Russians might get more time to pass Latvian language exam

The government will urge the Saeima to amend the Immigration Law, providing that those Russian citizens who have not passed the Latvian language exam until September 1 will have the opportunity to apply for a temporary residence permit for two years during which the exam is to be set, Minister for Interior Māris Kučinskis told Latvian Television on August 23 after the government meeting.

The political debate behind closed doors took place for several hours. The possibility of applying for a two-year residence permit will be for people who at least tried to take the exam,.

Kučinskis acknowledged that such a willingness was associated with a desire to avoid the risks of provocation.

“These are political decisions that have been made in a pre-election climate that should have been apparently banned at all. They also generally don't offer a technically, legally justified solution. We are currently correcting the mistakes that were made a year earlier,” the Minister argued.

The Minister also announced that nearly 10,000 or nearly half of all Russian citizens who were given time to pass the Latvian language exam, had not done so or had not taken any notice of this requirement.

"The situation is a little more sad than it was expected. Therefore, at the moment, the coalition decided to turn to parliament with a proposal to develop a [regulation] that provides the right to apply for a temporary residence permit for these people for a period of two years, during which there is a chance to learn Latvian and pass an exam. If people think differently, it's enough time to choose another country," the minister said.

Since April, the citizens of Russia have been able to take a Latvian language exam, which approximately 25,000 people need to extend their permanent residence permit. Those who didn't pass the exam could try again.

The State Educational Content Centre has compiled data that around 11-12 thousand people have registered for the exam so far. Some have taken it more than once.

"It is too early to talk about the results at this time. We can look back and refer to those results that were in the spring, when the proportion – pass or fail – was around 50/50. At the end of August, we will be preparing aggregated information to inform the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs accordingly,” said Liene Bērziņa, spokeswoman for the State Educational Content Centre.

Meanwhile, some Russian citizens who have reasonable grounds for obtaining a temporary residence permit have already rushed to apply for it. Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs spokeswoman Madara Puķe said 752 temporary residence permit applications have been received so far.

“So these are people who are subject to the amendments to the Immigration Law, but who, knowing that they will not be able to pass the Latvian language check, have submitted applications to settle temporary residence permits. They have a legal right to request a temporary residence permit if there are studies in Latvia, employment relations, or family association,” said Puķe.

The matter still has to be directed to the Saeima and viewed by the parliament.

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