U.S. English Foundation Research




Differences between Rights of Latvian Citizens and Non-Citizens – Latvian Residents

Before October 15, 1991 all residents of Latvia enjoyed equal legal status. On October 15, 1991, the Latvian Parliament passed the Resolution “On the Renewal of the Rights of Citizens of the Republic of Latvia and Fundamental Principles of Naturalization” which divided the residents of Latvia into two major categories: citizens (approximately two thirds), and non-citizens (approximately one third). According to the data of the Naturalization Department published in the newspaper “Diena” on August 6, 1997, there were 676,981 non-citizens in Latvia (27.7% of the population) in May 20, 1997. On January 1, 2001 the number of stateless “non-citizens” stood at 551,064 (Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, June 2001).

The Resolution “On the Renewal of the Rights of Citizens of the Republic of Latvia and Fundamental Principles of Naturalization” provided the Latvian citizenship only to the pre-war citizens and their descendants. In the meantime, the non-citizen population was left in a legislative vacuum for almost four years, as no law clearly determined their legal status, rights and obligations.

In April 1995, under the pressure of European structures, a new law has been passed – “On the Status of the Former USSR Citizens, who are not Citizens of Latvia or any other State.” This law, for the first time, determined the legal status of the majority of non-citizens.

However, this law did not become an effective cure against restrictions on the rights of Latvia’s non-citizens. While some differences mentioned in the original list have been abolished, other legislative acts were a source of new ones.

In the year 2000 the list contained 57 differences between the rights of citizens and non-citizens.

