Skip to main content
European Commission logo
European Website on Integration

Governance of migrant integration in Latvia

Since it regained independence in 1991, Latvia has been an emigration country, with more citizens leaving the than migrants arriving. The integration of migrants is meant to be defined by the principle of inclusive participation and several priorities: learning about the national identity, the Latvian language, as well as instilling trust, solidarity and cooperation.

The statistics in the chart above are based on Eurostat's Non-national population by group of citizenship, 1 January 2021, with 245 962 third-country nationals (TCNs) and 6 343 EU citizens living in Latvia at the time.

The statistics made available through the Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, the Central Statistics Bureau, and the Ministry of Culture, on the other hand, count only 98 366 TCNs. Most of them come from the neighboring states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The national statistics, however, also introduce, the category of "non-citizens", which constitute a sizeable 10% of the population. The category refers to the large historic minorities coming from ex-Soviet states, member of which are often not Latvian citizens.

Aggregated data on Latvian citizens of third-country background are available.

Integration strategy

The integration and social inclusion of people with a migrant background is set out in the 2021-2027 Guidelines for the Development of a Cohesive and Civically Active Society and the 2021-2023 Plan for the Development of a Cohesive and Civically Active Society, currently under finalisation by the Cabinet of Ministers and to be added to EWSI later.

These documents stress the importance of a systemic approach to ensure the development of a cohesive society and the integration of newcomers through learning the Latvian language and acquiring knowledge on the Latvian history and traditions, as well as of democratic values. The plan acknowledges the need to improve the availability of language and integration courses for newcomers. It covers a range of services, including the Latvian language and cultural orientation courses for newcomers, as well as intercultural communication courses for various professionals.

In addition to the overarching guidelines and the related action plan, an Action Plan for Persons Who Need International Protection, adopted in 2015, is still being implemented. Although the document mostly focuses on reception conditions, it also touches upon several integration-related activities, such as language and integration classes for asylum seekers, school or professional education for the children of asylum seekers and refugees under the age of 18, and social workers and social mentors' services for asylum seekers and refugees meant to support their socio-economic integration. A total of 3.38 million were earmarked for the implementation of the action plan in 2020, including close to 600,000 for school or professional education for children under 18; another 325,000 were devoted to interpretation services and individual consultations for immigrants, and around 784,000 - for social workers and mentors, as well as for individual employment consultations for beneficiaries of international protection.

Integration programme

An informal integration programme is in place for third country nationals, including beneficiaries of international protection. It consists of:

  • language courses
  • integration/sociocultural orientation courses
  • individual consultations on the issues of employment, education, migration, legal matters etc.
  • interpretation services
  • psychological services

The general programme is implemented as a project with funding from the EU's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), overseen by the culture ministry. Currently, the main implementing actors are the Information Centre for Immigrants under the NGO Shelter Safe House, the Latvian Language Agency, the NGO Innovation Support Centre and the NGO Education Development Centre.

In addition, the beneficiaries of international protection are offered the services of social workers and social mentors to support their socio-economic integration. These services are part of the Action Plan for Persons Who Need International Protection developed in response to the 2015 EU relocation scheme. Following a procurement process, these services are currently provided by the Latvian Red Cross.

Beneficiaries of international protection are also entitled to individual employment consultations and other support from the State Employment Agency as part of the 2015 action plan.

Evaluation

An evaluation of the impact of the 2012-2018 Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy was conducted in 2018 by Oxford Research Baltics. The analysis, commissioned by the culture ministry, noted the aim to promote civil society developments and integration had been only partially reached. Reduction of the planned activities due to insufficient funding or lack of capacity of the involved institutions were seen as the main reasons for limited performance. The evaluation report suggested the need to plan and administer society and integration policies as a horizontal policy, identifying synergies and overlaps with the 2021-2027 National Development Plan and other relevant policies already at the planning phase and establishing impact models shaped as networks instead of the linear hierarchical models dominant so far. At the same time, the document suggested defining specific integration policies for the different target groups, including foreigners, asylum seekers and refugees, people with disabilities, and others.

In addition, the Centre for Public Policy Providus performed an evaluation of integration services (including Latvian language and integration courses, information seminars and individual consultations) available to TCNs and beneficiaries of international protection during the first phase of the 2014-2020 national integration programme. The evaluation report noted the need to improve the dissemination of information about the courses to the target groups and, more generally, create a joint online platform for the centralised administration, coordination and evaluation of integration services. It also recommended diversifying the language teaching, and offering courses of different length and intensity, in addition to the current intense 120-hour course.

