ENTRY, WORK AND RESIDENCE PERMITS
According to the Immigration Law, foreign nationals are entitled to enter and reside in Latvia if they have valid travel documents. If foreign nationals wish to reside in Latvia for more than 90 days within a 6-month period, they must obtain a visa or residence permit. Since accession in the EU, citizens of other EU Member States do not require visas or a residence permits, but must obtain a registration card from the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs if their stay in Latvia exceeds 90 days.
Since 21 December 2007, Latvia has been a member of the Schengen Agreement, therefore it is possible to travel to other Schengen countries with a Schengen visa issued in Latvia. Foreign nationals are entitled to request visas if they:
An invitation is mandatory if a natural or legal person in Latvia is considered to be an employer in accordance with the Law on State Social Insurance and they intend to employ a foreign national by entering into an employment contract or a work-performance contract. However, foreign nationals who wish to establish employment relationships or become self-employed must have a work permit.
Work permits are issued by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs on the basis of visa or residence permits. If employers intend to employ a foreign national, they must register a job vacancy with the State Employment Agency (SEA) at least one month before applying to the SEA for approval of invitations for visas or sponsorship for residence permits. Foreign nationals must receive separate work permits if they will work for more than one employer or in several positions. Where the employment of foreign nationals relates to short-term stays in Latvia that do not exceed 90 days in a six-month period, work permits can be issued in accordance with the validity of visas.
Residence permits allow foreign nationals to stay in Latvia temporarily or permanently for periods exceeding 90 days in a six-month period. Residence permits may be requested by self-employed persons, members of the boards of directors or supervisory councils of companies registered in the Commercial Register, persons authorized to represent foreign companies in branch activities and in other situations prescribed in the Immigration Law. Since April 2010, temporary residence permits may be requested by foreign nationals who have invested at least EUR 35 000 in the equity capital of a capital company and, during a financial year, the capital company pays at least EUR 40 000 in taxes or has acquired real estate worth at least EUR 250 000, or has made subordinated capital investments of at least EUR 250 000 in a Latvian credit institution.
REAL ESTATE ACQUISITION PROCEDURES AND RESTRICTIONS
Latvian legislation provides no restrictions on the acquisition or transfer of ownership rights to real estate in cities for citizens of Latvia, citizens of EU Member States and companies in which more than 50 % of equity is owned by citizens of Latvia or EU Member States or by natural or legal persons from countries with which Latvia has entered into international agreements on the promotion and protection of investments. Foreign nationals from third countries are subject to restrictions on the acquisition of land in State border zones, specially protected areas and agricultural or forest land.
Acquisition of real estate in rural areas
The Law on Land Privatisation in Rural Areas states that transactions may only be conducted with land which has been recorded in the Land Register. Rural land only can be acquired by citizens of Latvia, public stock companies if the shares thereof are quoted in the stock exchange or companies registered in the Register of Enterprises of Latvia if:
As from 1 May 2011, citizens of EU Member States and legal persons registered in EU Member States will be able to acquire rural land under the same conditions as citizens of Latvia. Until then, citizens of EU member states can acquire agricultural land if they have been actively engaged in agricultural activities in Latvia for three years.
If the said persons wish to acquire ownership of land, they must submit an application to the parish council (municipality, city council) in whose territory the relevant land is located, indicating the purpose of future land use. Parish councils (municipality, city council) shall approve acquisition of land within 20 days.
Transfer of rights to real estate
Each real estate transaction involving changes in ownership rights must be registered in the Land Register which stores information regarding the legal status of real estate. Registration of the transfer of real-estate ownership rights is done by submitting registration applications signed by both seller and purchaser. Before registration with the Land Register, the owner must settle any real-estate tax debt on the property and pay stamp and state duties (see Section Real Estate Tax). Applications for transfer of real-estate rights are reviewed in ten days.