a) State Institutions
Jobs reserved for Latvian citizens only:
1. State office
(Senior Public Service), (see Note 1)
Constitutional Law “The Rights and Obligations of a Citizen and Person” adopted on December 10, 1991, Art.8 (abolished by amendments to the Satversme)Amendments to the Satversme (Constitution), adopted on October 15, 1998, Art. 101
2. Civil Servants (1) The Law “On the State Civil Service,” adopted on April 21, 1994, Art.6 (1)Amendments to the Satversme (Constitution), adopted on October 15, 1998, Art. 101
3. Constitutional Court Judges Constitutional Court Law adopted on June 5, 1996, Art. 4(2)
4. Judges (1) The Law “On Judicial Power,” adopted on December 15, 1992, Art.51 (1)
5. Court bailiffs The Law “On Judicial Power,” adopted on December 15, 1992, Art. 109(1)
6. Public Prosecutors (1) The Law “On the Public Prosecutor’s Office,” adopted on May 19, 1994, Art.33 (1)
7. State Security Officers (1) The Law “On State Security Institutions,” adopted on May 5, 1994, Art.18 (1)
8. Diplomatic and Consular Service (1) The Law “On Diplomatic and Consular Service,” adopted on May 11 1993, Art.3 (2)A new Law with the same title and restrictions was adopted on September 21, 1995
9. Sworn surveyors (1) The State Land Service Order “On the procedure for issuing licenses to sworn surveyor practices,” adopted on July 21, 1993, p.7
10. Sworn evaluators (1) The Land service regulations “On special licenses to be obtained to value and fix the statute ore price of real estate according to categories of fixing the statutory price and valuation,” adopted on December 27, 1995, Art. 15
11. Police Service (2) Amendments to the Law “On Police” adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers of the LR on January 11, 1994, Rules 19, and Art. 1.5
12. Access to information declared to be a state secret (3) Law “On State Secrets,” adopted on October 17, 1996, Art. 9 (2)
b) Private Sector
Jobs reserved for Latvian citizens only:
13. Sworn Advocates and Advocate’s Assistants (4) The Law “On Advocacy,” adopted on April 27, 1993, Art.14 (1) and 83
14. Sworn Notaries and Notary’s Assistants (1) Notary Law, adopted on June 1, 1993, Art.9 (1), 147(1)
15. Private Detectives (4) The Law “On Operative Activities” adopted on December 16, 1993, Transitional Regulations, Art. 4 Amendments to “The Regulations of Detective Activities and Its Licensing in the Republic of Latvia,” Order Nr 74 of the Ministry of the Interior on March 28, 1994
16. Security Service, use of fire arms (4) Ministry of the Interior, Order Nr 288, signed on November 17, 1993, Art. 8.2
17. Aircraft Captain (4) Law “On Aviation,” adopted on February 23, 1993 Art.35. At present Law “On Aviation,” adopted on October 5, 1994 Art.35
18. Captains on Latvian ships Maritime Regulations of Latvia (Maritime Code), Art. 137(Regulations of Cabinet of Ministers No.168, adopted on August 16, 1994)
19. Head of undertaking having issued a license for guard activities Law “On Guard Activities,” adopted on October 29, 1998, Art. 6
c) Public sector
Only citizens have the right:
20. To be elected as jurors (1) The Law “On Judicial Power” adopted on December 15, 1992, Art.56
21. To serve in the National Guard (1) The Law “On National Guard,” adopted on April 6, 1993, Art. 5(1)
22. To be elected to religious organizations’ governing bodies, excluding their ecclesiastical personnel (4) The Law “On Religious Organizations,” Art.7 (1), adopted on September 7, 1995
23. To establish political parties The Law “In Public Organizations and Associations,” adopted on December 15, 1992, Art. 43
24. Political parties are allowed to operate if at least 1/2 of the members are citizens The Law “In Public Organizations and Associations,” adopted on December 15, 1992, Art. 45 with amendments adopted on April 5, 1995
25. To participate in local elections, (5) see also (1) The City Dome and Rural District Councils Election Law adopted on January 13, 1994, Art. 5
26. To elect and to be elected to the Council of Students’ management at the University of Latvia (6) Statutes (Constitution) of the Students’ Self – Government of the University of Latvia, 1998, Art.8, 10
27. Contacts with foreign citizens, access to cultural monuments and mass media are guaranteed to citizens only in some of the Agreements 5 Agreements, signed from August 7, 1992 to May 10, 1999
II. Property Rights
Only citizens have the right to:
28. To transfer the right to use state and municipality owned land to their heirs (7) Amendments to the Law “On the Land Reform in the Cities of the Republic of Latvia” adopted on March 31, 1994, Art. 4
29. Acquire the land into ownership with building on it if the land was not owned by them before July 22, 1940 (7) The Law “On Amendments to LR,” Law “On the Land Reform in the Cities of LR,” adopted on March 31, 1994, Art.8: amendments to 12(1),(2) of the Law “On the Land Reform in the Cities of LR”
30. A judicial person has the right to acquire the land plot into ownership in the LR cities if more than a half of its statute capital belongs to LR citizens. Should this ratio be changed, the deprivation of the land plot is envisaged (7) The Law “On Amendments to LR,” Law “On the Land Reform in the Cities of LR,” adopted on November 24, 1994, Art.3: amendments to Art. 20, 26 of the “On the Land Reform in the Cities of LR”
31. Similar to No.30 limitation for judicial persons when buying land plots in rural areas (7) Amendments to the Law “On the Land Privatization in Rural Regions,” adopted on December 8, 1994, Art. 14; Amendments to Art. 28 (4), 35, 36 of the Law “On the Land Privatization in Rural Regions”
32. The right to become a member of an Apartment Owners’ Association (de facto to buy a privatized “cooperative” apartment in Riga) belongs to non-citizens too, but only having the permanent residence permit and residence time in Riga of 16 years (8) Riga City Council Regulations Nr 5 “For Persons wishing to acquire an apartments in a cooperative society of housing owners,” adopted on October 4, 1994, Art.1
33. Every citizen of Latvia is allotted 15 certificates more then a non-citizen. A non-citizen born outside Latvia gets another 5 certificates less (9). One certificate is an equivalent of state property volume, created during 1 year of a person’s life The Law “On Privatization Certificates,” adopted on November 4, 1992, Art. 4, pp.2,4The Law “On Privatization Certificates,” adopted on March 16, 1995, Art. 5, pp.2, 4
34. Non-citizens who arrived in Latvia after the retirement age (60 for men, 55 for women) and who had less than 5 years of hired employment receive no privatization certificates (9) The Law “On Privatization Certificate,” adopted on November 4, 1992, Art 4, p.4The Law “On Privatization Certificates,” adopted on March 16, 1995, Art 5, p.4
