Integration of third country nationals in Latvia

In the European Union, 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 for consular services – the procedure of using of 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.

In 2004, the European Union adopted Common Basic Principles for immigrant integration policy in the European Union Some of the 1 principles:

1. Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States.

2. Integration implies respect for the basic values of the European Union.

4. Basic knowledge of the host societys language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration.

7. Frequent interaction between immigrants and Member State citizens is a fundamental mechanism for integration. Shared forums, inter-cultural dialogue, education about immigrants and immigrant cultures, and stimulating living conditions in urban environments enhance the interactions between immigrants and Member State citizens.

9. The participation of immigrants in the democratic process and in the formulation of integration policies and measures, especially at the local level, supports their integration. 10. Mainstreaming integration policies and measures in all relevant policy portfolios and levels of government and public services is an important consideration in public-policy formation and implementation.

A link to the document is here. 

Although integration matters are mainly in the competence of European Union members states, the European Union assists in formulating integration policies by implementing policy coordination and promoting information exchange, as well as by supporting integration efforts of 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.

Since 2016, the Ministry of Culture as an authority delegated by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund in Latvia has been implementing projects supporting integration of immigrants, providing complete information about support and integration measures, offering courses of integration and Latvian language, as well as training for specialists working with the target group, journalists and editors, and coordinating the implementation of measures for integration of third country nationals in accordance with the measure “Support to third country nationals, including the persons requiring international protection, in being part of society” defined in the National Identity, Civic Society and Integration Policy Implementation Plan for 2019 – 2020.

Society “Shelter “Safe House”” is implementing the project “Information Centre for Newcomers” supported by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The purpose of the project is to ensure a coordinated one-stop-shop agency principle based support system for immigrants, who have obtained the right to stay in the territory of Latvia providing complete information about support, adaptation and integration services in five planning regions of Latvia. Within the project professional advisers provide free consultations on matters like education, employment, migration, legal matters, as well as there is support of psychologists, informative hotline and translation services.

As at 31 December 2019, 98,366 foreigners were registered in Latvia, of whom 45,027 received temporary residence permits (hereinafter referred to as TRP) and 53,339 had permanent residence permits (hereinafter referred to as PRP), together making 4.7% of the total Latvian population.


Of 98,366 foreigners, who were registered in Latvia in 2019, 79,652 or 81% were third country nationals, but 18,714 or 19% were nationals of European Union and European Economic Area members states.

Statistical data evidence that integration is generally growing – to compare, only 7,429 foreigners with TRP and 26,976 foreigners with PRT stayed in Latvia in 2005, but 23,674 foreigners with TRP and 46,669 foreigners with PRP stayed in Latvia in 2015. Furthermore, in 2017, the number of foreigners continued to grow – 78,451 of foreigners stayed in Latvia with TRP and 53,048 foreigners with PRP. When evaluating immigration trends, the number of immigrants in Latvia has been growing gradually, however, the number of recipients of TRP reduced considerably in 2019 compared to 2017.


In 2019, 841 persons from 29 countries received their first PRP, but 1,0418 persons from 113 countries received their first TRP.

Studies “Portrait of third country nationals in Latvia” and “Insight into the situation of third country nationals 2017” evidence that about three fourths of newcomers know Russian, and every third newcomer knows Latvian and English.

The reasons why 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 are observed in the reasons of staying of third country nationals in Latvia. As at 1 July 2017, most of TRP for investment into 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 Belorussian (39% and 6%, respectively) nationals. Family reunification as the reason for staying is characteristic for Belorussian (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 sufficiently significant 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. For example, 45,027 persons were issued TRP in Latvia in 2019, of which 37,267 or 83% were submitters of an application for TRP, but 7760 persons or 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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