Disclosure: This article was written in 2013. You may also want to read Tabatha Soltay’s 2019 step-by-step guide to applying for a residence permit.
When I first got to Latvia, I wrongly assumed that one of the most difficult things for me to do would be to register myself as living here. It seemed like there would be a huge amount of paperwork, loads of hoops to jump through and all while I was unable to speak Latvian.
Not so. The process was actually relatively simple.
Note: I moved to latvia from the UK, therefore I was already an EU citizen, so this process will be different for those coming from outside of the EU.
Here’s the process, simplified:
- Make an appointment and go to the PMLP office with your passport
- fill in the paperwork there and they send it off to the relevant institution
- go back 10 working days later with proof of health insurance and collect permit
- go back within a month and declare official residence address
I’ve gone in to a bit more detail below for those who want the full story.
I am self-employed. In order to register myself as self-employed or even to start a small company (of just one person if required) I would need a business bank account.
In order to get any bank account here in Latvia, I would likely need a personal code “personas kods“. This is an ID number, unique to each resident of Latvia, with the first half consisting of your date of birth and the second – 5 randomly generated digits.
In order to get this code, I would need to register as living in Latvia, and herein lies the beginning of my story.
1. Setting up a meeting with the PMLP.
I was making some enquiries online at the PMLP (Pilsonības un migrācijas lietu pārvalde or OCMA – Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs in English) website to find out what I would need to register for my residence permit. The website has a huge list of things that I apparently require, including x-rays and all sorts. I got a bit worried, so I emailed them (in English) email@example.com to ask about speaking to someone to find out more.
They replied within a few hours and set up a meeting for me to go to the office and speak to them. They said they would be able to speak English and that the language barrier shouldn’t be a problem. You can also make an appointment by phoning 67829750 – some of the receptionists speak a little English.
Remember “vai jus runājat angliski?” (do you speak English?)
You will get a meeting reservation number – take note of this, and the time of your meeting.
When you go to the meeting, make sure to take your passport. It’s the first thing they will ask for when you sit down.
2. Going to the PMLP office
For those in the centre of Riga, the number 11 tram to Mežaparks will take you to the PMLP office you need to go to. The office is the “Riga’s 1 Division” and there’s a map here.
Get off at the stop after the cemetery on Gaujas iela (The stop is called “Meža kapi 2”). There’ll likely be a few people getting off here. You then cross the road, walk a little way down “Čiekurkalna 1.līnija” and you’ll see the building in front of you.
3. At the PMLP office
When you walk in the door you’ll find yourself in a large waiting room with various desks lining the rooms. Each desk with an LED number above it. There are also some offices in the middle, each with numbers. There’ll be lots of people from different backgrounds/situations there, all likely waiting for similar things to you.
First you must take a number. If you have a meeting reservation number, walk to the touch-screen machine at the entrance, and select the bottommost option. A number keypad will appear for you to enter your number. Do this and you’ll get a small slip with a number printed out. Take a seat and wait for it to be called.
If you’re lucky, you’ll only have a few minutes to wait. If you’re not so lucky, it could be as long as an hour or two’s wait. Having been there four times so far, it was only a few minutes the first time but the next two times it was almost an hour’s wait. The fourth, just a few minutes. There’s a coffee machine to help you while away the hours but not much else. Take a book!
When you get seen, you can explain that you’re looking to register for a residence permit, and the assistant will be able to tell you what to do.
I had to fill out an application form first – This can be seen on the PMLP site here.
I didn’t require a photo at this stage, and the woman explained that because I was self employed, I needed to write in the first part that “I have the necessary means of subsistence to reside in Latvia” and then further on in section XVI, 5. I had to write “I have at least 200 Lats per month coming in from self employment” or something to this effect. She explained that this area was merely a formality and that it was just to explain that I have the minimum required amount of income to live in Latvia (200 Lats a month at the time of writing).
The other requirement I needed was health insurance. The policy was to cover me for Latvia, should last 5 years and should be to the value of 30,000 Lats or more (at the time of writing).
