Committee OKs citizenship law; Saeima vote expected May 9

Revised legislation that opens the door to dual citizenship for a broad range of Latvians is headed for its final reading in the Saeima, according to the parliament’s press service.

The parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee finished its work on amendments to the Citizenship Law on May 2. The third and final reading is planned May 9, according to the press service.

If approved, the amended law—which also would allow exiles and their descendants to reclaim Latvian citizenship—would take effect Oct. 1.

Of several efforts to reform the Citizenship Law in recent years, this is the closest the Saeima has come to final approval. In the current Saeima, the bill (Nr. 52/Lp11) has been in committee for a year and half. It originally was introduced in February 2011 during the 10th Saeima and then was reintroduced shortly after the new parliament convened.

For much of the past year and half, a special subcommittee of the Legal Affairs Committee has been hearing testimony and considering tweaks to the amendments. The subcommittee was unable to finish its work in time to meet the earlier proposed effective date of Jan. 1.

Among notable changes in the most recent version of the proposed amendments is the addition of language that outlines the purpose of the Citizenship Law, according to the press service:

  • To define who can be a Latvian citizen.
  • To guarantee that ethnic Latvians and Livs may register as Latvian citizens.
  • To allow exiles and their descendants to register as Latvian citizens.
  • To foster development of Latvian society based on unity and shared values.
  • And to recognize dual citizenship in accordance with Latvia’s political goals and interests, as well as to preserve Latvian citizenship in an increasingly mobile world.

Under the proposed amendments, World War II-era exiles and their descendants will be able to register as Latvian citizens as well as maintain citizenship in their home country. However, the descendants must have been born by Oct. 1, 2014—a year after the amended Citizenship Law is due to take effect.

Dual citizenship also would be allowed for those Latvian citizens who have become citizens of member states of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and the NATO defense alliance. While that covers much of Europe as well as Canada and the United States, it excludes persons in countries such as Russia and others where Latvians have settled in the past. However, in a bow to concerns raised by Latvian diaspora organizations, dual citizenship also would be allowed for citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. In addition, it would be allowed with any other country with which Latvia has a treaty recognizing dual citizenship.

Further, dual citizenship also would be allowed for those who have become citizens of another country by marriage or adoption.

Ethnic Latvians and Livs also would be able to earn citizenship by providing evidence that a direct ancestor lived in Latvian territory between 1881 and June 17, 1940, as well as by proving that they know the Latvian language.

Other proposed amendments clarify citizenship questions regarding children, including those of noncitizens, as well as reasons for revocation of citizenship.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

3 thoughts on “Committee OKs citizenship law; Saeima vote expected May 9

  1. The article is somewhat ambiguous regarding knowledge of the Latvian language. Will descendants of WW2 exiles be required to demonstrate knowledge of the language? And what level of language would be necessary (i.e. fluency, or simply the basic A2 level, etc.)?

  2. Will descendants of Latvians in Australia be able to claim dual citizenship as a right. Is there a language test? Will a Latvian passport be issued with dual citizenship?

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