Climbing Mt. Bureaucracy

In August 2023, I wrote about how I'm applying for Croatian Citizenship by Descent (prirođenje). In order to substantiate my family's claim, I needed to obtain a series of documents from multiple states and include it with my application.

The level of attention required to navigate the byzantine inner-workings of multiple secretaries of state and the F.B.I. is, put simply, overwhelming. I've easily spent 20+ hours on the phone with various county offices, in line for documents locally, and having official applications for documents notarized (shout-out to the St. Louis County Library system for the free notary service).

All of this document gathering is separate from the actual application itself, which requires a full C.V. for each applicant, a letter of motivation from each applicant, and a lengthy application questionnaire. Oh, and the entire application packet needs to be translated in Croatian by a professional translator.



  • Birth records for my great-grandfather and great-grandmother from a small church in Gračac. These are copies, certified by the pastor of this church, because the originals were destroyed during the 1991 Homeland war in Croatia.

United States

  • Fingerprints / Rap Sheet from the FBI that shows we're squeaky clean. I need to submit for three of us – myself, my wife, and my daughter. My son missed the age cutoff (phew) by 2.5 years. Good thing, because getting fingerprints at the USPS is $50 🥴


  • Death Certificate for my great-grandmother.
  • Birth Certificate for my grandfather, which lists my great-grandmother and great-grandfather - who emigrated to the United States from Croatia/Yugoslavia - as parents.

These two documents are key to the application because it shows that my great-grandparents never returned to Croatia and died in the United States. My grandfather's birth certificate helps to establish our family name (initially it was Balen, but on these documents, it's anglicized to Bolen).


  • Birth Certificate for my father, which lists my grandfather and grandmother as parents.
  • Birth Certificate for my children, which list me and my wife as parents.
  • Marriage application and marriage license for my wife and I to show our relationship as legal in the state of Missouri.


  • My birth certificate, listing my father and mother as parents.

Apostille Time

With these documents in hand, I needed to get them authenticated for use outside of the U.S.: they need to be Apostilled. Unfortunately, I have a mix of State Documents and Federal Documents, and they all need different seals.

You can guess where this is going.

Iowa's Secretary of State in Des Moines will receive a packet of information, an application, and check for Apostilling 2 sets of Birth Records and Death Records. Iowa charges $5 per apostille and I'll need 4 total. I'm out $20, which ain't bad.

Missouri's Secretary of State has a satellite office in the Old Post Office building in St. Louis, so I can easily get these Apostilled. They charge $10 per document, and I'll need 4 birth certificates (children + my father) and 2 copies of our marriage license & application apostilled. That's $60. C'mon, Missouri!

Illinois' Secretary of State is in Springfield, which is about a 90 minute drive from St. Louis. I'll drive up and walk my birth certificate in directly for Apostilling. I have to get 2 copies of my birth certificate apostilled, and that's $2 per for $4 total. I'll drive 3 hours round-trip for $4 of 1961 Hague Convention compliance.

The U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. will get a packet containing our FBI Rap Sheets for Apostilling. They hit you with a $20-per-document charge, so that's neat.


Obtaining the documents from Iowa was $90. Missouri was $124. Illinois was $30. F.B.I. was $54 + $150 for fingerprints.

Not including the cost to mail or time spent (opportunity costs or otherwise), I'm hit with $448 in documents & authentication. And that's before we pay the fees for translation and my lawyer in Croatia to prepare the application on our behalf.

In the end, though, it will be absolutely worth whatever we pay for our citizenship and access to an E.U. Passport. I just wish that I didn't have to crawl the dungeon of bureaucracy to make it happen.

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