Along with the amendments to the Immigration Law approved by the Saeima, opportunities are maintained to attract investors from countries of the OECD (Economic Cooperation and Development) who wish to transfer their companies from Russia or Belarus to Latvia. About 30 companies have already expressed an interest in such a possibility to the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA).
"Due to the changing geopolitical situation, the LIAA has suspended the work of its representative offices in Russia and Belarus, as well as all the initiated cooperation projects within these countries. However, we see that many Western companies want to maintain their presence in the region and are looking for ways to relocate to other countries. We are currently working with several large investors who are considering establishing their representative offices in Latvia. Some of these companies have teams of 500 employers. By implementing these projects, more than 2,500 new, well-paid jobs will be created in Latvia,” emphasizes Kaspars Rožkalns, Director of the LIAA.
According to the adopted amendments to the Immigration Law and the advice from the State Security Service, the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs will continue to issue temporary residence permits to citizens of the Russian Federation or Belarus on the basis of the employment of the specialists or managers in question in an undertaking in which at least 51 per cent of the capital is controlled by legal persons or nationals of an OECD member country. In addition, the export structure of incoming companies and the industry represented by the company will be assessed, with an emphasis on smart specialization companies that will be able to provide significant added value to the Latvian economy.
The regulation adopted by the Saeima preserves the opportunities to actively work on attracting investments, which are currently especially important for Latvia, taking into account the economic turmoil caused by the war and the Bank of Latvia's forecasts for a slowdown in economic development.
With the severance of economic relations with Russia and Belarus, the start-up community will also have to look for new target markets for business ideas and investment, as about 80% of issued start-up visas or temporary residence permits were for Russian and Belarusian citizens. “Latvia has one of the best start-up support systems in Europe. Since 2018, we have attracted a total of 165 start-ups with innovative business ideas, and 25 more ideas are still being evaluated. We are currently working on reorientation so that the entry of new companies into Latvia does not slow down. In the future, we will address more start-ups from Southeast Asia, South America, the Balkans, as well as from economically developed countries such as Great Britain, South Korea, and Japan. We will also assess the potential of individual African countries,” said Anna Elsa Karika, Head of the LIAA New Business Support Department, adding that LIAA's foreign economic offices in 18 countries will be involved in attracting innovative business ideas, setting specific priorities for different regions.
In the field of investment attraction, LIAA gives priority to the so-called ‘Green Channel’ investment projects, which cover such sectors as the bioeconomy, smart materials and photonics, smart mobility, biomedicine, ICT, and international business service centres. Administrative barriers to these investment projects are being reduced, accelerating their progress. The Green Channel initiative has attracted more than € 100 million in investment and 600 new jobs in a year.
In 2021, the LIAA provided support for the launch of a total of 32 investment projects. With the implementation of these projects, the amount of funds invested in the Latvian economy will reach € 643 million and 2,650 new jobs will be created.
Currently, the LIAA works with 67 investment projects, which cover sectors such as the bioeconomy, smart energy, ICT, smart mobility, electronics, international business service centres, and others.