Despite the fact that for more than a year and a half the whole world has been forced to live according to the new rules dictated by Covid-19, the possibility of obtaining a residence permit in Latvia is still of interest. So, what has changed in this area compared to pre-Covid days?
Firstly, documents for an initial application for a residence permit can now be submitted only through the embassy of Latvia (earlier, certain categories of applicants – in particular, investors in real estate or in the capital of a Latvian company – were entitled to submit the documents in Latvia – directly to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA), but it’s no longer possible).
The only exception is provided for citizens of those countries with which Latvia
has a visa-free regime (Israel, USA, Canada, Ukraine, etc.).
If a citizen of such a country happens to be in Latvia, then he/she can submit documents for a residence permit by regular mail to the address of any branch of the OCMA.
As for those foreigners who already have a residence permit in Latvia and need to submit documents for the annual registration of their residence permit, now they can do this either electronically using their electronic signature, or by sending documents by regular mail to the address of any branch of the OCMA.
Due to the restrictions imposed by the Latvian government, the process of entering Latvia has become much more complicated after the person has received a positive decision from the OCMA on granting (or annual registration) of a residence permit – in order to be photographed and receive a new residence permit card.
If a foreigner is vaccinated with a vaccination recognized by the European Union and has got the EU digital Covid certificate, then there are no problems – the person arrives and literally the next day can attend the OCMA to be photographed. If, however, a foreigner is not vaccinated at all or has been vaccinated with a vaccine not recognized by the European Union,
then upon arrival in Latvia he/she will have to observe 10 days of self-isolation.
An exception to this rule is when a foreigner arrives from a country with a s.c. low health risk (i.e. the 14-day cumulative incidence rate of coronavirus does not exceed the incidence rate of 75), in this case, the self-isolation regime does not have to be observed even if the person is not vaccinated or vaccinated with a vaccine not recognized in the EU.
Corresponding lists are published on the website of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia and are updated every Friday, which creates great inconvenience for those entering, because it may happen that while a person was in the process of planning a trip, making an appointment for photographing at the OCMA and buying air tickets, a safe country from which he/she was planning to fly, has moved from the “green” list to the list of high-risk countries.
Since the OCMA understands perfectly well that under the circumstances for many foreigners entrance to Latvia for photographing and obtaining a residence permit card is not yet possible or very difficult for some categories of persons who have received a residence permit (we are primarily talking about investors who received a residence permit based on the purchase of real estate in Latvia), the period during which a foreigner can receive his/her residence permit card has been extended (and more than once).
Before the pandemic, the period of validity of the decision of the OCMA on the initial issuance or annual registration of a residence permit was clearly prescribed in the law – 3 months from the date of this decision, and if a foreigner for some reason did not appear at the OCMA during these three months, then the decision was annulled and the foreigner had to go through the procedure for submitting the documents once again.
At the moment, the following rule applies: the period of validity of the decision does not include the time period until December 31, 2021. This means
that the three-month period begins its countdown from January 1, 2022,
and a foreigner has the opportunity to come to Latvia for photographing and receiving a residence permit card until the end of March 2022. It is possible that this period will also be extended if the epidemiological situation in the world does not improve.
As for the rest, basically nothing has changed for applicants for a residence permit – the grounds for obtaining a residence permit (as well as the list of required documents) has remained the same as before the pandemic.
IMPORTANT! Please be advised that from April 1, 2019, all higher education diplomas, as well as documents relating to acts of civil status (birth certificate and marriage certificate), as well as police clearance certificates issued by the relevant organizations and institutions of a non-EU country, on the basis of the Hague Convention, abolishing the requirement of legalization of foreign official documents of October 5, 1961,
must be certified by Apostille in the competent institution of the respective country.
Let us briefly look through several of the currently most popular reasons for obtaining a residence permit.
