In 2018, 12 000 new immigrants obtained a residence permit longer than 12 months in Lithuania (excluding EU citizens), 21.9% more than in 2017. This figure comprises 80.3% labour migrants, 8.2% family members (including accompanying family), 6.9% who came for education reasons and 4.6% other migrants. Around 400 short-term permits were issued to international students and 100 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 3 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2018, an increase of 34.2% compared to 2017. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Ukraine registered the strongest increase (1 400) and Syria the largest decrease (-100) in flows to Lithuania compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 62.3%, to reach around 600. The majority of applicants came from Russia (300), Tajikistan (200) and Syria (15). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Russia (+200) and the largest decrease nationals of Iraq (-25). Of the 300 decisions taken in 2019, 27.7% were positive.

Since July 2019, the Migration Department is responsible for legal migration, while border security and irregular migration are the duties of the State border guard service. Police is no longer responsible for these issues. Foreigners who entered Lithuania without the proper documentation, or overstayed after their visa expired, are given wider possibilities to leave the country voluntarily within a specific time limit. Expulsion decisions are no longer taken by the police but jointly by the Migration Department and the State Border Guard Service.

The government of Lithuania signed in December 2018 an Agreement on employment and cooperation in the field of labour migration with Ukraine. In January 2019 it also signed a readmission agreement with the government of Viet Nam, following the increase in the activities of organised criminal groups involved in the irregular migration of Vietnamese citizens.

In 2019, several measures came into force easing requirements and facilitating the entry and residence of different categories of workers. For workers originating from countries which have been granted visa-free travel, a list of approved employers was established (competent institutions may request proof of qualifications), foreigners may work for multiple employers and change employer while in the country. At the same time, measures were introduced in order to prevent abuse of immigration system. Posted foreign workers need work permit and temporary employment agencies cannot recruit foreigners.

In spring 2019, the Ministry of the Interior, the Migration department and the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Start-up Employee Visa scheme. Since March 2019 highly skilled third-country workers may change employer or job function with the same employer without renewing their temporary residence permit. A change in the overall average gross monthly earnings should not impact on the validity of a Blue Card already issued. Regarding applications for highly qualified jobs subject to a labour market test, the Migration Department now serves as a ‘one-stop shop’ for both the application of a temporary residence permit and regarding the decision of the Employment Service.

At the same time, in July 2019 in response to the steep increase in inflow of labour migrants, amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners were adopted in order to introduce quotas for third-country workers coming to work in shortage occupations. The first quota will be established for 2021. Moreover, the amendment of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, which regulates the access of asylum seekers to the labour market (six months after the asylum application was submitted) was adopted on 3 December 2019. The asylum seeker’s right to work is confirmed by a registration certificate.

National borders were closed on 16 March 2020 as the country started a nationwide quarantine, with the exception of persons with valid long-term residence permits. The transit of people returning to their home country through Lithuania was allowed. During the confinement deportations were suspended and stay permits were tacitly extended.

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