Saeima presses on with residency scheme despite warning

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Members of the Latvian parliament on Wednesday pressed ahead with plans to loosen the rules governing the issuance of residency permits to foreign buyers of Latvian real estate, ignoring a warning from Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis on Tuesday that the scheme posed a threat to national security.

At a meeting of the parliamentary Defense, Interior and Anti-corruption committee, deputies Inesis Bokis and Vilnis Kirsis from the ruling Vienotiba (Unity) party floated various amendment to the existing regulations that could see the value of real estate required to be purchased in order to obtain a residency permit drop from the current level of €250,000 to as little as €50,000 in some parts of the country.

In doing so they implicitly disregarded the advice of their own Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis of the Greens and Farmers' Alliance party who only on Tuesday warned that police lacked the resources to properly vet applicants and that the scheme posed a potential "long term threat to national security."

The move suggests that intense lobbying on behalf of those in favor of a cheaper cash-for-residency regime is paying big dividends within the corridors of power. 

However, it should be noted that the amendments have yet to be given a second vote in Saeima, which would be the next stage in their passage into law. 

Central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics has also voiced support for reducing the level of investment required to qualify for the scheme.

The majority of applicants to the previous and current schemes came from Russia.

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