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Latvia: Immigration law amendments
26th May 2014
Latvian parliament adopted amendments to the Immigration Law in Latvia on May 8th, 2014. The amendments will come into force on September 1, 2014. Changes refer to the minimum thresholds of the property that qualifies for temporary residence permit.

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News: The judgment in the citizenship case

According to the Public Relations Manager of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA), Andrejs Rjabcevs, the decision declared by the Supreme Court on Thursday denying the demandby the Naturalization Board to deprive the Habilitated Doctor of Physics, Uldis Bērziņš, of Latvian citizenship irrespective of the fact that in 2007 he obtained Swedish citizenship is an unprecedented instance.

'It is obvious now that this decision is in some way unique and unprecedented to date in case law, because each year approximately one hundred cases on deprivation of Latvian citizenship due to acquisition of citizenship of another country are responded to the court, but until now for more than ten years the opinion of the court has been constant in such cases,' Rjabcevs admitted.

Accordingly, at first it would be important for the OCMA to understand according to which arguments and considerations the court has acted in this case, and only then it will be able to conclude if the decision of the Supreme Court can be applied to all cases of dual citizenship or only to this case.

'Firstly, the OCMA wants to get acquainted with the full text of the judgement, and only after that a decision on further actions will be made – to appeal this judgement or not,' told Rjabcevs.

As it was reported, today the Supreme Court denied the demand by the Naturalization Board to deprive of Latvian citizenship the Habilitated Doctor of Physics, Uldis Bērziņš, who acquired Swedish citizenship in 2007.

In 2007, after acquisition of Swedish citizenship the scientist created a situation of dual citizenship, accordingly the Naturalization Board filed with the court a claim on deprivation of Latvian citizenship. The judgement of the Supreme Court declared today is contrary to the judgement made by the Riga Regional Court in 2009 satisfying the claim of the Naturalization Board and depriving Bērziņš of Latvian citizenship.

The newspaper 'Neatkarīgā' reported that Bērziņš obtained Swedish citizenship in 2007 because it was necessary for his work; however, all this time the scientist has been actively cooperating with the Institute of Atom Physics and Spectroscopy (IAPS) of the University of Latvia (LU) developing various projects, attracting resources and looking for a possibility to return to Latvia.

The representative of the scientist in the court, Māris Jansons, indicated: 'We believe that in such cases the Citizenship Law allows to keep the dual citizenship, and this is a situation which Latvia would only benefit from, if Bērziņš would keep Latvian citizenship'.

The Citizenship Law indicates that the citizenship is an enduring connection of a person with the state. Since 2000, when Bērziņš began to work as a leading scientist at a high technology company in Sweden, he has not lost his connection with motherland, as his entire family lives here.

'If it comes to that, we are ready to take it even to the Constitutional Court and will try to change the old legal practice that has existed until now. The situation now has considerably changed, because a lot of people leave Latvia, and the state should be interested for them to return, therefore there is a question of how to apply this law under current circumstances. Of course, we could achieve that Bērziņš obtains the citizenship based on special merits, but it is not right in terms of the principle, because it is obvious that this way the system does not work properly.' told Jansons at that time.

The Press Secretary of the Supreme Court, Baiba Kataja, informed that on Thursday the Chamber of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court denied the claim of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) to deprive of Latvian citizenship the scientist Uldis Bērziņš, who had acquired also Swedish citizenship.

The Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs filed a claim with the court, because an inspection revealed that in 2007 Bērziņš had acquired Swedish citizenship. The Riga Regional Court decided to satisfy the claim of the OCMA, but Bērziņš appealed this decision.

After adjudicating the case in the first instance, the Riga Regional Court satisfied the claim on November 27, 2009 and deprived Bērziņš of the citizenship by pointing out that the Citizenship Law does not allow dual citizenship. The court of first instance also stipulated that the legal provisions of the Citizenship Law do not give any basis for the court to evaluate defendant's character and contributions to the science in Latvia, when making the decision on deprivation of citizenship.

In the appeal hearing, the representative of Bērziņš, stipulated that the defendant had a strong connection with Latvia that it is enduring and important to him, and requested the court to evaluate it. The representative of the defendant asked to take into consideration the proportionality principle by evaluating not only the fact that Bērziņš was a doctor of physics and had contributed to the development of science in Latvia, but also how the situation in Latvia had changed during the last years with many people leaving to work abroad, but still having a close connection with Latvia, because their families live here, and actively taking interest in the events in the state and participating in the elections.

The representative of the defendant also drew the attention to the amendments to the Citizenship Law, which had been submitted to the Saeima and would foresee the dual citizenship. These amendments were accepted already in the first reading. The representative of the OCMA did not accept the appeal and sustained the claim.

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