On 9 May 2013, the Saeima (Parliament) adopted Amendments to the Citizenship Law that came into effect on 1 October 2013. The overall objective of the Amendments is twofold: to adjust the Citizenship Law taking into account developments in Latvia and in the world since 1998, and to further simplify the process of citizenship acquisition and naturalization.
Regarding the first objective, increased mobility of Latvia's population after joining the EU and, consequently, the need to sustain ties with citizens all over the world determined the need to extend significantly the scope of dual citizenship. Under the amendments, the descendants of Latvian exiles and Latvians all over the world can obtain Latvian citizenship while retaining the citizenship of another country. At the same time, the citizenship of Latvia can be retained by Latvian citizens who have been granted the citizenship of an EU Member State, a European Free Trade Association member state, a NATO member state, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.
Regarding the second aim, several measures have been implemented.
In accordance with the Amendments, Latvian citizenship is granted automatically to children of stateless persons and non-citizens: one parent’s consent is sufficient to register a newborn child whose parents are stateless or non-citizens as a citizen of Latvia at the time of the birth registration at the Civil Registry Office. The Amendments also eliminate a previous requirement for the parents to make a pledge of loyalty when registering citizenship of the child of a stateless person or a non-citizen.
According to the Amendments, a child under the age of 15 that has not been registered as a citizen of Latvia at the time of the registration of their birth can be registered as a citizen with an application submitted by one of the parents. Between 15-18 years of age, a child can themselves apply to be registered as a citizen.
The Amendments also provide that pupils who have acquired more than half of the basic educational program in the Latvian language are exempt from all naturalization examinations and are registered as citizens upon submitting a naturalization application in accordance with the standard procedures.
The Amendments also simplify the requirements regarding permanent residence for the naturalization applicants, removing the requirement for uninterrupted residence in Latvia. A specific paragraph of the Amendments deals with the Latvian language test and exemptions therefrom. Namely, the requirements of the Latvian language naturalisation test have been standardised and are in line with the requirements of the centralised language tests in educational institutions, be it Latvian or national minority educational institutions. As a result of the Amendments, former military personnel of the USSR (Russia) who opted to remain living in Latvia after the breakup of the Soviet Union now have the possibility to acquire Latvian citizenship by completing the naturalization procedure.
Since the restoration of independence in 1991, Latvia has engaged in a challenging long-term effort to promote societal integration. High-ranking officials from the Council of Europe and the OSCE have recognised that Latvia has been following recommendations concerning citizenship matters. The European Union has approved of the application of the Citizenship Law and the naturalisation process as a whole.
We believe that the Amendments to the Citizenship Law attest to yet another expression of Latvia’s will and interest to further consolidate and integrate its society.