RIGA - The Interior Ministry is planning to propose amendments to immigration rules to toughen checks on Russian, Belarusian and Cameroonian citizens entering Latvia.
In recent years, the Latvian Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, has been receiving an increasing number of long-term visa application from citizens of Cameroon. The number of visa denials to Cameroonian citizens increased especially steeply in 2021 - from the 36 visa requests denied last year 33 requests were denied to citizens of Cameroon. Representatives of the embassy and the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also note that the Cameroonian applicants often submit documents with visible signs of forgery.
Considering Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has underscored the necessity to step up checks on Russian citizens arriving in Latvia to assess potential risks to national security and public order.
In 2021, Latvian visas were issued to 11,087 citizens of Russia. Another 1,446 visas were issued to from January 1, 2022 to February 24, 2022, and 910 visas were issued from February 25 to June 17, 2022.
Because of Russia's aggression in Ukraine, Latvian diplomatic and consular missions in foreign countries have temporarily stopped accepting visa applications from Russian citizens. Latvia issues visas to Russian citizens only in exceptional cases on humanitarian considerations in cases involving threats to life or security. Such exceptions are mainly applied to family members of Latvian and EU citizens, as well as in cases of a grave illness or death of a relative. Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic have taken a similar approach.
The Interior Ministry indicates that Belarus has been supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine, letting Russian armed forces to use Belarusian territory for preparing and launching attacks on Ukraine. Meanwhile, cooperation between Russian and Belarusian intelligence and security services has been close for a long time already as they have been collaborating on joint operations and involving Russian and Belarusian citizens in their espionage activities.
Considering the above, the Interior Ministry has drafted proposals to amend the Regulation Regarding States for the Citizens of which in Issuing a Visa or a Residence Permit an Additional Assessment shall be Performed by adding Belarus and Cameroon to the list of countries whose citizens are subject to additional checks.
The ministry also proposes additional assessment of any Russian citizens (regardless of their place of residence or birth) seeking Latvian visas or residence permits.
The draft amendments have been submitted to the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Foreign Affairs. After they are approved by the ministries, the draft amendments will be put before the government.