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Saeima OKs residency permit compromise

  • 2013-10-31
  • From wire reports, RIGA

The Saeima on Oct. 31 passed amendments to the Immigration Law in the final reading, confirming the coalition’s compromise on the system of temporary residence permits.

The law provides that a third-country citizen may apply for Latvia’s temporary residence permit, valid for a period of up to five years, if he or she makes a payment of 50,000 euros into the state budget and if the person has bought real estate worth over 150,000 euros in Latvia.

The regulations on residence permits will apply to a limit of no more than 700 such deals annually, as well as to 100 purchases of properties worth more than 500,000 euros. If there are more than one hundred purchases of real estate worth more than 500,000 euros, the number of property purchases worth more than 150,000 euros to which the regulations on residence permits apply will be reduced accordingly.

In 2015 and 2016, the quota will be reduced to 525 and 350 permits, respectively, and the additional 100 permits will be issued annually for investments of over 500,000 euros.

The government, following the justice, interior and economy ministries’ proposals, could further reduce the quota. In 2017, the quota will be either the same as in 2016 or no temporary residence permits will be issued at all to third-country citizens who buy real estate in Latvia.

The money that foreigners pay into the state budget per each such real estate purchase will be used to help young families buy their first home or apartment and to implement the re-emigration strategy of Latvia.

From 2015, temporary residence permits will also be available to persons who buy interest-free government securities with the nominal value of 250,000 euros and pay 25,000 euros into the state budget.

Saeima also approved Agriculture Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Edvards Smiltens’ proposal that third-country citizens who buy agricultural farmland and forests in Latvia will not be able to apply for temporary residence permits. Likewise, residence permits will not be issued for purchases of undeveloped land.

The amendments will come into force on Jan. 1 next year.

Some media reported that President Andris Berzins could return the amendments to the parliament for a repeated review. Berzins has said that he considers the quotas on residence permits a short-sighted solution that is not in Latvia’s interest.

Several ruling coalition members, however, said that the coalition partners’ agreement on altering the residence permits system would not be changed even if the parliament was to review the amendments for a second time.

Former politician, now businessman ‘the bulldozer’ Ainars Slesers said, in an interview with the Neatkariga newspaper that he hopes that if Saeima does pass these amendments to the Immigration Law, President Berzins would be the one “to halt the amendments by not promulgating them.”

According to a study done by the Deloitte company, residence permits have brought 1.5 billion lats (2.1 billion euros) into Latvia, including 150 million lats paid directly into the state budget.

“Now politicians from All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK) want to bring down this program, and I have no choice but protect it. We have combined forces with other businessmen from the sector not to let this happen,” warned Slesers.

He said in the interview that returning to politics is not in his plans; however, he declares that “as a citizen I will be very active and do everything in my power so VL-TB/LNNK is not in the next government.”

Slesers was recently voted as the politician most voters would like to see not return to Latvian politics.