35. The Latvian citizen is allotted with certificates if he lived in Latvia before December 31, 1992 and at any time was registered as permanent inhabitant.Non-citizen of Latvia is allotted with certificates since the last arrival to Latvia only and having purpose for the permanent living in Latvia (9) The rules Nr. 179 “On Privatization Certificates” adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on August 23, 1994, p.5
36. Only citizens and legal entities are guaranteed the protection of their investments abroad 25 Agreements with 26 states, adopted within the period August 26, 1991-June 17, 1998
37. Protection of intellectual property abroad is guaranteed by some bilateral Agreements to citizens only 2 Agreements with 5 states, adopted within the period November 21, 1995- December 7, 1995
III. Private enterprise
38. Licenses for air transportation abroad are guaranteed, by bilateral agreements to the companies controlled by Latvian citizens. If such control is lost, the license is revoked 17 Agreements, signed within the period July 1, 1992-March 4, 1999
39. Only companies controlled by Latvian citizens can make fishing at the territory under USA jurisdiction Fishery agreement with USA April 8, 1993, art. 1
40. Non-discrimination regarding double taxation is guaranteed to citizens only 6 Agreements, signed within the period November 17, 1993-October 16, 1998
IV. Social Rights
41. Citizens only are registered in the line to receive aid from State and local authorities if they have lived for more than 40 years in an apartment without modern conveniences (central heating, water, hot water) or live in a ‘communal’ apartment (shared by several families) (9) ‘On the Rules of Registering Residents (Families) to Receive State or Local Governments’ Housing Support’ Nr. 17, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on November 23, 1993, Art. 8.6
42. To receive assistance solving housing problems, the non-citizens require a permanent registration notice (s.c. “propiska”) in their passports. Such a limitation has not been provided for the citizens The Law “On Housing Support, granted by the State and Local Governments” adopted on May 11, 1993, Art.3
43. Only citizens have the right to receive a loan for purchase the right to hire a flat (8) Resolution 83 of Riga City Council, adopted on March 7, 1997, p.2. Amendments to the Resolution 160 of Riga City Council “On Allotment of Loans for purchase of Apartments”
44. A possibility to hire flats for unlimited time in the ‘hotels for employees’ in Riga exists only for those non-citizens who have lived and worked in Latvia at least 10 years. Citizens have such right regardless of the length of their stay and work in Riga (8) Regulations of Riga Council No. 52 “On Use Service of Hotels for Employees” adopted on March 26, 1996, Art. 4
45. Years of employment outside Latvia are not included into the non-citizens’ employment record when calculating pension rates (9, 10) Law “On State Pensions,” adopted on November 2, 1995, transitional regulations, Art. 1
V. Other Rights and Freedoms
46. Only citizens have the right to study in certain higher education establishments Statute (Constitution) of the Academy of Police, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on June 17, 1998, Art. 69Statute (Constitution) of the National Academy of Defense, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on June 30, 1998, Art. 22
47. Latvian citizens may enter 30 foreign countries without visas. Non-citizens may enter, without visas, only 4 of them The latest agreement was signed with Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg on June 9, 1999
48. The right on repatriation enjoyed by the citizens of Latvia or by the persons having one parent with Latvian or Liv nationality. Repatriation Law adopted on October 21, 1995, Art. 2
49. Exemption from the customs duty during transit is provided, in some cases, to citizens only 2 Agreements, signed on November 29, 1991 and December 7, 1991
50. Only Latvian citizens and (in some cases) legal entities are guaranteed legal assistance 9 Agreements, signed from November 11, 1992 to May 21, 1998
51. A citizen can be deprived of citizenship by court only.A non-citizen can be deprived of his status administratively by decision of administrative authorities (11) Citizenship Law adopted on July 22, 1994, Art. 24
52. Former Soviet military personnel, who left service after January 28, 1992, conscripted from outside Latvia, members of their families and relatives who arrived in Latvia with them, do not have a right to a legal status, if there are no Latvian citizens among them (12) Law “În the Status of the Former USSR Citizens Who Are Not Citizens of Latvia or Any Other State,” adopted on March 12, 1995, Art. 1 (3)
53. Non-citizens who have received compensations when leaving Latvia (i.e. as compensation for apartments left behind) from any state institutions or from abroad, apart from losing their former legal status, also lose the right to enter Latvia for residency Ibid., with Amendment, adopted on June 18, 1997 Law “În the Entry and Stay of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Latvia,” adopted on June 9, 1992, Art.35 (p. 12), Art. 36 (p. 14) with amendment, adopted on December 16, 1996
54. Non-citizens can be acknowledged as politically repressed persons (by the Nazi regime), if they were repressed because of their national identity or who were minors and were confined in prisons and concentration camps in the territory of Latvia at that time (13) The Law “On Determining the Status of Politically Repressed Persons who are Victims of Communist and Nazi Regimes,” adopted on April 12, 1995, Art.4, pp. 1-3*The earlier similar Latvian Law of 13.05.92 did not contain limitations for non-citizens.
55. The possibility of obtaining residence permits by the family and relatives of non-citizens and aliens is connected with the capacity to provide for such persons. Such a requirement does not apply to citizens The Law “În the Entry and Stay of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Latvia”, adopted on June 9, 1992, Art.35, p.2.
56. If the marriage which was the basis for receiving a temporary residence permit by a foreigner is dissolved, the temporary residence permit is annulled except in a cases when the court awards the child – a Latvian citizen – to the parent who isn’t a citizen of Latvia, a non-citizen, foreign person or stateless person. If the child is a non-citizen, he is deported from the country with a parent-foreigner The Law “On the Entry and Stay of Foreign citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Latvia” adopted on June 9, 1992, Art. 25
57. The right to self-defense: possession of firearms is allowed only to citizens [9) Law “On Firearms and Special Devices for Self – Defense,” adopted February 23, 1993, Art. 11

