On 2 February 2017, the Latvian Parliament approved amendments to the Immigration Law at the final reading. The amendments bring significant material changes in three areas:

1. Latvia introduces special temporary residence permit for establishment of start-ups

The plan is that starting from 1 May 2017 a foreigner will have the option to obtain a temporary residence permit (TRP) for up to three years if planning to carry out activities with the aim of creating or developing an innovative product and the following conditions are met after issue of the TRP:

  • within three months after issue of the TRP, the foreigner is registered as a board member of a company registered in the Commercial Register not longer than a year ago and which will provide the framework for activity;
  • within six months after issue of the first TRP, a qualified venture capitalist invests at least EUR 30,000 in the share capital of the company and the investment reaches EUR 60,000 within 18 months.

Additionally, the company’s tax debt may not exceed EUR 150, while the foreigner may not be employed by another employer or registered as an officer of a different company.

2. Regulations have been mitigated for issuing TRPs to highly qualified specialists and employees in professions that will face a foreseeable lack of labour force

As from 1 September 2017, foreigners will have less stringent conditions to qualify for an EU blue card. In particular, namely, the requirement of three years higher education in the speciality or industry concerned will be replaceable by five years professional experience in the speciality or industry concerned. The Cabinet of Ministers will set a procedure for recognising professional experience as suitable. From 1 May 2017 the document revision timeline for issue of a EU blue card will be decreased to 10 business days (the general timeline for a TRP is 30 days).

As from 1 May 2017, the procedure for obtaining TRPs is expected to undergo simplification in industries where the Cabinet of Ministers foresees a significant lack of labour force. The following less-burdensome conditions will apply to obtaining a TRP:

  • a salary of the average monthly gross salary paid to employees in Latvia during the previous year, with an index of 1.2, can be paid to a foreigner who applies for a blue card;
  • in other cases, where rules on employing foreigners require registration of a vacancy at the State Employment Agency before a foreigner is invited, the job will have to be vacant for at least 10 business days. The general regulations on employment of foreigners require that the job is vacant at the State Employment Agency for at least a month.

As the respective Cabinet Regulations have not yet been drafted, it is presently not known what criteria will determine whether a foreigner's professional experience can be recognised as sufficient for obtaining a EU blue card; likewise, it is not clear what professions will be considered as lacking labour force.

3. Amendments have been introduced to the procedure for obtaining TRPs for representatives of foreign company representative offices

The amendments will limit options for representatives of foreign company representative offices to obtain TRPs. These representatives will now be allowed to obtain a TRP for up to two years (instead of four years). The foreign company will have to fulfil the following requirements to ensure that their representative qualifies for a TRP:

  • it must be incorporated for at least five years before submission of a residence application;
  • it must have employed at least 50 employees during the preceding year;
  • annual turnover must exceed EUR 10 million;
  • it may not have tax debts.

The plan is that documents submitted by 30 April 2017 will be reviewed in compliance with the wording of the Immigration Law of 1 July 2016; at present, the representative of a foreign company representative office needs to submit only a business plan to obtain a residence permit. Taking into account the new requirements, in order to obtain a TRP the representative of a foreign company will have to submit a range of additional documents to confirm that the company complies with the above requirements; thus the procedure will become more complicated. However, as the amendments to the respective Cabinet Regulations have not yet been drafted, the required documents and the form of their submission is not yet known.

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