On 24 September 2022, amendments to the Immigration Law entered into force, changing the procedure for applying for and renewing long-term visas and residence permits for Russian and Belarusian citizens. The amendments were made in response to the war started by Russia in Ukraine, as well as the individual and economic sanctions applied by the European Union on Russia and Belarus.
In the future, it will not be possible for Russian citizens to receive or extend long-term visas if the issuance of the visa is related to employment or residence in Latvia. Russian citizens will also not be issued visas to carry out remote work with an employer registered in another Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member state, or as a self-employed person registered in an OECD member state (digital nomad visas).
The issuance of both first-time and repeated temporary residence permits to Russian and Belarusian citizens is suspended, except in cases provided for in the Immigration Law. The amendments do not affect the registration process for temporary residence permits.
Russian citizens will be able to apply for and obtain a temporary residence permit, for example for family reunification, international protection, humanitarian reasons, employment on the basis of an EU Blue Card, studies or participation in a research project. It will also be possible for any person to obtain a new temporary residence permit who has been granted the right to employment in Latvia and who has been employed in Latvia for the three months prior to applying for the new temporary residence permit, if personal income tax payments have been made and the person continues with the established employment relationship.
Restrictions on citizens of Belarus have been introduced to a narrower extent in order to continue to provide support to the people of Belarus, as indicated in the annotation of the draft law. Belarusian citizens will be able to apply for and obtain a temporary residence permit not only in the exceptional cases applicable to Russian citizens, but also for normal employment or commercial activities in Latvia, for religious activities and for private visits to relatives.
The amendments also affect the procedure for issuing permanent residence permits. A Russian citizen who was a Latvian citizen or Latvian non-citizen before acquiring Russian citizenship will have a permanent residence permit valid until 1 September 2023. If a person wants to renew a permanent residence permit, s/he will have to submit proof of knowledge of the national language.
With these amendments, the possibility of extending temporary residence permits for citizens of Russia and Belarus who received them based on investments made or by purchasing real estate in Latvia has been suspended.
In addition, according to the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of 19 September 2022, only certain categories of Russian citizens are allowed to enter the territory of Latvia, such as holders of a residence permit from Latvia, a European Union (EU) country, a European Economic Area (EEA) country, or the Swiss Confederation; holders of long-term Schengen visas; family members of Latvian, EU, EEA country or Swiss Confederation nationals; employees of transport and passenger transport service providers; seamen; and persons whose entry is related to humanitarian considerations. Russian citizens who do not meet one of the exception categories will be refused entry to Latvia on grounds of a threat to Latvia’s internal security.