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, or countries of the European Economic Area (including Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), or Switzerland.

“Third country” is a concept used in the context of consular services – the procedure of issuing travel visas, when a visa is necessary for entering other (“second”) country without being in their own (“first”) country. This may happen, for example, if Latvia does not have this embassy or consulate.

Although the integration of immigrants falls within the competence of EU member states, common coordination tools are being developed at EU level since 2004, such as the EU Framework for Immigrant Integration (Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU), which remains relevant and basis for recommendations on the integration of immigrants. The basic principles have the nature of a  recommendation and suggest the most important issues that should be given special attention in the development of integration policy. Despite the different grounds for entry the integration of immigrants into society touches on communication issues, integration into education and the labour market, and access to health and other services. One of the basic principles of immigrant integration states that “Basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration. "

Although integration matters fall mainly within the competence of the member states of the European Union, the European Union supports integration policy by implementing policy coordination and promoting exchange of information, as well as supporting integration efforts of the member states financially. The Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (2014 – 2020) is one the tools created by the European Union to provide financial support to member states. Goals of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (2014 – 2020) are:

  • strengthening and developing aspects of the Common European Asylum System, including its external dimension;
  • supporting legal migration to member states in line with their economic and social needs, for example, the labour market needs, at the same time ensuring the integrity of integration systems of member states, and promoting the effective integration of third country nationals;
  • enhancing fair and effective return strategies in member states, which contribute to combating irregular migration, with an emphasis on sustainability and effectiveness of the return process in home and transit countries;
  • strengthening solidarity and sharing of responsibility among the member states which are most affected by migration and asylum flows, including by practical cooperation.

The Ministry of Culture, as the delegated authority of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund in Latvia in the field of integration, has been implementing projects supporting the integration of immigrants since 2016, providing full information on support and integration measures, offering integration and Latvian language courses, and training for specialists working with the target group, including journalists and editors.

Society “Shelter “Safe House”” is implementing the project “Information Centre for Newcomers II” supported by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The purpose of the project is to ensure a coordinated support system for immigrants, who have been granted the right to stay in the territory of Latvia providing complete information about support, adaptation and integration services in Latvia. Under the project professional advisers provide free consultations on matters like education, employment, migration, legal matters; and psychological support, an information hotline and translation services are available.

As at 31 December 2020, 98,328 foreign nationals were registered in Latvia, of whom 44,948 received temporary residence permits (hereinafter referred to as TRP) and 53,380 had permanent residence permits (hereinafter referred to as PRP), together making 4.7% of the total population of Latvia.

  

Of 98,328 foreign nationals, who were registered in Latvia in 2020, 80,199 or 82% were third country nationals, but 18,129 or 18% were nationals of the European Union and European Economic Area member states.

Statistical data shows that the total numbers of immigrants are increasing – to compare, only 7,429 foreign nationals with TRP and 26,976 foreign nationals with PRT were staying in Latvia in 2005, but 33,244 foreign nationals with TRP and 51,029 foreign nationals with PRP were staying in Latvia in 2015.

Studies ,,A Portrait of Third Country Nationals in Latvia” and ,,Examination of the Situation of Third Country Nationals in Latvia in 2017” show that about three fourths of newcomers know Russian, and every third newcomer knows Latvian and English.

The reasons, for which third country nationals obtain residence permits in Latvia tend to change. If the main reason for immigration in 2005 (more than 40% of issued temporary residence permits) was family reunification, in 2009 it was employment (more than 45% of temporary residence permits), then in 2013 most temporary residence permits were issued for investment in real estate. 3 main reasons for receiving a residence permit prevailed in 2016 – 29% invested in real estate, employment – 22%, studies – 15%. Significant differences can be observed in the reasons, for which third country nationals stay in Latvia. As at 1 July 2017, most TRP for investment in real estate were issued to Chinese (84%), Russian (59%) and Kazakh (54%) nationals. Work and qualified work was the most common reason for issuing TPR to Ukrainian (44% and 8%, respectively) and Byelorussian (39% and 6%, respectively) nationals. Family reunification as the reason for staying is characteristic for Byelorussian (33%), Ukrainian (23%) and Russian (20%) nationals. The main reason for staying of Indian and Uzbek nationals in Latvia are studies (76% and 62%, respectively). Studies are a considerably less common, yet significant enough reason for staying of Kazakh nationals (25%).

The involvement of third country nationals in different sectors of national economy in the field of employment has changed. The share of third country nationals employed in transport, logistics and communications has been growing rapidly since 2014.

When a family member obtains TRP, their families go to Latvia as well. As of 31 December 2020, 83% of all foreign nationals with a valid TRP were applicants and 17% were their family members.

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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