Compulsory military service to be re-introduced in Latvia

Take note – story published 1 year ago

On Wednesday, April 5, the Saeima decided on the re-introduction of the compulsory national defense service in Latvia by adopting the draft law on the State Defense Service and related bills in the final reading. 

It is planned that the first voluntary conscription will launch the service on July 1 of this year. Volunteers must apply quickly – until May 15 – by phone 67072793 or [email protected], or on the spot at the recruitment center at Krustabaznīcas Street 9, Rīga. In the meantime, the National Armed Forces and the Defense Ministry promises to provide as much detailed information as possible. 

68 Members voted for the adoption of the law, while 11 voted against it.

The law on State Defense Service (Valsts aizsardzības dienests, VAD) foresees two types of service: military and alternative or civil service.

The first draft will be voluntary but as of January 1, 2024, random selection will apply. Criminal liability is foreseen if a person avoids service.

Until 2027, those living and declared abroad will not be conscripted. Afterwards, they will also be subject to military service.

The law enters into force on the next day of its proclamation.


Males born after January 1, 2004, are subject to mandatory service, i.e., males must start service within one year of turning 18. If they are still in school, then they must start service within one year after graduation.

Males and females aged 18 to 27 can apply voluntarily.

Citizens exempt from VAD are the following:

  • those whose health status does not comply with service requirements;
  • sole guardians of children;
  • sole caretakers of dependents;
  • those who have served in a different country if they have a dual citizenship;
  • graduates of Oskars Kalpaks vocational school (a military school);
  • those who have served in professional service for not less than 11 months;
  • employees with special service status in the Interior Ministry system and the prison system;
  • persons who have been convicted of a serious or especially serious crime;
  • parents or guardians of children with disabilities.


The service can be done in one of the following ways:

  • 11 months in the regular forces of National Armed Forces or the National Guard;
  • five years in the National Guard altogether, with at least 21 individual training days per year and 7 collective training days per year;
  • acquiring the five-year education program, intended for university students, of a Reserve Lieutenant.

Military service gives the person the status of a VAD soldier, as well as a rank. The theoretical and practical skills to be obtained during VAD shall be determined by the Cabinet.

Military service is ended prematurely if the person meets one of the exemption criteria listed above, as well as if the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD) deems them a potential threat to state security, or if the person loses Latvian citizenship.

Alternative service takes place at one of the following institutions: National Armed Forces, National Guard, Youth Guard Center, State Defense Military Object and Procurement Center, Latvian Geo-spatial Information Agency, Latvian Museum of War, State Defense and Logistics Procurement Center, Latvian National Defense Academy, Information Technology safety incident prevention agency, Military Intelligence and Security Service, and Lieutenant Oskars Kalpaks vocational school. 

The alternative service work is delegated taking into account the person's skills, place of residence, and education, and takes 40 hours per week. Premature termination of service occurs in the same situations as the military service.


The law provides that the Defense Minister gives an order of conscription onto the VAD. The order will be published in the official Latvijas Vēstnesis six months before the conscription. 

Conscripts who have applied voluntarily will be given priority. The rest will be selected randomly, proportionally to the declared place of residence (region/municipality).

Those who have not been conscripted within one year of turning 18 or within one year of school graduation, will be removed from the draft list and included in the reserve of National Armed Forces.

Postponing the service

VAD is postponed if:

  • the person is an active employee of special service rank of the system of the Interior Ministry or prison system and has not served for two consequential years;
  • the person has legitimate health reasons to postpone the service;
  • the person is a suspect in a criminal case;
  • the person is convicted of a crime that is not classified as a serious or especially serious offense;
  • the person is in professional service and has not served for 11 months.

It is also possible to postpone VAD until the age of 26 for other important reasons, such as a university scholarship or sports career, parental leave, and other factors.


Conscripts will get 300 euros a month for VAD, as well as food rations, uniform, equipment, and living space in military service. For alternative service, the person will get health insurance and possibly accommodation.

Those with children will get benefits while in military service. The children can also be enrolled in state kindergartens in priority order.

Volunteers in the military service will get another compensation of EUR 1,100 at the end of the 11-month service. Volunteers will also be able to study at the first level of tertiary education for free.

Penalties for avoiding service

Criminal liability is envisaged for the deliberate avoidance of service, as well as for unlawful activity during service.

Persons subject to conscription have the duty to familiarize themselves with notifications sent from the Defense Ministry and arrive for checks when requested. Failure to show up without reason will result in a fine up to EUR 350.

In alternative service, if a person has caused losses to the institution, they will be held responsible for the material loss.


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