Repatriation law to be abolished in Latvia

From next year, it is planned to abolish the rule of law which allowed third-country citizens – descendants of Livonia and Latvia –  to obtain repatriated status in Latvia, and to completely repeal the Repatriation Law from July 2028, the Interior Ministry said on May 2.

The Repatriation Law is intended to facilitate the return of Latvian and Livonian-ethnicity people to their homeland. The Law has been in operation since 1995 and provides for the return of persons originating in Latvia and Livonia to their homeland, as well as the provision of certain costs for the full performance of this process.

When the law came into force in the 1990s, the countries from which people wanted to return to their ethnic homeland were different and the division between the western and eastern states was equivalent. At the moment, however, it is most wanted by people from Russia.

The repatriate is currently granted a permanent residence permit on the basis of the first application, allowing permanent residence in Latvia, freely traveling in the Schengen area, and receiving health services and other social guarantees, without proving in advance that the person actually resides in Latvia or the knowledge of the official language.

In the future, nationals of third countries of Latvian or Livonian origin and their family members will have the right to request a temporary residence permit for a period of five years in accordance with the procedures specified in the Immigration Law. Changes shall provide for the granting of a temporary residence permit to recipients of the status of repatriate and their family members for a period of five years if the person has stayed continuously in Latvia and has acquired the official language at least at the A2 level.

As of July 1, 2023, the provisions of the Repatriation Law on material and social assistance for returnees are also to be excluded.

The Ministry of Interior explained that the draft legislation aims to reduce the threat to Latvia's internal security by limiting the flow of persons to Latvia whose entry does not correspond to the idea contained in the preamble of the Repatriation Law - to encourage the return of nationals who have left Latvia due to the threat of genocide, war or assimilation, to the ethnic homeland.

The Ministry notes that both before and particularly after Russia started the war against Ukraine, the interest of Russian citizens to move to a permanent life in Latvia increased.

Although various mechanisms have been introduced which temporarily prevent Russian citizens from entering and staying in Latvia, the number of applications for residence permits, particularly from Russian citizens – repatriates, is growing.

The Government also supported the intention to invalidate the Repatriation Act as of July 1, 2028, although it is intended to exclude the rules under which persons can claim repatriate status from January 1, 2024.

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