police station to apply for your residency permit. They will ask you for a copy of your U.S. passport, two passport photos, a birth certificate, evidence of health insurance, evidence of your housing in Croatia, proof of adequate funds and a background check report.

They will also ask you why you plan to live in Croatia. This can be due to anything from mooring your boat in a Croatian port to wanting to live there or invest in real estate. While the residency permit application process typically takes less than a couple of hours at a local police department, you can expect the approval process to take a couple of weeks.

Healthcare in Croatia

When you apply for your Croatian residence permit, you will be required to register for and pay into the state health system. The system is called the Croatian Health Insurance Fund. This will allow you to visit public doctors at no or a very low cost. Some elective procedures and specialists will charge a small fee, but any routine medical care will be free of charge at the time of delivery.

Before you can use the public healthcare system, you will be required to have made a year’s worth of payments. If you are in Croatia for less than a year before needing to use the system, you will simply make back payments. These payments come to about $800 per year, so healthcare in Croatia costs significantly less than in the United States. Foreigners can also use the private healthcare system. This system costs more, but your private health insurance may cover many of the costs.

Every major metropolitan area has large hospitals available for both locals and foreigners. There are many English-speaking doctors in Croatia, and the standard of medical care is high, ranking at the 43rd best system in the world. This is only slightly behind the United States, which ranks 37th, according to the World Health Organization.

Housing Cost in Croatia

Window in a house in Croatia

As you plan to move, one of the biggest factors you will consider is housing. Many retirees choose to live in Split, a city on the seaside. If you don’t enjoy beaches, plenty of people also choose to live in Zagreb, the capital city.

The average apartment rental in Croatia is $715 per month compared to over $2,000 per month in the United States. In Zagreb, a one-bedroom apartment costs about $600 per month. When we compare these cities with New York City, where one-bedroom apartments cost about $3,775 per month in the city center, Croatia is very affordable.

If you plan to purchase in Croatia, the national average cost of an apartment in the city center is about $364 per square foot. In New York City, the average cost per square foot of an apartment in the city center is nearly $1,375, so your dollar will go further if you plan to purchase a home in Croatia.

Taxes in Croatia

As a visa holder in Croatia, you will only have to pay taxes on money earned in Croatia. Therefore, if you are simply retired and collecting on your pension or money earned in the United States, then you will not have to pay taxes in Croatia.

If you spend more than 183 days per year in Croatia, you will be considered a resident for tax purposes. You will also be considered a resident if you lease or own a home for your exclusive use in the country, regardless of how many days you spend there per year. Regardless of this tax status, you will only be taxed on income earned in Croatia.

As a U.S. resident, you must file taxes in the United States each year. You will have to report any foreign bank accounts as well. If you earn any money outside of the U.S., you can use a few different provisions to reduce your U.S. taxable income. These include the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign tax credit, and the foreign housing exclusion, among others. If you’d like to forecast your tax burden more specifically, you may want to consult with a tax expert who is familiar with both U.S. and Croatian tax laws.

Safety in Croatia

An arcade in Rovinj, CroatiaCroatia is generally safe. The climate can be very warm in the summer and has thousands of miles of shoreline. This means that the most common ailment of tourists and expats in Croatia are severe sunburn, heatstroke and dehydration. These conditions are all avoidable, but if you do suffer from one of these issues, the Croatian healthcare system meets American standards.

Croatia has much lower violent crime rates than the United States, and overall crime levels are exceptionally low. The U.S. State Department has therefore given Croatia the lowest possible travel advisory level.

The Bottom Line

If you want to retire somewhere that is cost-effective, safe and beautiful, Croatia might make your shortlist. Your dollar can go much further in housing in Croatia than it can in the United States, especially if you dream of living on the water. Additionally, it is relatively easy for Americans to get visas to stay in Croatia long-term. It could be the retirement you’re dreaming of if your finances are in order.

Tips for Achieving Your Retirement Goals

  • A financial advisor can help you plan for overseas retirement and make sure your finances are in order. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goalsget started now.
  • It’s tough to plan for your retirement if you aren’t sure what kind of costs you’ll have when you actually retire. To get an idea of what to expect, stop by our retirement calculator. To use this, you’ll need a few details about where you want to retire, when you want to retire and how much you have in savings.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © Fodorne Mate