Impressive waiting lines to renew identity documents in Latvia

As of May this year, an eID is a mandatory document for every citizen aged 15 and over. The pandemic imposed its limits on the work of the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office (PMLP), so at the moment, the queues are impressive. Rīga's offices have started working overtime, Latvian Television's 4. studija reported February 2. 

If someone needs to change documents in the near future, it might now be customary to express condolences. The situation is so heated that even Interior Minister Māris Kučinskis has mentioned on his Facebook profile that it is likely that previous legislation, which requires all citizens aged over 15 to have an ID card in four months, will be revised. But while the government thinks about what to do, citizens need documents.

Gunta, who shared her story with LTV, said that sensing a mission impossible in Rīga, she traveled to Cēsis.

"I arrived before 9 a.m. I took out the number. That was number 58 at the time. I couldn't see how long I'd have to wait, whether that means two hours, four, or six. But from the stories of my friends, I was already in the mood to spend the whole working day there. First of all, I see, there is no place to sit. There are so many people that the sixteen seats are full. Everyone else stands in the lobby," Gunta shared the experience.

Because Gunta, like many, has worked remotely, she had been prepared to work on the phone while waiting for her passport. Phones, however, tend to discharge.

“How many people did not work in Latvia that day! So - don't go to work, spend it standing in line for days. We could work from there because we've all learned it, but [..] there is no place to sit, no place to put down a laptop or where to charge. If we know that there is such a situation in Latvia – not for a week or a month, but for months, then at least the conditions in which we spend those hours and days … it could not be dealt with in any way,” Gunta said.

The PMLP acknowledged that the Cēsis Division does not focus on the number of chairs in the waiting lobby.

“As far as the Cēsis case is concerned, the rooms don't belong to us, but we can certainly ask to provide additional chairs, so that customers have places to sit. There were no complaints about Cēsis before. This is the first. Of course, where there are variations, extra chairs are added there. [..] We can do this, it's nothing difficult,” said Deputy Director of PMLP, head of public relations Madara Puķe.

At Rīga departments, people start to stand in line during the night. Starting this week, in three of the four departments of Rīga, employees will start working overtime. The Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office has launched a competition to hire 40 new employees.

Since those documents that were not re-validated during the pandemic are valid only until April, but until May everyone is trying to get ID cards, this congestion could be predicted in time. Why didn't the PMLP's number of employees expand more quickly?

“We only got money and approval now. Invitations to tender were opened. It is additional money from the new technical budget. While there was no money, there was no reason to hire 40 employees, which is a significant investment,” said Puķe.


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