Latvia Issues Departure Notices to 3,600 Russian Citizens Over Language Proficiency Concerns

Latvia Issues Departure Notices to 3,600 Russian Citizens Over Language Proficiency Concerns

RIGA, September 18, 2023 - A reported 3,600 Russian citizens, permanently residing in Latvia, are set to receive notices this week instructing them to depart from the country within 90 days. This development stems from a recent decision that required Russian citizens in Latvia to demonstrate proficiency in the Latvian language by the beginning of September.

Maira Roze, an official from the Citizenship and Migration Department (UDGM), conveyed this information on TV3's Neka Personīga news program. She explained that these individuals failed to pass the Latvian language exam or did not even attempt it. "During these 90 days, many individuals will undoubtedly become agitated – we have already received numerous calls from individuals who, despite assurances, failed to take the necessary actions to secure their stay," Roze commented.

Roze further elaborated, "Another segment of these citizens had hoped for intervention from the Constitutional Court. They had been advised to remain patient, with the belief that their issues would be resolved. Unfortunately, their hopes were dashed, and they now face the potential loss of their residence permits. They will be given the opportunity to reapply for permits, but without any preferential treatment, akin to any other Russian citizen who isn't a long-term resident of Latvia."

Out of an estimated 25,000 Russian citizens affected by this new regulation, a commendable 14,000 have successfully applied for permanent resident status in Latvia. Additionally, about 1,000 of these citizens applied for residency under the assumption that the Latvian parliament, Saeima, would extend the window for the language examination. In total, around 6,700 individuals registered for a second attempt at the exam.

Earlier this year, the Latvian Saeima finalized amendments to their immigration policy, extending the duration for Russian citizens to prove their Latvian language proficiency by two additional years, a requirement for obtaining permanent residency. It was also reported that a significant majority of the Russian citizens who initially took the language test were unsuccessful.

Furthermore, 80 individuals who managed to clear the language test were denied certificates due to identified security concerns.

This decision, seen by many as a severe infringement on human rights, has sparked concerns over increasing tensions between Latvia and Russia, with some fearing that it may push the nations closer to conflict. The situation remains highly volatile, with international observers closely monitoring developments.