New regulation makes bringing in high-skilled foreign workers to Latvia easier

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Ammendments to the Immigration Law of Latvia has been passed to make it easier to bring in high-skilled workers for positions that are hard to fill, and is in force as of May 1, 2017. The ammendments include positions that are particularly relevant to startups.

On February 2, 2017, the Latvian parliament (Saeima) endorsed in the final reading amendments to the Immigration Law, including several proposals from the Ministry of Economics that concerned facilitating entry of highly qualified foreign specialists in Latvia, including startup founders as well as foreigners to work jobs that are hard to fill.

The amendments to the Immigration Law have introduced three important solutions for attracting highly qualified specialists and startup founders, the overall hiring process has been streamlined, and foreign students now have the opportunity to work 20 hours a week for any employer.

Hiring foreigners to work jobs that are hard to fill will take less time now. Experts who apply for the European Union Blue Card will now require a lower minimum wage criterion – the average wage in the previous year will be applied a coefficient of 1.2 as compared to a coefficient of 1.5 before.

As for the rest of employees, the minimum period when a job opening has to be registered with the State Employment Agency until the employer has the right to offer the job to a foreigner has been reduced to ten days.

There is now also a special temporary residence permit for startup founders, which gives third-country citizens the right to receive residence permits in Latvia for the establishment of startups and development of their products, as well as applying for qualified venture capital investment. At the same time, the law provides for certain activities and time frameworks when recipients of temporary residence permits have to prove the viability of their ideas. Under the temporary residence permit procedure, a third-country citizen who wishes to develop an innovative product or service in Latvia has to apply to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, which, after assessing the application, issues him or her a three-year temporary residence permit.

Following the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office’s decision, the third-country citizen has three months to become a registered member of the board at a startup not older than one year. In six months, the person has to receive qualified venture capital investment in the startup, worth no less than EUR 30,000, and in eighteen months another qualified venture capital investment of at least EUR 30,000.

Should any of these conditions not be met, the temporary residence permit will be terminated. After the temporary residence permit expires in three years, it will not be renewed but the foreigner will be able to apply for another one, for instance, in his or her capacity as an employee or a company board member.