Saeima: non-ethnic Latvian citizens can now register as Latvians


On Thursday, 26 May, the Saeima approved in the second reading the amendments to the Law on the Change of a Given Name, Surname and Nationality Record. According to these amendments, citizens of Latvia who are not ethnically Latvian but have permanently lived in the country for at least 15 years, have learned the official language, and affiliate themselves with Latvian culture, will be granted a right to change their nationality to Latvian.

The legislative proposal approved by the parliament introduces a number of criteria for changing nationality of non-ethnic Latvian citizens to Latvian. The right to change nationality to Latvian will apply to non-ethnic Latvian citizens whose permanent residence has been Latvia for at least the past 15 years, whose Latvian language skills are at the highest level, and who identify themselves as Latvians, recognise their affiliation with Latvian culture and would like to officially declare their national belonging to Latvia.  

Such right will also extend to individuals of Latvian heritage who have developed bonds with Latvia and can provide evidence of their Latvian origin and language proficiency.  

The Law also states that individuals holding a valid residence permit, registration certificate or permanent residence permit can change their nationality to Latvian or Liiv (Livonian), if they provide evidence of Latvian origin and language proficiency. As of now, the Law grants such rights to citizens and non-citizens of Latvia, and individuals who have been granted a stateless person status by the Republic of Latvia. 

The right to change nationality to Latvian is not applicable to citizens of other countries; in addition, nationals of countries where nationality is not officially registered do not have the option to change their nationality according to the laws of those countries. The summary of the Law, indicates that, irrespective of their compliance with other criteria of the Citizenship Law, individuals coming from countries where nationality is not registered, due to the nationality registry requirement in Latvia, can obtain Latvian citizenship only after they have lived in Latvia for the required period of time and passed the naturalisation test.

Current provisions of the Law already require individuals wishing to change their nationality record to provide documentary evidence of their Latvian origin and language proficiency. 

Saeima Press Service