Recent changes to the law require Russian citizens who were previously Latvian citizens or non-citizens to submit a statement to the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office (PMLP) regarding the knowledge of the official language until September 1, 2023. Otherwise, their residence permit would be waived.
To obtain a new residence permit after September 1, the person must, together with a statement of proficiency in the language, request the status of a long-term resident of the European Union (EU). This application must be examined within three months.
In a letter to the Committee, the Ministry of Interior stated that some applicants, even if they passed the language exam, may lose their residence rights in Latvia before the application for EU long-term resident status is examined.
The Ministry, therefore, proposes that the residence permits are not canceled until their application has been examined. In these cases, consideration of requests for EU long-term resident status could take up to one year. The Ministry requested the extension taking into account the large number of applications.
"One year for consideration is not because we just want to drag the process, but to economize resources. We really need to examine all those documents, including language," said Maira Roze, Head of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs.
It is also envisaged to allow a repeated attempt of the exam. Persons who do not pass the national language test until September 1 but apply to do so again, would be able to apply for EU long-term resident status until December 31, 2023.
If a person fails to apply for a national language proficiency check or fails to submit a document to request the status of the EU long-term resident, their permanent residence permit would cease to be valid on September 2, 2023 or January 2, 2024, if it is a repeated language test, the Ministry's offer suggests.
“Those persons who have not shown a willingness to obtain this permanent residence permit of the European Union will obviously know they are leaving, as has been mentioned here,” said Vilnis Vītoliņš, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior.
The national language proficiency test must be taken by more than 17 thousand citizens of the Russian Federation. The Ministry of Education and Science reports that only eight thousand have applied for the exam.
Deputy of the Saeima Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee Jānis Dombrava (National Alliance) thinks it is “even positive”.
“Maybe most of them are aware that their future is linked to the Russian Federation. And then we need to think about how we can positively promote this process from Latvia,” Dombrava said.
In turn, a Member of the Committee from the opposition, Aleksejs Rosļikovs (For Stability!), said that “94% of the target group are people 60+. These are people who are debilitated by age and rare and severe illnesses. You have the right to limit space and time, but you have no right to restrict the application for a national language exam. These are the rights of any person who is in Latvia and wants to receive the document”.
The Committee supported the amendments to the Immigration Law tabled by the Minister for the Interior on the extension of the application and their examination deadlines.
The Saeima has yet to vote on the changes.