Court rules that requirement for Latvian language for Russian citizens is constitutional

  • 2024-02-15
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Constitutional Court has concluded that the regulations for Russian citizens to prove their knowledge of the Latvian language to be able to receive residence permits is constitutional.

The Constitutional Court said that the transition regulations for the Immigration Law meet the Constitution. Russian citizens are given an opportunity to prove their reason for residence in Latvia's territory if they are motivated to make the necessary actions.

The amendments stipulate that permanent residence permits for Russian citizens in Latvia expire on September 1, 2023. However, if they wish to receive a permanent residence permit repeatedly, they should submit a certification the official language skills at least A2 (conversational language) level.

Those who do not certify their language skills and are not exempted (due to health, old age, or Latvian-language education) must leave the country.

The application was submitted to the Constitutional Court by Russian citizens who were granted permanent residence permits. The applicants considered that they were placed in an unequal situation with other former Latvian citizens and non-citizens who had obtained permanent residence permits. They believe that depriving them of the residence permits infringed their right to respect for private life and the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations.

As reported, the Immigration Law provides that permanent residence permits issued to Russian citizens expired in September 2023. In order to continue to live in Latvia, they had to apply for the status of a permanent resident of the European Union, but in order to obtain it they had to submit to the Citizenship and Migration Board (PMLP) documents proving that they have a minimum command of the state language and sufficient financial resources.

Shortly before these provisions came into force, Saeima decided to amend the Immigration Law, giving Russian citizens living in Latvia two more years to pass a Latvian language test in order to continue to reside legally in Latvia. In addition, from September Russian citizens living in Latvia had to at least obtain a temporary residence permit. According to the PMLP, those Russian citizens who have not done anything to regularize their status in Latvia will have their residence permits revoked and will be sent letters asking them to leave the country.

The amendments to the Immigration Law provide that Russian citizens who have not passed the Latvian language test for justified reasons may apply for a residence permit of up to two years, during which period they have to pass the test.