Existing legislation is set to cause thousands of Russian citizens in Latvia to lose their residence permits, while many have taken no action to prevent it. The fate of those affected remains uncertain.
Latvia is home to around 25,000 Russian citizens. To continue living in Latvia legally, Russian citizens must apply for a long-term residence permit, which requires A2 proficiency of the national language – Latvian.
A total of 13,147 Russian citizens have registered for the test and 11,301 have taken it. 61 percent of Russian citizens failed the test the first time, while 6,500 have registered for a second try. The next exams period is September 4 to November 30, LSM reports.
"Starting from this week, Russian Federation citizens will be taking the exam. These are the people who failed the first time. We also have Russian citizens who will be taking the exam for the first time," official for the Latvian state Liene Berzina said.
Another 800 people have decided to apply for a fixed-term residence permit. This means that thousands of Russian citizens could lose grounds for legally staying in Latvia, which would force 4,500 to leave the country.
"The way this works is that we notify them of the situation, that pursuant to the law their residence permit is no longer valid. They would have to leave in 90 days. Life will become difficult for them if they fail to do so. They will not be able to cross the border legally. They will not be able to go anywhere," said Maira Roze, head of the Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs.
Latvia is planning a last-minute amendment to give those that need to take the language test more time. This requires approval from the parliament, with things further complicated by Latvia's looming change of government.
Editor: Karl Kivil, Marcus Turovski