Croatia is part of the Schengen area

Croatia is part of the Schengen area. What will change for tourists?

From the new year, Croatia is part of the Schengen area. We tell you what this means: when border control will be canceled, who will be able to come without a visa, and what will change for travelers from third countries.

From January 1, 2023, Croatia will become part of the European visa-free zone. This means that when entering Croatia from the Schengen countries there will be no passport control, border checks or stamps.

Foreigners from third countries will be able to enter Croatia only with a Schengen visa or a national visa of one of the EU countries. But the latter has its own nuances: you will first have to enter the country that issued the visa (you can try another, but we can’t vouch for the consequences), and then to Croatia (or anywhere else).

Was it not possible before?

Although Croatia has been in the European Union since 2013, it was not part of the Schengen area. That is, Europeans could come to the country without a visa, but checks at the border remained. Foreigners from outside the EU needed a Schengen visa or a national visa of Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania or Cyprus.

In order to join the Schengen area, Croatia had to fulfill a number of conditions. It took the country about five years: the authorities applied for membership back in 2016. But Romania and Bulgaria have not yet succeeded: at the last meeting of the EU Council, the two countries voted against the inclusion of candidates in the Schengen.

The EU and the Schengen area are often confused or used interchangeably. But this is not so: some EU countries (for example, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria) are not included in the Schengen. But among the countries of the Schengen zone there are those that did not join the EU: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein.

The Schengen Agreement is an agreement between European countries to create a free space for movement and trade. Member countries are loyal to travelers within their union, but strictly control external borders.

How did Croatia get into the Schengen area?

Fulfilled all conditions. There are a whole bunch of them in the Schengen Agreement: you need to prove that the control at the external borders meets the requirements, introduce common European rules, adopt a new visa policy, review the work of the police and the courts. If all oks and parties to the agreement vote yes, the country is included in the zone. If at least one country votes “against” – you need to “refine”.

What will change for tourists now?

First (this applies only to EU countries) – there will be no more border controls. At land and sea borders – from January 1. At airports – from March 26.

Second, control will be tightened on the external borders with Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This does not mean that they will ask a lot of questions and check every pocket of the backpack. But the outer border of Croatia is now the border of the Schengen zone. And along with the new status, the country takes on many obligations.

After crossing the border with Croatia, it will be possible to travel freely within the Schengen area. This also applies to those who travel from third countries with a fresh visa. Moreover, it will not be necessary to draw up the Croatian “Schengen” – anyone will do.

An additional profit for those who plan to transit the country is that they no longer have to stand in lines: you will notice the border only when the phone vibrates from a new SMS.

And what are the disadvantages of Croatia joining the Schengen area?

For expats from countries that are allowed to stay in the Schengen area for 90 days every six months (for example, the UK or the USA), there is one caveat. Travelers have to carefully count the number of days spent in the zone: often, in order not to leave Europe, but also not to spend too many days, they liked to travel to Croatia in order to “pause the counter”. Now this option won’t work. But there are still options – Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland (at least for now).