"Unknown number" of Russians must leave Latvia this week

Thursday is the last day when some Russian citizens living in Latvia can submit documents requesting a residence permit. If this is not done, they must leave Latvia today. But there are still many unknowns about how many Russian citizens are left, Maira Roze, chief of the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office (PMLP), told Latvian Radio November 30.

Due to amendments to the Immigration Law, for people who have previously been Latvian citizens or non-citizens (nepilsoņi) but have accepted Russian citizenship, the requirement for knowledge of the official language at the conversational level (A2) is mandatory. The Saeima decided to allow Russian citizens who fail to pass the official language test for the first time to retake it until the end of November, in the meantime maintaining the residence permit and extending the submission of documents until the end of the year.

The law stipulates that permanent residence permits issued to Russian citizens expire on September 1 of this year. If an application to get a permanent residence permit, along with a passed Latvian language examination, or an application for a temporary residence permit has not been received, Russian citizens have to leave the territory of the Republic of Latvia by December 2, 2023.

This regards those Russian citizens who have still not applied for a re-examination of the official language and who have not submitted documents to apply for long-term resident status in the European Union by November 1.

Maira Roze said she can't yet say how many of those people are still here:

“The outbound figure is three-and-a-half thousand, which are subject to submission of documents for a temporary residence permit if any, or departure from Latvia by today.”

Applications sent by post may still be received by the Office within the next 8 days. Next stage – according to the State Border Guard database, it is necessary to verify whether they have left Latvia through the country's external border. “Only then will we know how many people we have to work with next,” noted Roze.

It is also possible to exit through another Schengen country, such as Lithuania, or by flying. “This is not a one-day issue – to find out if these people are still in Latvia or not,” Roze added.

While noting that persons who do not have legal grounds to reside in Latvia are still here, many circumstances, including the opinion of the person, will still need to be clarified before issuing the departure order.

"This work will be done. Because maybe someone will have “woken up,” like they have a spouse here and we still allow paperwork to be filed. There are many more unknowns to the full clarity of whether these people stay or leave,” Roze said.

She also stressed that PMLP employees do not visit the homes of these people.

"We will be writing letters to the last place of residency. If these letters do not reach their target and are returned, then we will ask the State border Guard to check that these individuals do not actually live here anymore,” explained Roze.

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