Integration of third country nationals in Latvia

In the European Union (EU) the term “third country” means all the countries, which are not EU Member States, states of the European Economic Area (including Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein), as well as Switzerland. 

A “third country” is a notion, which is also used in consular services – the procedure of issuing travel visas, in the cases, when a visa is necessary to enter the other (“second”) country, when you are not in your (“first”) country. This may happen, for instance, when Latvia has no such embassy or consulate. 

As of 31 December 2018 a total of 95,152 foreigners were registered in Latvia, 42,104 of who were issued a fixed-period residence permit (hereinafter – FPRP) and 53,048 – a permanent residence permit (hereinafter – PRP), which amounts to approximately 4.5 % of the entire population of Latvia. Of 97,152 foreigners registered in Latvia in 2018 77,069 or 81 % were nationals of third countries, citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area member states were  
18,083 or 19 %. The statistics indicate that the total volume of immigration is increasing – for comparison, in 2005 only 7,429 foreigners with FPRP and only 26,976 foreigners with PRP resided in Latvia, but in 2015 – 23,674 foreigners with FPRP and 46,669 foreigners with PRP were residing in Latvia. In 2017 the number of foreigners continued to grow – 78,451 foreigners with FPRP and 53,048 foreigners with PRP were residing in Latvia. Immigration trends show a gradual increase of the number of immigrants in Latvia.

In 2018 1,002 persons from 33 countries received their initial FPRP, and 8,986 persons from 114 countries received their PRP for the first time.

Research indicates that around three thirds of immigrants know Russian, less than a half – English, and only one in seven knows Latvian.

Grounds, on which third country citizens acquire Latvian residence permits change over time. In 2005 the main reason for immigration (over 40% of the issued temporary residence permits) was family reunification, in 2009 - employment (over 45% of temporary residence permits), but in 2013 the majority of temporary residence permits were issued based on investment in real estate. In 2016 residence permits were issued based on 3 main reasons – 29% to investors in real estate, employees – 22%, students – 15%.

In the employment sphere third country nationals involvement in various sectors of the economy has changed. Since 2014 the share of third country nationals employed in the transportation, logistics and communications sector has increased rapidly.

When a person with a family receives a FPRP, his or her family also comes to Latvia. For example, in the first half of 2018 3,065 persons received FPRP in Latvia, of whom 460 persons received their FPRPs as family members.

The Ministry of Culture with the support from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union coordinates the implementation of integration measures of third country nationals according to the measure “Support for Third Country Nationals, including Persons, who Require International Protection, Participation in Society” provided for in the National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy Implementation Plan for 2019 –2020.

In order to ensure availability of consultations and information about Latvia, the Society “Shelter “Safe House”” is implementing a one one-stop agency - Information Centre for Newcomers.

Documents of European Union:

The Treaty of Lisbon (entered into force on 1 December 2009) envisages the establishing and delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe’s citizens. It sets out that the EU implements a common immigration policy, the purpose of which is to ensure efficient management of the migration flow, fair attitude to third-country nationals, who are legally residing in Member States, at all stages. In accordance with the Treaty of Lisbon, an integration policy is a matter for the Member States. Basic principles of the process of integration of third-country nationals agreed by EU Member States.

The Directive on the right to family reunification (in English) includes provisions emphasising the importance of a family for a successful process of integration of third-country nationals into local society.

The Stockholm Programme (in English), which emphasises the need for integration of third-country nationals legitimately residing in the EU receiving societies to ensure open and safe Europe.

European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (in English), the main element of which is integration through participation in activities of different receiving societies and cooperation of different levels of state administration in this area.

The Action Plan for integration of third-country nationals lists actions to be taken by governments of EU Member States, the European Commission, civil society and other stakeholders to promote integration of third-country nationals legitimately residing in the EU.

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