Life to be made easier for highly-qualified guest workers

On February 2 the Latvian parliament passed amendments to the Immigration law in the final reading. The amendments should make it easier for Latvia to attract highly-qualified workers from overseas.

Highly qualified specialists and employees in occupations where significant labor shortages are predicted will enjoy eased entry regulations in future.

Although the registered unemployment rate in the country at the end of December was 8.4%, a number of business sectors have difficulty in finding qualified staff.

Previously immigrant workers from non-EU countries had to command a wage at least 50% higher than the average wage in Latvia (€818 before tax in 2015) in order to stop cheap foreign labor flooding the market. But now that requirement is to be reduced to 20%.

The exact sectors covered by the new requirements will be determined by the Cabinet, but jobs in the sciences are the priority, including chemists and people working in information technology.

"Our education system can't solve these issues in the next few years, which is why immigrant workers are needed," said the sponsor of the amendments, Karlis Serzants of the Geens and Farmers Union. 

Would-be economic immigrants would be subjected to strict vetting, Serzants promised. 

It is predicted that this year could see the arrival of 50 seasonal workers and 50 workers by way of intra-corporate transfers.

The amendments, when they become law, will also make it easier for NATO troops to enter the country.

They also reduce the period after which asylum seekers can start looking for jobs to six months after arriving in Latvia instead of the current nine; the amendments also include a number of EU-related changes.

The amendments also provide foreign nationals with an opportunity to apply for a residence permit for up to three years in order to create or develop innovative product. These amendments are linked to recently passed Law on Aid for Start-up Companies.

Daniels Pavluts, a former Economics Minister and now a Board Member of Latvian Startup Association told LSM the amendments were "a big step for Latvian start-up community, as they provide the legal basis for so called Latvian Start-up Visa."

"This will make Latvia much more attractive for startup founders from abroad and will ease the process of hiring highly qualified foreign specialists by Latvian start-ups," Pavluts said.

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