In 2020, 3 400 new immigrants obtained a residence permit longer than 12 months in Latvia (excluding EU citizens), -53.8% compared to 2019. This figure comprises 51.2% labour migrants, 22.3% family members (including accompanying family), 19.9% who came for education reasons and 6.6% other migrants. Around 500 short-term permits were issued to international students and 800 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 2 600 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2020, a decrease of -49% compared to 2019. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Ukraine, Russia and Uzbekistan were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2020. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Ukraine registered the largest decrease (-400) in flows to Latvia compared to the previous year.

In 2021, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 300% to reach around 600. The majority of applicants came from Iraq (400), Afghanistan (70) and Belarus (55). The largest increase since 2020 concerned nationals of Iraq (350) and the largest decrease nationals of Syria (-10). Of the 200 decisions taken in 2021, 45% were positive.

In 2020, new procedures were adopted to speed up the registration of an asylum seeker’s application and to introduce a uniform system for issuing an identity document, as well as indicating their place of accommodation or stay. Further improvements to the asylum register were made in 2021, including centralised updating of data and extending the amount of data to be included. In June 2021, the parliament adopted amendments to the Asylum Law to facilitate employment and access to health and education services for asylum seekers. Amendments to the Law on the Register of Natural Persons include information on asylum seekers and ensures that included and updated data will be centrally available to all institutions, resulting in faster service of asylum seekers in the institutions. Further amendments of the Immigration Law in September 2021 provide that a third-country national who has submitted an asylum application in Latvia has the right to employment if a decision on the granting of status has not been taken within three months.

In 2020, the mandatory requirement to prove sufficient financial resources was temporarily abolished if the third-country national entered Latvia and applied for a temporary residence permit by 10 June 2020. For persons applying for a first temporary residence permit after 10 June 2020, the requirements for meeting the national salary threshold or sufficient financial resources for third-country nationals are applied in full.

In December 2020, amendments to the Labour Law governing the posting of third-country workers were adopted to ensure more effective protection of the rights of posted employees in accordance with the legal norms of the European Union.

In June 2021, amendments to the Personal Identification Documents Law came into force, which introduced personal electronic ID cards for foreigners, allowing them to access government e-services, use an e-address, verify their identity and sign documents electronically, serving as a gateway to a wide range of public administration services offered by Latvia.

The rules regarding foreign students residing temporarily in Latvia were tightened in September 2021, putting greater focus on higher education institutions to report adverse behaviour or attendance. Further amendments were designed to improve the efficiency and infrastructure of border control.

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