Applying For Permanent Residency: The Croatian Language Test
After five years of temporary resident permits in Croatia, foreigners can apply for permanent residency if they demonstrate language proficiency.
For a foreigner looking to settle permanently in Croatia, the bureaucratic road to a permanent stamp and personal ID card is tortuous and frustrating. Having managed to navigate through the frequently changing requirements of the powers that be (including certain very odd requirements like the annual request to provide a birth certificate no more than six months old), after five years of consecutive renewed yearly temporary permits, the prospect of no more paperwork and a permanent stamp in the passport is within touching distance. The only remaining obstacle is a linguistic one - the Croatian language test.
Learning Croatian - The Final Hurdle
With its Slavic roots, Croatian is a not an easy language for a foreigner to learn and, given that the level of English is excellent, particularly on the coast and in the capital, Zagreb, few foreigners take the trouble to learn Croatian to any degree of fluency. The Croatian authorities are understandably keen for any permanent residents to able to demonstrate a basic command of the language, hence the introduction of the test. How hard is it and what is involved?
The test takes place within the Philosophy Department of the various state universities on a given date. Seasoned campaigners will not be surprised to learn that the test starts with a journey to the bank to pay the 860 kuna (£100) test fee. Proof of payment in the form of the bank's uplatnica and a copy of one's passport is enough to register, and applicants wait until they are called into the classroom.
There are usually a number of foreigners taking the test at any one time, with a foreigner being classed as anyone who is not a Croatian citizen. As such, the majority of applicants are from former Yugoslav republics, such as Bosnia and Montenegro, countries who until recently all spoke the same official language - Serbo-Croat - and whose languages today are almost identical. This is Croatia, however, and rules are rules.
The test is separated into three parts - written, dictation and oral. The first part can be disconcerting for the non-Yugoslav, as the 'foreign' native speakers finish the written tasks in minutes, rather than the allocated half hour. The standard of the written test is slightly below British GSCE standard and involves four tasks - putting nouns into the right case, verbs into other tenses, matching half sentences to each other, and entering missing words into a text.
This is followed by a short two-sentence dictation, whose aim is to establish that applicants can write Croatian in Latin script, before all the papers are collected and the class dispersed for a thirty-minute cigarette break while the tests are marked. Applicants are then invited back into the classroom in twos and given a brief oral test, after which they are given their results.
Certificates can be collected or posted and, once produced at the local police station, the final paperwork is signed off and fingerprints taken and the permanent residency stamp is safely embedded in the passport and ID card handed over. Residents on islands are entitled to reduced ferry tickets, while all are now free to apply for a passport and possibly a shot at the presidency. Sretno!