The list of differenced updated as at the beginning of the year 2000.


[1] (No. 1, 2, 4, 6-10, 14, 20, 21, 25) – Latvian National Human Rights Office (LNHRO) has recognized that this difference is fair and based on UN 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Art. 25.

[2] (No. 11) – The Law “On Police” valid before November 2, 1995 did not require the dismissal of non-citizens hired by the police earlier. Art.1 of the Amendments to the Law “On Police” adopted on November 2, 1995 determines that the status of a police officer is equal to that of the “civil servant” (see difference No. 2). Still, enforcement of the amendment from November 2, 1995 had been continuously delayed, and, in compliance with the Amendment to the Law of December 5, 1996, it was delayed until December 31, 1997. See also [3].

[3] (No. 12) – Depending on the subject of items declared confidential or secret, non-citizens already employed are prohibited to occupy certain positions. The only exception is made for the non-citizens employed by the Ministry of Interior (Transitional Regulations, p. 3 as amended by a new version of the Law of April 10, 1997). The regulation will come into force a year after non-citizens obtain a right to naturalize in compliance with a general procedure.

[4] (No. 13, 15, 16, 17, 22) – According to the opinion of LNHRO, the difference does not comply with the international commitments of Latvia.

[5] (No 25) – The fact that non-citizens do not have active voting rights even for local elections negatively influences their social rights. This is evident from differences No 33, 43 and 44 introduced by the City of Riga self-government. The legal acts of the local authorities cannot be disputed in court by private persons (See Law “On Self – Government” 1994, Art. 47, 49 and Part 3, Art. 2391 of the Civil Procedure Code of the LR).

[6] (No 26) – It is dangerous to involve younger generation to this because then the problem of stateless persons will continue.

[7] (No. 28-31) – LNHRO has recognized that this difference is fair, based on ICCPR, Art. 47.

From May 1997 onwards, if the land was purchased, granted, or inherited, as well as bought from the State or self-governments, it may be enjoyed by foreigners from the countries with which Latvia has signed agreements on protection of investments, and also (though under strict limitations) by any other foreigners. As far as the land ownership rights are concerned, Latvia’s non-citizens are considered as “other foreigners.” Thus, they may not purchase lands in the seashores, within protection stripes alongside water flows and water reservoirs, as well as agricultural lands. A sanction of the self-government’s chairperson is needed for Latvia’s non-citizen to purchase a land plot. The site size may be limited by a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers (Amendments to Articles 20-22, 24, 26, 32, 33 of the Law “On Lands Reform” of May 8, 1997).

[8] (No. 32, 43, 44) – About 1/3 of all Latvian residents and half of all non-citizens live in Riga. A number of other local authorities have adopted similar resolutions (See also Note No (5)

[9] (No. 33, 34, 35, 41, 45, 57) – LNHRO considers these differences to be fair

[10] (No. 45) – According to the Law, a different procedure for paying pensions may be envisaged by intergovernmental agreements. Signed agreements with Estonia on May 28, 1996 (Art.4) and Ukraine on May 7, 1998 (Art.4) provide discriminatory restrictions for non-citizens.

[11] (No. 51) – The Latvian Human Rights Committee received 127 applications concerning annulment of previous records in the State Register of Residents in 1998. In 1999 (for 11 months) the number was 109. Overall the number of applications since December 1992 concerning problems with registration in the State Register was 5,820. The extent of illegal administrative action can be revealed by the fact that 160,000 (every fifth) non-citizens’ applications for registration in the State register were declined during the main registration period (March 1993). These data have been produced after comparing two official numbers: the number of residents registered by the Immigration authorities and the number of residents recorded by the State Statistics.

[12] (No 52) – Let us consider a case where 2 persons were born in Latvia, graduated the same school, left for some construction project in Russia, from where they were conscripted. Then they became officers, returned to Latvia, lived in the same house and taught in a military academy in Latvia. After October 1991 only one of them became a citizen of Latvia. Now, a citizen would retain his status, while a non-citizen would not.

[13] (No 54) – In practice, the local authorities often refuse the status of ‘repressed’ to any non-citizen. The LHRC has registered 184 applications on this matter in 1998, and 104 applications during 11 months of 1999.



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