My girlfriend was born in 1990 in Slavonski Brod, Yugoslavia. Today that city is a part of Croatia. Both her parents were both born in Bosnia, although at the time this was formerly known as Yugoslavia. In '91 the Yugoslav war broke out, and her parents fled to the U.S. with her.

Eventually, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen through her parents. Her U.S. passport states her nationality as Croatian. The only evidence she has is her Croatian birth certificate. Both her parents only have a U.S. passport and no other passports. Their Yugoslavian citizenship is likely not even valid anymore.

On her birth certificate her JMBG number is empty (it's dashed out). So she doesn't have a JMBG number. On the bottom of the certificate it says "on behalf of 'Med. centra. Slav. Brod'".

Is it possible for her to still obtain croatian citizenship given these circumstances?

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    A US passport always shows the nationality as United States of America. Do you mean that Croatia is the place of birth? – Arne Feb 19 '20 at 17:53
  • @Arne You're right. Nationality says the United States of America, so Croatia is just the place of birth. My bad. – user1534664 Feb 19 '20 at 18:39
  • She and her parents are all probably citizens of one or more of the former Yugoslav republics (not necessarily the same ones). – phoog Feb 20 '20 at 7:38
  • @phoog Her mother is Bosnian, but she's unsure about what citizenship her father was when she born. I asked her to inquire about that so hopefully we'll know soon. She does have a lot of family members on her dad's side who have Croatian citizenship. – user1534664 Feb 20 '20 at 8:40
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    If she has Croatian relatives then she may be able to get Croatian citizenship fairly easily by showing "that she identifies as Croatian or that at least one of her parents were culturally or ethnically Croatian" as suggested in the answer. – phoog Feb 20 '20 at 17:47

Not a legal expert, so consider this an educated guess.

Place of birth carries some importance when determining Croatian citizenship, but citizenship of parents is much more important and birth in Croatia does not in itself confer Croatian citizenship.

Until the early 1990s Yugoslavia consisted of six republics, of which Croatia was one. Every Yugoslav citizen was also a citizen of one of the republics. The republican citizenship was based on several factors and could change during a lifetime. For international purposes it was the citizenship of Yugoslavia that counted.

While a citizenship of a Yugoslav republic did not always translate into a citizenship of the independent successor state, as each of the new countries has it own nationality law, if your girlfriend did posses Yugoslav-Croatian citizenship (rather than e.g. Yugoslav-Bosnian) she would have a strong claim to citizenship of the independent Republic of Croatia.

Also helpful in claiming Croatian citizenship would be proof of belonging to the Croatian people. If she can show that she identifies as Croatian or that at least one of her parents were culturally or ethnically Croatian her chances could improve considerably.

Edit as response to comment:

Under Croatian nationality law, a person born in Croatia with one parent being a Croatian citizen at the time or birth or born anywhere with both parents being Croatian citizens is automatically a Croatian citizen.

If your girlfriend can show that she was registered as a Yugoslav-Croatian citizen or that she should have been by birth in Croatia to at least one Yugoslav-Croatian citizen, this may be enough to be considered a Croatian citizen.

According to the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs:

The applicant should state the reasons for applying for citizenship, their relation towards the legal order, customs and acceptance of Croatian culture; depending on the legal basis for submitting the application, where his ancestors were domiciled before leaving, when and why they left the Republic of Croatia, when and with what documents they settled abroad, the ways in which they showed they belonged to the Croatian people; participation in sports, cultural and other societies promoting Croatia’s interests abroad (Article 11 and 16).

Croatia obviously wants to confer citizenship on ethnic Croatians. Which arguments to use would be highly dependent on individual circumstances.

  • Thank you for that information. I suppose that means that the Yugoslavian war is irrelevant and that only the laws of Croatia apply, if she wants to acquire Croatian citizenship. Can you elaborate on what you mean by "if she identifies as Croatian"? How does one identify as Croatian? And how could we determine if her father was a cultural Croatian? – user1534664 Feb 20 '20 at 8:47
  • @user1534664 mainly it's a question of making a formal statement to that effect. I don't know whether corroborating evidence is necessary. I know someone who did it 20 or 25 years ago; I don't know whether the requirements have changed since then. – phoog Feb 20 '20 at 17:52

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