Immigration law amendments come into force

A number of amendments to the Immigration Law, which Saeima passed in the final reading in June, come into force Friday, reported LETA newswire. The new amendments will see third-country nationals having to pay €5,000 into state coffers to renew residence permits.

The work on the amendments had gone on for about one-and-a-half years.

Most of the amendments were endorsed by Saeima on April 21, however, President Raimonds Vejonis returned the bill to the parliament at the end of April, saying that some of the proposed amendments were too lax and did not fit other laws and regulations.

On June 9, Saeima passed an updated version of the amendments.

According to the amendments, prolonging temporary residence permits will cost €5,000, payable into the state budget, for those third-country citizens who were issued their permits for investing in Latvia.

The large sum required for a renewal had been criticized in some quarters as penalising the growing number of middle-class Russians, including many journalists and artists, who have moved to Latvia to enjoy its democratic freedom, while having no impact on the Kremlin-friendly oligarchs who own multi-million euro villas in Jurmala and elsewhere.

Only time can tell whether the amendments will drive such people to neighboring countries instead.

This will not apply to some categories of investors, for instance, those who invest in state-owned companies, and investors who have bought real estate in Latvia before previous 2014 amendments came into force.

Another provision gives the Cabinet of Ministers the right to assess the effect of temporary residence permits on the national security or economic development of Latvia, and impose sweeping restrictions on issuing such permits for up to five years. The restrictions may apply to all third-country citizens as well as to citizens of one specific third country.

The Cabinet will only use this right in order to avert risks related to national security, unity of society, increasing rates of organized crime and others.

The amendments also describe the minimum values of real estate across Latvia and investment amounts that entitle a third-country citizen, buying property or investing in a company in Latvia, to a temporary residence permit.

A third-country national may be stripped of his or her residence permit if he or she has tax debts exceeding €150.

Saeima also supported proposals concerning third-country citizens' payments for temporary residence permits, agreeing that these funds would primarily be spent on administrating the Economic Development Program.

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