The assistant took a copy of my passport, and explained that I should come back in 10 working days with my health insurance documents, when my permit should have been approved for collection. This is for the paper permit.
If I wanted a card, then it would be a further 10 days, and a cost of 10 or 20 lats. She didn’t differentiate between the prices, and also it may be that I had to collect the paper version after 10 working days then get my photo taken, pay and then come back a third time to get the card version. This wasn’t made particularly clear.
Either way I was fine with the paper version. A tenner is a bit steep for a bit of plastic for my wallet I thought. Maybe one day I’ll upgrade.
I was given a sheet of paper detailing the insurance requirements, dates etc., and I then had to make another appointment with the reception desk before leaving. They gave me a small slip with the date of my next appointment and a reservation number, and I was good to go.
4. Getting health insurance
Luckily I knew somebody who had an insurance broker. He was well aware of the insurance policy required for a residence permit and he said that it was a simple policy designed specifically for those requiring a permit. He arranged the paperwork within a day or two and provided me the paperwork along with a bill for just under 30 Lats. All he required to put the policy together was my passport number, full name and address.
The policy I have is with a company called Gjensidige, a Norwegian insurance company, and they have a website here. The particular Insurance product I have with them is “Personu, kas iebrauc LR, apdrošināšana“ (Insurance of persons entering the Republic of Latvia).
5. Returning to PMLP for my residence permit
After exactly 10 working days I returned, as per my appointment, to the PMLP offices. I waited for an hour to be seen, and I sat down at the desk. The chap behind the desk shuffled some papers, took my passport, looked on his computer, then called a number. No answer. He explained that he could see my application, but that it hadn’t been approved or fully processed yet, and that I would need to come back later.
He said later that day (it was midday, he suggested 4pm) or tomorrow. There wasn’t much I could do, short of flipping tables, so I thanked him and made yet another appointment with the receptionists for the next day. I was not a happy bunny.
A day later, I returned with passport, insurance papers, proof of payment for the insurance (they ask for that) and waited for another hour. Eventually I was seen, and this time round it was ready. The lady confirmed that I had insurance, and brought me my papers and residence permit.
She asked me to sign a piece of paper explaining that my place of residence would have to be confirmed with them within a month and that I could do that today if I had all the details. I didn’t, so I said I’d have to come back to do that. She said that if I was renting, I’d need the landlord’s permission, or a rental agreement, or something with the owner’s name and ID number with permission for me to stay there and have that address registered as my permanent residence in Latvia.
5. Confirming residence
This part of the process will vary from person to person, depending on your situation. Ultimately you need some sort of proof of your address – whether it’s a private agreement with the owner, a letter from your landlord, a rental agreement from your letting agency or something like that. As far as I’m aware the important information is the owner’s name and person code, plus something with the address, confirming that you live there.
I had a letter from the owner of the flat I live in. This was a private agreement with the owner, and was just a written note confirming the address (including city and postcode) plus the owner’s name, personal code and signature.
6. Returning to PMLP to confirm residence
You can’t make an appointment for this part of the process, you just have to return to the office and wait in what they referred to as a “live queue”. I went on a Monday around midday and found it to be relatively quiet. The office in Riga (division 1) is open till 8pm so you can always try after work if you’re employed.
My fourth trip up to the office – This time, in reception, you need to select the 4th option from the screen. This will say something like “Ārzemnieku dzīvesvietas deklarēšana” (declaration of a foreigner’s residence). You’ll get a number and be required to wait once more.
I was asked for my passport, my residence permit (the paper one) and I also showed the assistant my permission letter. He also asked me if I had a bank card.
At this point in the process, there is apparently a 3 Lat charge – I asked what this was for, and he explained “for everything” – so I presume it’s some sort of admin fee. You can only pay this by card, not cash.
Once it was paid and some paperwork was filled out (the assistant helped with this) it was complete, and the process was finished.
Ultimately it felt like, with the right paperwork I could have done everything in a single trip, but as with many things in Latvia, there are certain rules that need to be followed, and nobody really likes to question the formalities. Just follow the rules and we’ll all get there eventually.