In 2021, 20 000 new immigrants obtained a residence permit longer than 12 months in Lithuania (excluding EU citizens), -7.8% compared to 2020. This figure comprises 77.3% labour migrants, 8.6% family members (including accompanying family), 7.4% who came for education reasons and 6.8% other migrants. In addition, Lithuania received 940 immigrants benefitting from free mobility. Around 200 short-term permits were issued to international students and 200 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 4 400 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2021, a -5% decrease compared to 2020. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2021. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Belarus registered the strongest increase (+1 000) and Ukraine the largest decrease (-3 000) in flows to Lithuania compared to the previous year.

In 2022, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -77%, to reach around 900. The majority of applicants came from Belarus (400), Russia (100) and Iraq (100). The largest increase since 2021 concerned nationals of Belarus (+200) and the largest decrease nationals of Iraq (-2 300). Of the 740 decisions taken in 2022, 41% were positive.

Emigration of Lithuanian citizens to OECD countries increased by 14% in 2021, to 16 000. Approximately 21% of this group migrated to Germany, 19% to Norway and 12% to the Netherlands.

On 1 August 2022, several significant amendments to the Law on Legal Status of Foreigners came into force, simplifying immigration rules for highly qualified workers, students and start-ups, while easing associated administrative burdens for third country nationals, companies looking to hire foreigners, and public officials. The changes included easing the requirements for highly skilled workers, the abolition of company whitelisting for simplified recruitment procedures, simplifying the rules to obtain an EU Blue Card, allowing for temporary and multi-employer contracts, removing the 20-hour working limit for international students, and extending the validity of residence permits for doctoral students and foreigners working in start-ups. The amendments also provide more opportunities for work and self-employment for the most vulnerable third country nationals, including Ukrainian citizens, asylum seekers and irregular migrants. From 1 January 2023, third country nationals can also apply for a temporary residence permit while abroad via intermediaries.

The quota for foreigners working in shortage occupations (163 professions in 2022), and eligible for obtaining visa and residence permits under simplified procedure, was raised to 35 600.

In November 2021, the government declared a state of emergency on borders with Belarus and Russia owing to the heightened risks of irregular border crossings and hybrid attacks, which expired in January 2022. In August 2021, the Seimas adopted a law for installing a physical barrier (550 km long, 4 m high) to the Lithuanian-Belarusian border and its construction was completed in August 2022.

In March 2022, following the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive by the EU, Lithuania began granting temporary protection for persons fleeing Ukraine. The conditions for temporary protection are outlined in the Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners. In December 2022, the government decided to extend the provision of support to private hosts accommodating Ukrainian refugees until the end of 2023.

Following the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the state of emergency was reinstated on 24 February 2022. Under the state of emergency law, decisions on visa applications by the citizens of the Russian Federation and Belarus are suspended. The exception applies to cases where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an intermediary in issuing visas. Further restrictions were introduced to limit the entry of Russian citizens holding Schengen short-stay visas for non-essential purposes, in a concerted manner by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and took effect simultaneously in the three Baltic States on 19 September 2022.

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