Interior Minister proposes relaxing Russians' residency rights conditions

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Internal Affairs Minister Māris Kučinskis (United List) will propose the Saeima to soften the conditions for Russian citizens' residence in Latvia and to withdraw from the September 1 deadline, until which holders of residence permits are required to certify Latvian knowledge in order to preserve the right to live in Latvia, TV3 and LETA reported on February 9.

The current regulation requires former Latvian citizens and non-citizens who now have a Russian passport to pass the Latvian language test by September 1, otherwise, their residence permit will be waived and they will have to leave Latvia. This rule, which applies to around 18,000 inhabitants, was introduced by the previous Saeima in the autumn of last year, shortly before the elections.

Kučinskis will encourage the regulation to be changed significantly and to withdraw from the September 1 deadline, instead allowing language checks to be completed gradually.

According to the Minister's intention, the document confirming the knowledge of the Latvian language should only be submitted when the time comes to re-register the residence permit. “A step-by-step approach that would remove the queue of 17,000 to September 1,” added the politician, and estimated that the process would be concluded within three years under his proposed conditions.

Kučinskis will present his offer to the coalition partners on Monday.

New Unity allows the possibility of relaxing the regulation by first hearing the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office (PMLP), which could have difficulty serving those persons all at the same time.

National Alliance is not prepared to discuss such changes. The head of the Saeima's National Security Committee Jānis Dombrava (NA) has announced that a discussion can only be held on how many months after September 1 those without the language knowledge should abandon Latvia.

In such circumstances, the Minister for the Interior was prepared to seek the support of the opposition for approval of his proposal. 

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