On Thursday, 21 June, the Saeima in the third reading adopted amendments to the Immigration Law. According to the amendments, foreign students, researchers and their host institutions, such as educational establishments and research institutes, will benefit from simplified administrative procedures.
The new provisions of the Law also specify the employment rights of researchers and students. Researchers now have unlimited access to the labour market, thus creating a better environment for attracting high-skilled foreign researchers, whereas students will remain under the 20-hour work week limitation. These limits do not apply to university holidays, thus allowing students to work 40 hours a week during summers.
Until now all students and researchers who had acquired a residence permit or long-stay visa in another European Union member state and had come to Latvia in scope of a mobility programme, were allowed to work in other professions or as research assistants, or in other academic positions, for no more than 20-hours a week.
The scope of work permit exemptions applicable to foreign nationals has also been broadened. Exemptions now apply to foreign students and interns who are either undergoing internship during their studies or no later than two years after graduating from a relevant higher education programme. According to the summary of the Law, these exemptions have been introduced because foreigners undergoing internship do not compete for the particular position with Latvian workforce.
The amendments also stipulate that voluntary work and participation in student mobility programmes is now among the criteria for receiving a long-term visa. The Law has also extended the duration of temporary residence permits issued to students and researchers who have completed their studies or internship and are either looking for a job or thinking about setting up their own business. Instead of six months as it has been until now, the residence permits will be valid for nine months.
According to the amendments, if a holder violates the terms of employment, the temporary residence permit may be revoked. The residence permit maybe revoked if, for example, a foreign student works longer hours than permitted or fails to meet the study requirements, or in all other cases when a person does not adhere to the conditions of their employment rights.
According to the amendments, visa exemption applies to foreign nationals who arrive in Latvia with a valid travelling document issued by their country of origin and laissez-passer issued by the Council of Europe, i.e., members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, justices of the European Court of Human Rights, members of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, members of particular monitoring mechanisms of the Council of Europe, and employees of the Council of Europe bodies from any of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
The amendments also introduce a requirement to perform corporate integrity checks. Such checks will apply to cases when a foreigner employed by a company who also holds an administrative position in a company and is registered in the Enterprise register, either applies for a residence permit for the first time or applies for the extension of an existing permit. According to the summary of the Law, these checks will eliminate residence permit abuse cases.
Saeima Press Service