When I moved here, I needed a residence card. Many of the hurdles that others have experienced seemed to elude me, the process was fast and easy! Here’s how to make obtaining your Latvian residence card easy.
A few things about me to start; I have an EU passport and am self-employed. I also have friends who have gone through the process and I found Alex Cowles’s excellent article very useful. All of this set me up for success.
If you are not an EU citizen and relocating to Latvia, almost all relocation companies will help you with this process. Ask before confirming with your relocation company that they will. They will have knowledge on the forms you need, recommendations for doctors for your medical check-up and can provide a Latvian speaker to go your appointments with you.
Make an appointment
Get health insurance
Get passport photos
Fill out all the forms
Go to the appointment
Return to pick-up your card
1. Make an appointment
There are four offices in Riga and numerous regional offices around the country that you can make an appointment at. Choose one that works for you. Appointments can be made by e-mail or phone (check the location you want your appointment at). Be clear that you need an appointment in English and what you are applying for (e.g.: I am an EU citizen who needs a residency card and services in English / I am not an EU citizen who needs a residency card and services in English).
Usually the office will get back to you within 24hours with an appointment time and a confirmation number – this number is very important.
2. Get health insurance
You must prove that you have health insurance to get your residence card. There are several companies offering this here in Latvia. Usually you need emergency coverage, and if you wish you can also get “repatriation insurance”. Ask around and see what other people have used. I went with BTA and it cost €33 a year. They will want to see at least a full year of coverage, from the date you expect to get the card.
If you are not an EU citizen there are lots of other medical forms that you need to complete, and you will need a TB x-ray. I use ARS for medical needs in Riga, you can make an appointment by filling in an online request. Again you can ask for an English speaking doctor too. There is also a doctor, Dr. Caune, that specializes in travel health and visa related health checks many foreigners use.
3. Get passport photos
While you are at your appointment, they will take digital photos of you that will appear on your card. However, they still need two passport photos on file. There doesn’t seem to be as many parameters as there are for passports, but most local shops in Latvia know exactly what to take.
4. Fill out the forms
I pre-filled the forms, but I could only find forms on-line for non-EU citizens (some websites were down when I needed them). The woman I saw was super nice about this and allowed me to fill it in while I was there, but it saves a lot of time if you can complete them before hand, especially since they need a lot of information, especially if you have family or are moving to Latvia for love. The correct form for EU citizens is now up again on the website.
5. Go to your appointment
Make sure you bring copies of everything with you when you go to your appointment:
Your completed form
Your reservation confirmation number
Proof of address – a signed lease is best
2 passport photos
Printed copy of your Latvian health insurance
Any medical documents you need
Information on family members you are living with (especially if you are here for family reunification and have local family members)
Proof of employment, including salary details, or, if you are self-employed, proof that you have “means to support yourself”
I basically tried to bring information to prove everything that the form asked of me, just in case, including birth certificates and my other EU citizenship documents.
When you arrive, use the machine by the entrance to get your wait number. You should have an appointment and a reservation confirmation number that was provided when you made the appointment. On the home screen, select button on the lower left (looks more like a cancel button that an “I have a reservation” button) to open the screen where you can input your reservation number. You will get a number. When it is your turn, your number will appear on a big screen with the counter you need to go to.
I arrived early for my appointment to find the small space filled with unhappy looking people with binders full of documents. I was ready for a long wait, but I waited less than ten minutes.
Go with a happy attitude and a few words of Latvian (even if you are with a Latvian speaker). We are moving to this country and we want residency, speaking the local language shows respect and a desire to integrate!
Once all of your documents have been validated, your information entered from the form into their computer system, and your picture taken, you will be asked what type of residence card you want, while it is a little more expensive, I highly recommend the proper card.
Once you are done, the person you are seeing will give you a slip of paper confirming everything and you will need to proceed to the reception area to make your pick-up appointment, usually about a month away. Write down the confirmation number they provide – it will not be e-mailed to you later and you will not receive reminders that you have an appointment.
6. Return to pick-up your card
Bring your passport and copies of all documents you brought the first time!
When I was trying to pick-up my card, they claimed they didn’t have my proof of insurance on file and needed me to produce it. I was lucky that it was still buried somewhere in my e-mails and they were very helpful and printed it on the spot. I have heard other people needing their proof of address again or some of their medical forms going missing. Copies are seem to be accepted. Better to have it and not need it than be turned away.
Pick-up is pretty easy, again, when you arrive use the machine to get a number by logging in your reservation confirmation number. When your number is called, proceed to the counter. A passport check, a few signatures and payment for the card and I was all done!
Now you have a Latvian residence card …
The key really is to be prepared and have a good attitude going in. And always, a few words of Latvian (even if it is just es nerunāju Latviski) go a long way to this process being easy.
This article about acquiring a Latvian residence card was kindly contributed by Tabatha Soltay, a Riga-based entrepreneur from Canada. She runs TabTalks, a custom board and card game company.