Latvian Citizenship by Descent:
step by step application guide
Updated on May 20, 2021
STEP 1: Choose the application type
If you have Latvian ancestry, you may be eligible for Latvian citizenship under several application categories. The following are the main three categories of applicants eligible for Latvian citizenship.
Click to learn more about the eligibility criteria specific to each application type. If unsure about your eligibility, feel free to contact Belyaev & Belyaev for advice.
STEP 2: Prepare the supporting documents
Generally, the required documents are birth and marriage certificates showing how you are connected to your Latvian ancestors. If there were any legal name changes in your family, then a document confirming the name change may also be required. Additionally, you will be required to present a document confirming your eligibility under a particular category (usually a statement by the Latvian archive confirming that your ancestor was a Latvian citizen or confirming his/her Latvian ethnicity).
All public documents (e.g. birth/marriage certificates) originating from a country outside of the EU, EEA, UK and Switzerland, will require legalization or authentication with Apostille. If a document was issued in a country which is a member to the Hague Apostille Convention (e.g. USA, Israel, Russia), then the said document needs to be authenticated with Apostille by the competent authority of the originating country. For countries which are not members of the Hague Apostille Convention, the documents require to be authenticated for the use abroad by the competent authority of the respective country where the document was issued.
At all times avoid notarizing the documents prior to submitting them for authentication/Apostille in your country. Please note that it is the original document that has to be authenticated/Apostilled, not the notarized copy thereof. With original document we understand the document issued to you by the respective authority or an official replacement copy. If unsure, please feel free to contact Belyaev & Belyaev for advice.
For a category-specific list of documents please click on the respective category above.
STEP 3: Search for the missing documents at the Latvian archives
As part of the application you will have to present documents that evidence your rights to apply for Latvian citizenship. For example, if you are applying as a grandson of a person who was a Latvian citizen on 17 June 1940, you may have to, depending on the specific circumstances of your case, submit your Latvian ancestor’s birth certificate, his/her old Latvian passport or any other document confirming that your ancestor was a Latvian citizen. For civil registry documents such as birth and marriage certificates consider contacting the civil registry office in the region of Latvia where the birth or marriage was registered. For the documents evidencing the fact of citizenship – the Latvian National Archive.
If you need help with locating and retrieving archive documents about your Latvian ancestors, please feel free to contact us.
STEP 4: Lodge the application and the supporting documents
Your personal presence will not be required during the application process. The application and the supporting documents can be sent in by post. Although you can apply at the Latvian embassy in your country (if there is one), we recommend applying directly to the Citizenship Office in Riga. Primarily, because the embassies do not process citizenship applications on their own, but instead the applications submitted to the embassies are then simply forwarded to the Citizenship Office in Riga. Also, because to have your application merely accepted by the embassy for processing sometimes can be a challenge. There are four divisions of the Citizenship Office in Riga, choose any, but preferably the 1st division. The applications filed under “Latvian exiles” and “Descendants of Latvian citizens” will be processed within 1-4 months, unless the period of consideration is extended for some reason.
If your application is successful, the Citizenship Office will take a decision to admit you to the citizenship of Latvia and will issue a letter (the decision) confirming the said fact. As of the day of the said decision you will become a citizen of Latvia and will have all the rights and responsibilities associated with that.
STEP 5: Apply for Latvian passport (if your citizenship application is approved)
Applying to have Latvian passport issued to you is the closing stage of the process. When you have been granted Latvian citizenship you can then proceed with applying for the passport. For this step your personal presence will be required. The decision by which you are admitted to the Latvian citizenship will say that you can do it either at the Latvian embassy or at the Citizenship Office in Latvia by means of presenting your current passport and the said decision. Seems like a very simple process, but in reality that is true only for getting the passport at the Citizenship Office in Latvia, whereas at the embassies the process may get a little bit more complicated.
Applying for passport at the Citizenship Office in Riga – you will have to have with you your current passport, the decision by which you are admitted to the Latvian citizenship and a payment card to pay the government fee (40 euro for the passport and 30 euro for an ID card). Scheduled appointment is required.
Where possible, we’d recommend applying for the passport at the Citizenship Office in Riga because embassies are known for introducing excessive requirements for a relatively simple process. Each embassy may have their own specific procedure, rules and forms in place for issuing passports to the new citizens. Also passport formation at the embassy may take 3-5 weeks or longer because the passport is actually produced in Latvia and then delivered to the respective embassy. In contrast, applying for passport at the Citizenship Office will get you a passport the same or the next day.
If traveling to Latvia to get your passport is not an option, we recommend reading the following material which describes the process of applying for passport at some of the Latvian embassies: How to apply for Latvian passport?
STEP 6: Appeal the decision of the Citizenship Office (if your citizenship application is denied)
Your Latvian citizenship application can be denied for different reasons, starting with discrepancies in the supporting documents or lack of particular documents and ending with disputes concerning the interpretation of the Citizenship law. The reasons will be stated in the rejection letter (denial decision). If you disagree with the reasons given by the Citizenship Office, you have the right to appeal against the denial to the head of the Citizenship Office and/or to the court. Address the appeal to the respective official (the head of the Citizenship Office) or to the court, state your reasons why you believe you have been wrongfully denied Latvian citizenship, sign the appeal. On rare occasions the head of the Citizenship Office will overturn the denial, but in most cases the appeal will have to be referred to the court. To learn more about the process of appealing against the citizenship denial, please read the following material: Appealing Latvian Citizenship Refusal
Belyaev & Belyaev is a full service law firm also specializing in Citizenship Law. Our services in the area of Citizenship law range from application drafting and archive research to complex legal matters involving representation at the court. If you require help with the process of applying for Latvian citizenship, please feel free to inquire about our services and fees by email or using the form below.
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