Legislation

Law on foreigners

The Latvian Immigration Law was first adopted in 2002 and last amended in 2020. It determines the procedure for the entry, stay, transit, departure and detainment of foreigners.

Another reform of the law is currently underway.

Asylum law

Latvia’s first Law on Asylum Seekers and Refugees was adopted in 1997. A reform of the law took place in 2009 and was followed by amendments in 2013.

A new asylum law was passed at the end of 2015, entrusting the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs with the task of interviewing asylum seekers and deciding whether to grand or refuse a status. Amendments to the law were passed in 2017, reducing the amount and duration of social benefits allocated to the beneficiaries of international protection. Furthermore, registration at the State Employment Agency was made compulsory for those receiving social benefits.

The most recent amendments, passed in 2021, introduced a foreigner eID card to asylum seekers. The eID will be issued to asylum seekers free of charge and will serve as digital identity tool.

Integration law

Latvia does not have a self-standing integration law.

Citizenship law

The Latvian citizenship law was adopted in 1994. It was amended in 1995, 1997, 1998, and 2013. The latest amendments introduced dual citizenship for immigrants coming from certain countries.

Anti-discrimination law

Latvia does not have a dedicated anti-discrimination law.

Discrimination is addressed through other laws and, most prominently, through the Latvian constitution.

Public authorities

In Latvia, the culture ministry leads the governance of integration issues. It is responsible for the implementation of the Guidelines for a Cohesive and Civically Active Society and the creation of other policy documents. The ministry also works closely with other state and non-governmental institutions with the mandate to create a cohesive society based on common values and intercultural dialogue. The culture ministry also represents Latvia at the European Integration Network.

The interior ministry’s Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs decides on asylum applications and issues residence permits, and also compiles migration statistics.

On the local level, municipalities provide social assistance services and financial support to all disadvantaged groups on their territories, including migrants.

Civil society

There are three consultative bodies engaged in monitoring and advising on the implementation of integration policies in Latvia.

One of them is the Council Overseeing the Implementation of the Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy established in 2013 with an aim to follow the implementation of the guidelines and to advance cooperation between state institutions and other actors.

Another one is the National Consultative Council for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals established in 2013 to promote discussion and cooperation between institutions on integration matters, as well as to engage TCNs and the NGOs representing them in the policy-making process.

The third one is the Advisory Committee of Representatives of Minority Non-Governmental Organisations. Established in 2006, this committee aims to promote the participation of NGOs in the development of integration policies and the advancement of cohesive society and minority rights. Since 2014, the committee includes representatives of the culture and foreign ministries, as well as migrant NGOs.

Funding

EU funds

Local authorities and non-profit organisations can apply for financing through several EU funds. In addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming at better integration of the migrant population.

The information below has been updated with the 2021-2027 indicative national programmes under the EU funds become available.

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Latvia

  • Details: Latvia’s indicative initial allocation for 2021-2027 under AMIF is €31,212,016. Integration activities such as Latvian language and socio-cultural orientation courses for TCNs to be included in the AMIF National programme are currently under discussion. Precise integration measures and their budget will be announced in autumn 2021.
  • National managing authority: The interior ministry is the overall coordinator of Latvia’s national AMIF programme, with the  culture ministry being the delegated authority for the integration strand.

European Social Fund (ESF) in Latvia

  • Details: According to the 2021-2027 EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund Action Programme currently under preparation by the Latvian government, close to €465 million in ESF funding has been earmarked for different activities fostering employment and social inclusion of vulnerable groups, including the beneficiaries of international protection. Another €42.5 million have been earmarked for social innovations fostering social inclusion of vulnerable groups.
  • National managing authority: The national managing authority for ESF in Latvia is the finance ministry, in implementation partnership with other relevant institutions.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

  • Details: Around € 205.8 million in ERDF funding have been earmarked for the employment and social inclusion activities under the 2021-2027 EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund Action Programme.
  • National managing authority: The national managing authority for ESF in Latvia is the finance ministry, in implementation partnership with other relevant institutions.

Other EU funds for integration available in Latvia

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authority: Ministry of Education and Science

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), offering material assistance to the most vulnerable or in need

National managing authority: Ministry of Welfare

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: Ministry of Agriculture

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

National managing authority: the Ministry of Agriculture; EMFF supports coastal communities in diversifying their economies and finances projects that create jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts

The Just Transition Fund to support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality providing them with tailored support.

National managing authority: finance ministry in implementation partnership with other relevant institutions.

Other Funds

Other stakeholders and useful resources

Providing integration services

Implementing the integration programme

Campaigning

Publishing statistics

Related content

More content