Tag Archives: Naturalisation

All things come in their due seasons

Alex was born in Latvia within a family of people later on became non-citizens. Therefore he is a non-citizen himself.

He is cheerful and optimistic. He is one of the scarce number of people here in Latvia that give you a smile as soon as you see him – at least people I have met and come across so far.

He is about to apply for citizenship because he says: “I do not have to do the military service and I have established myself in the private business.

Now I feel it is the right time to do so, since I can devote some time into naturalising and I have worked on my future too. I did not feel the need to become a citizen before.”

Although his infectious character and positive attitude towards life, Alex does not take for granted the current situation of non-citizens in Latvia.

 

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“Non-citizenship is an artificial controversy”

Tom Schmit is a management teacher, communications consultant and long-term resident. He was born in Buffalo, New York, but moved to Latvia 12 years ago.

He speaks on the issue of non-citizenship in Latvia and the naturalisation procedure – comparing it to the one in the US. He also offers his take on the subject of politics and non-citizens in the Baltic country.

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The Naturalisation procedure

Nadzezhda and her husband, a non-citizen of Latvia.

Non-citizens are able to apply for Latvian citizenship provided that they have been permanent residents of the country for, at least, five years. They have also to demonstrate Latvian language proficiency, pass both Latvia’s history and constitution tests and know the Latvian national anthem. One more thing

As I previously wrote, some 135,000 people have naturalised since 1995. The naturalisation rates reached its height over two periods; 1999 – 2001 and 2003 – 2005. However, the rates have fallen off substantially during the last few years.

Nadzezhda holds a Latvian passport, though she was born in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. She arrived in Latvia for the first time in 1985. Her desire to “feel more integrated in the country” and be able to vote and travel freely, led her to apply for citizenship and naturalise.

“I failed the writing exam the first time I apply for citizenship. I found it quite difficult to be honest,” said Nadzezhda.

She then attended to a language course to improve her Latvian and with the help of her daughter, who was at primary school, manage to pass the exam and naturalise.

She added; “I wanted to be a full right citizen of the country where I live and feel more integrated in its society. Besides, I wanted my daughter to have a Latvian passport, so she could feel at the same level like full right citizens.

“I did not have many problems when I was a non-citizen. As long as you know the language, things are fine. However, after acquiring Latvian citizenship I felt more confident in myself; I can take part in anything I want to as a full right citizen.

“I think the naturalisation procedure should be easier. There are hundreds of people who, like me, have been living in the country for many many years, paying the same taxes and contributing to the country’s development and the Government should ease the procedure for them.”

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Latvia, a country of contrast

Drawing and Sketching artists in Rīga

After tonnes of emails and thousand calls, the time has finally come. My first interview – with a guided tour around downtown Rīga and its main historical buildings and areas – will be tomorrow afternoon.

Up to this very moment, I have been soaking up the Latvian culture and atmosphere. During my first five days in the country I have been trying to improve my Latvian – I am actually really proud of it, since it is getting better every day – and above all to understand a country that differs massively from the one I grew up in.

By that I mean keep myself updated with the latest newsy events, learn more about the palpable Soviet heritage that is easily noticeable in Latvija, especially in a great number of its buildings – the mixture of neglected areas and the old colourness Soviet buildings – and the stratification of Latvija’s society, the huge gap between rich and poor people.

I mixed myself among natives as much as I could, getting on rural buses that took me around the countryside in southern Latvija and getting lost in popular markets. Once someone told me that the best way to see a new country through the natives’ perspective is by visiting its daily markets and buy at least something in any of the stalls in them.

There are loads of individuals living just above the poverty line in Latvija. These people are the ones who were and are worst affected by the economic crunch that hit the country some three years ago. They mainly live in rural areas, but their presence in Rīga is easy to notice. However, this is something I will be talking about in future posts.

Let’s go back to the interview. The name of my interviewee is a big one among the non-citizens or aliens – without playing down other non-citizens importance.

I am not going to reveal it now, I would ask you instead to stay tuned for following posts. But I am telling you that he acquired citizenship by naturalisation and the Government of Latvija revoked it, for he took part in a series of education protests, something the authorities considered disloyal to Latvija.

More tomorrow…

PS One of the things that surprised me the most was the large number of drawing and sketching artists I have seen around Rīga city centre. They seek out inspiration on the capital’s Art Noveau for which it is widely known.

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