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Visas, customs and entering the country
Latvia is a member state of the European Union and travellers have the same rules as in other EU member states. Latvia is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement; accordingly there is no border control for persons entering from the European Union. There are border controls in place with Russia and Belarus.
Latvia’s representative offices abroad issue uniform, so called Schengen visas, valid in the territory of all Schengen signatory states – this means that with a visa issued at a Latvian Embassy one can enter Lithuania, the United Kingdom, France, and other countries. With several countries outside Europe, Latvia has a visa-free arrangement: USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Costa Rica, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Singapore, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Citizens of European Union member states, Switzerland and Iceland do not need an entry visa.
Stay in Latvia
The period of stay in Latvia without a visa is 90 days in half a year, counting from the arrival day. If one wishes to extend the stay beyond the 90 days in half a year, then they have to apply for a residence permit. More information on entry into our country can be obtained on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and on the website of the Latvian State Border Guard.
If you wish to bring a gift for your Latvian friends, then it might be worth it to learn the customs requirements. From the European Union, for self-consumption, one can bring 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine or other fermented beverages, 20 litres of medium strong beverages and 10 litres strong beverages into Latvia. Travellers from other countries have rather strict limitations. From countries outside the European Union, without paying tax, one is allowed to bring in one litre of strong alcoholic beverages, for example – whisky, two litres of light alcohol (e.g., wine) and, also, strong beverages and aperitifs based on wine or spirits, such as sake, and two litres of still (non-sparkling) wine.
Perhaps, when travelling in Latvia, you may purchase a piece of artwork. If an icon, book, painting or other cultural item is 50 years old or older, or costs more than 300 lats, then a special antiques take-out permit is necessary. This can be applied for at the State Inspection for Heritage Protection, 19 Mazā Pils Street, Rīga [in the Old Town] (tel.: +371 67229272). More information on custom related limitations can be found here.
Recently, changes to the Immigration Law came into effect which state that foreign investors who purchase a property in Latvia or establish an enterprise can apply for a temporary residence permit of up to five years. The permit is available if the person has invested at least 25,000 lats in equity capital, employs at least five employees in Latvia, and pays 10,000 lats in taxes annually, or has purchased a property in Latvia, the assessed value [LV, kadastrālā vērtība] of which in Rīga, Rīga Region or large cities [LV, republikas pilsētas] is more than 100,000 lats, or elsewhere in Latvia – 50,000 lats. This residence permit allows residence not only in Latvia, but also other Schengen signatory states.