Residence Permit via Employment
Some time ago, the procedure for issuing a formal invitation for a future employee was somewhat simplified – if earlier a vacancy for a future employee was supposed to be on the website of the State Employment Agency of Latvia for at least 1 month, now this period has been reduced to 10 working days.
The minimum wage for a foreign worker is currently 1143 euro (gross),
and this amount is reconsidered every year on April 1 by the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.
In order for a future employee to be able to apply for a residence permit to the Latvian embassy, the Latvian employer must issue an invitation call for him/her. Before the pandemic, the invitation could be issued personally when attending the OCMA, but since March last year this can only be done electronically, using an electronic signature, or by authorization through the Internet bank.
Residence Permit for the Member of the Board
In order for a foreigner to apply for a residence permit as a member of the board of a Latvian company, the following requirements must be met:
1) the company must have existed for at least 1 year at the time of the request for a residence permit;
2) the company must conduct an active commercial activity;
3) the activities of the company must bring economic benefits to the Republic of Latvia.
The minimum salary for a foreign board member is currently 2286 euro (gross), and this amount is reviewed every year on April 1 by the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.
Please be advised that in a year, when undergoing an annual residence permit registration, the OCMA will take into consideration at how much taxes the Latvian company has paid to the Latvian budget during the previous year.
The law establishes a minimum of 21,350 euro per year.
If the amount of taxes paid by the company is less than the above minimum, then the residence permit of a member of the board will be annulled.
IMPORTANT! Often, Latvian companies are wary of this type of residence permit, because they are reluctant to grant the signatory right to a newly-appointed foreign board member. However, there is a way to get around this dangerous moment:
Immigration law allows not only a member of the board, but also a member of the council to apply for a residence permit.
In this case, the foreigner, as a member of the council, will formally be on the board of the company, but will not have the right to sign on behalf of the company and, thus, will not be able to influence the decision-making process in any way.
Residence Permit via the Purchase of the Property
In order to be able to apply for a residence permit through investment into the real estate, a foreigner must acquire in one of the large cities of Latvia one functionally connected real estate object (with the exception of undeveloped land) worth at least 250,000 euro, which meets the following requirements:
a) there is no real estate tax debt;
b) payment of the total cost was made using a non-cash payment from a personal account;
c) real estate was purchased from a legal entity that meets certain criteria, or from an individual (Latvian citizen, EU citizen or foreigner who is in Latvia with a valid residence permit issued in the Republic of Latvia);
d) the total cadastral value of real estate at the time of purchase is not less than 80,000;
e) the property does not include agricultural land or forest.
In case of a positive decision on the issuance of a residence permit, the investor will have to pay a state duty to the Latvian budget in
the amount of 5% of the value of the property.
Residence Permit via Investment into the Capital of the Latvian Company
In order for a foreigner to be able to apply for a residence permit through investment into the capital in the amount of 50,000 euro, the following requirements must be met:
1) It can be an investment in an already existing capital company or an investment in a capital company created from scratch;
2) The capital company must employ no more than 50 employees and the annual turnover must not exceed EUR 10 million;
3) After a positive decision is made on the issuance of a residence permit, the investor will have to pay 10,000 euro to the budget of Latvia.
Please be advised that in a year, when undergoing an annual residence permit registration,the OCMA will look at how much the Latvian company paid taxes to the Latvian budget for the past year.
The law establishes a minimum of 40,000 euro per year.
If the amount of taxes paid by the company is less than the above minimum, then the residence permit of the investor will be annulled.
IMPORTANT! Together with a foreigner, his/her minor children and spouse have the right to apply for a residence permit. After reaching the age of 18, a child will continue to receive a residence permit on the basis of family reunification, provided that he she has not married or started a separate household.
With many years of practical experience and knowledge,
Law Office Inlatplus
is ready to provide effective legal assistance in all matters related to obtaining a residence permit on various grounds, as well as help with opening a company in Latvia, fully accompany the real estate purchase transaction, advise on employment in Latvia and render any other legal matters.