As previously reported, Russian citizens living in Latvia must receive a certificate of adequate knowledge of the Latvian language in order to retain a valid residence permit. If they do not do so, they will have to leave Latvia by December 2.
Up to 300 Russian citizens living in Latvia take the language exam every day at present, according to the State Education Content Center. The Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs has sent information letters to approximately 25,000 Russian citizens who are subject to recent amendments to the Immigration Law. They have until September 1 of this year to sit the exam. Russian citizens who fail to pass the national language test the first time will be able to take it again until the end of November.
Approximately 9,000 people have not yet applied for the language test, and they should expect that their permanent residence permit will therefore expire on September 1.
After Rīga, the second largest number of Russian citizens in Latvia live in the second-largest city, Daugavpils.
When Latvian Radio visited early one morning on Saules Street in Daugavpils, where the institution "Latgales Learning Center" is located, a Latvian language exam was being held simultaneously in several classrooms. The total number of people requiring the test in Daugavpils can be measured in thousands, confirmed Liene Bērziņa, representative of the State Education Content Center.
Bērziņa stated: "Currently, 1,751 citizens of the Russian Federation have applied to take the state language exam in Daugavpils. The exam results are not yet available in a summarized form, as the examination process is ongoing. The results will be available later, at the end of May. If you look back at the previous period, then in such examination processes, 70% of Russian Federation citizens pass the language test and 30% fail it the first time."
In order to continue to be a permanent resident of Latvia, this exam is necessary, said Anna, who already knows that she did not pass the Latvian language exam the first time. She has not had a suitable environment to learn the language, she says, despite living in Latvia for nearly 50 years.
"I came to Latvia in 1975. I have lived here for 47 years. I need to pass this "A2" level, and I can't. I pay taxes to the state, I have worked in many places – I spent 20 years at a chemical fiber factory, then at a beer factory for eight years, then five years in "Cigler" mechanical engineering, now I am a janitor in a hospital," she says.
In the corridors near the exam halls, friends and family members of the exam takers are on hand to offer support.
Among them is an anonymous woman who said: "The law has been passed; if the exam is not passed, she will be expelled from the country. It is elementary – either do the language exam or there will be no place to live. This process was not easy for mom. It was terribly difficult, she completely ruined her health, that's mocking people and that's all. That's my opinion. Mom lived here for 50 years, worked here all her life, and I'm a citizen of Latvia, I'm Latvian. I helped her organize her documents, in reality, when she got her language exam round, she said that she doesn't even want it anymore and regrets it, and she doesn't want to take this exam anymore. She didn't sleep all night before the exams, it was difficult. She is 68 years old... Besides, Daugavpils is not the kind of city where everyone speaks Latvian."