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It is known that the Republic of Croatia became part of the Schengen Area on January 1, 2023. But what does this actually mean for Croatia, Croatian citizens, and citizens of other countries within the Schengen Area? Despite being a small country, Croatia successfully gained the trust of all signatory states and thereby became equal to the "old" members of the European Union.

First and foremost, it is worth mentioning that the Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985, abolishing internal borders within Europe. The signatory states agreed to maintain a single external border, thus enabling their citizens to move freely and without restrictions within the participating countries, in the full sense of the term.

The Schengen Area currently consists of 27 countries, with 23 out of 27 being EU member states. The set of rules governing the Schengen Area is called the Schengen Borders Code, the content of which is prescribed by Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council dated March 9, 2016, establishing the Schengen Borders Code. The prerequisites for joining the Schengen Area are as follows:

-       Implementation of the so-called Schengen acquis (police cooperation, visa issuance, etc.)

-       Assumption of responsibility for the control of external borders on behalf of other Schengen countries

-       Cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other Schengen countries

-       Connection to the Schengen Information System (SIS)

With the entry of the Republic of Croatia into the Schengen Area, all border controls within the European territory have been abolished. This includes land and sea border crossings, and as of March 26, 2023, also airports. However, even though border control has been formally lifted, it does not mean that border police and customs units no longer carry out checks within the territory of the member state. In fact, for security reasons, Croatia has implemented two border control systems that are conducted within the EU:

-       Entry-Exit System (EES): This system links biometric data with the Schengen calculator, allowing for monitoring to ensure that a person who entered Croatia does not stay for more than 90 days, or 180 days in the case of possessing a Schengen visa.


-       European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS): This system applies to individuals who are not citizens of EU member states. It eliminates the need for them to obtain a visa to enter the Schengen Area. Instead, they are required to register and obtain authorization before traveling.

Therefore, in addition to Croatian citizens and citizens of Schengen member countries, there are also benefits for third-country nationals who can enter the Schengen Area more easily due to the establishment of common visa rules. In this regard, the application process for residence permits for third-country nationals who also hold a Schengen visa has been simplified. Specifically, all third-country nationals requiring a visa to enter Croatia must submit their residence permit applications exclusively at Croatian diplomatic and consular representations outside of Croatia, and they cannot submit these applications at local police stations. However, with Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area, these rules have been simplified for third-country nationals holding a Schengen visa. Now they can submit residence permit applications directly at local police stations if they are family members of Croatian citizens, life partners or informal life partners of Croatian citizens, students at university, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels, researchers and scientists, members of the immediate family of researchers, or third-country nationals coming to study in Croatia, as well as applicants for residence permits based on humanitarian grounds and members of the immediate family of EU Blue Card holders.

To mitigate any risks arising from the elimination of internal border controls, enhanced cooperation has been established among the authorities responsible for external border surveillance (police and customs of all signatory states). This primarily involves improved exchange of information between police authorities, mutual operational assistance, cross-border surveillance of suspects, and so on.

The abolition of borders and, consequently, the freedom of movement within the Schengen Area has ensured better transportation connectivity and, therefore, more cost-effective cooperation between Croatia and the rest of European countries. This is particularly significant for Croatia as a renowned tourist destination, as it allows for tourism without borders.

Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area and the freedom of movement of goods and services have been an additional incentive for foreign investors to invest more safely and easily in Croatia. This is because there is now a unified market as a whole, which ultimately brings significant economic benefits to both individuals and legal entities in participating countries, enhancing their competitiveness in the market.

In conclusion, if there were any barriers to entering Croatia for reasons such as visiting family, friends, vacation, work, studying, or investing, they should no longer exist. The entry process to Croatia has never been faster and easier.