Around 1,000 naturalize each year

With nearly 1,000 "non-citizens" receiving passports of Latvian citizens each year, the naturalization process has stabilized over the past thee years, representatives of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs told members of the Saeima Citizenship, Migration and Social Cohesion Committee on April 19.

According to the citizenship authority's data, 939 persons were naturalized in 2014; 971 in 2015 and 987 became Latvian citizens through naturalization last year.

By January 1, 2017, Latvia's non-citizen population had decreased by half a million people from 1995 to 242,560 people, or 11.39% of the total population, statistics show.

Two thirds of the non-citizens are at least 51 years old or older, the representatives of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs said.

They also called lawmakers' attention to the fact that a part of non-citizens feel that "nobody needs them". To address this problem, practical assistance would be necessary to help these people learn the Latvian language, given that those non-citizens who are more than 40 years old often have difficulties passing the writing part of the language test.

Non-citizens are a large group of people that can live in Latvia legally but don't have certain rights -- crucially, the right to vote and to work in the civil service.

On October 15, 1991 the Supreme Council (the interim parliament) granted citizenship to Latvian residents that were citizens during the inter-war period, and their offspring. As a result, a third of Latvian residents who did not fit the criteria became non-citizens.

NOTE: The headline of this story has been changed to reflect the fact that 1,000 people are naturalized rather than the actual decline of non-citizen numbers due to all factors.

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