The concept of integration of foreigners who legally stay in the Republic of Lithuania is not defined in Lithuanian legal acts. The Strategic Document for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals defines integration as ‘a mutual process of adaptation of third-country nationals and the receiving society that ensures rights and equal opportunities for third-country nationals to participate in creating welfare of the state and to use resources of the state and society in the areas of labour market, education, health care, social security, political and civic participation’ (2013:3).
The Ministry of Social Security and Labour is responsible for the enforcement of the policy of non-EU (third-country) nationals’ integration at the national level.
The international study Migrants Integration Policy Index (MIPEX 2015) concludes that Lithuania’s measures of immigrant integration in the fields of the labour market, mobility, education, political involvement, citizenship, family reunification, healthcare, permission to reside in the country, and non-discrimination are slightly less favourable to immigrants to live and arrive in the country. Out of the 38 EU and OECD countries that participated in the study Lithuania was ranked 34th.
The authors of the study were especially critical about the integration measures in the areas of health care, political involvement, and non-discrimination.
On the political level, the first steps in the field of migrant integration were made in 2007, when the Economic Migration Regulatory Strategy was adopted (void as of 2012). Later, in January 2014, the Lithuanian Migration Policy Guidelines came into force. The aim of the Lithuanian Migration Policy Guidelines is to establish the key objectives, principles and direction of migration policy. At the end of 2014, the 2015–2017 Action Plan for the Enforcement of the Policy for the Integration of Foreigners was approved. On the 21 of December 2018 Action Plan 2018-2020 on the Integration of Foreigners into Society has been approved.
On the national level, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour is responsible for foreigners’ integration; however, there are no institutions and/or officers who would be responsible for the implementation of the measures of migrants’ integration on the municipal level. Furthermore, there is a noticeable lack of cooperation among the authorities, non-governmental organisations and other actors who work in the field of migrants’ integration. The Strategic Document for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals points that the lack of dialogue among these institutions prevents solving the critical issues related to third-country nationals’ integration: family reunification, political and civic involvement, exploitation and vulnerability in the labour market, legal representation.
It is important to note that the development and funding of the infrastructure of third-country nationals’ integration are based on project activities and this does not ensure continuity of the integration measures.
Short-term and long-term integration measures:
- Short-term integration measures are provided by non-governmental organisations and include services such as information, Lithuanian language courses; social, legal and psychological consultations; development of entrepreneurship and recognition of qualifications, etc.
- Long-term integration measures include services such as awareness-raising of the receiving society; solving the language barrier issue by organising integrated courses of state language and civic participation for third country nationals who fall into groups of social isolation; development of professional and multi-cultural competences of Lithuanian language specialists, social workers, specialists who work in the field of migrants’ integration, healthcare institutions and education system; development of integration policies, etc.
(In accordance to The Strategic Document for Integration of Third-Country Nationals of 2015)
The employer interest selection model dominates in Lithuania, prioritising the current, rather than the future, situation in the employment sector, and the main measure of controlling economic migration is the scheme of issuance of the residence permit (The Strategic Document for Integration of Third-Country Nationals of 2015). Highly qualified employees and foreigners sent by EU/third-country companies (as well as their family members) enjoy more favourable conditions.
As of 1 March 2015, the provisions of the EU Directive 2011/98/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State were transposed into the national law. According to these regulations, a single permit procedure is set for a third-country national who has an employment contract. When a foreigner applies for a temporary residence permit and the Labour Exchange resolves that (s)he satisfies the needs of the Lithuanians labour market, the temporary residence permit with the right to live and work in the country is issued.
The Law on the Legal Status of Aliens (Art. 57) foresees cases when a foreigner who wants to work in the Republic of Lithuania must obtain a work permit and cases when foreigners are exempt from the obligation to obtain a work permit. Among the foreigners who are exempt from the obligation to obtain a work permit are those who have retained the right to the citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania; persons of Lithuanian descent; foreigners arriving for family reunification; foreigners who have been taken into guardianship/curatorship or have been appointed guardian/curator; foreigners who hold a permanent residence permit, others (for more information, see Art. 58 of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens).
MIPEX 2015 reveals that newly-arrived third-country nationals in Lithuania have fewer possibilities to receive services related to job search and professional skills development comparing to most of the countries that were covered by the study. Third-country nationals, especially ones who hold a temporary residence permit and highly qualified employees, do not receive either general, or special support that would ensure that they will get a job according to their qualifications or will be sent to special education programmes.
As it is stated in The Strategic Document for Integration of Third-Country Nationals, the implementation of the priorities of labour migration set forth in the country’s strategic documents is limited because there no consistent programmes of labour migrant admission, as well as clear selection criteria and models. Lithuania has not accepted any international responsibilities that would ensure labour migrants’ rights and their protection.
In accordance with the Law on Social Services, all foreigners who hold temporary or permanent residence permit have the right to social services.
However, monetary social support (social benefits (unemployment benefit, support for a pregnant woman, who is not entitled to maternity allowance (under the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Security), supplementary compensation of the costs of permanent upkeep (assistance) or permanent care, the occupational disability rehabilitation allowance, the single payment for settling, monetary social assistance, social assistance pension); compensation of the costs of heating, drinking water and hot water costs) is only available to foreigners who have a permanent residence permit.
In accordance with the Law on State Social Insurance Pensions, third-country nationals who have come to work in a position that requires high professional qualifications, who have arrived on other grounds, but have a residence permit and are allowed to work, as well as persons who are insured under the compulsory social security scheme, have equal rights to receive the state social security pensions.
As to the availability of social guarantees to third-country nationals, it is should be noted that foreigners holding temporary residence permits are in a particularly vulnerable position. They can claim social guarantees based on contributions and are associated with legal work in Lithuania. The Strategic Document for Integration of Third-Country Nationals emphasizes that often the actual presence of foreigners in the country may be too short to pay the benefits during the statutory period, which may become an obstacle in obtaining and using state social guarantees. In all cases, except for sickness benefits, the qualifying award criteria exceed the residence period (up to 12 months) for a temporary resident. In order to receive other social benefits and services, the extension of the residence permit and a reason to stay are needed.
In accordance with the Law on Health System, all foreigners who legally reside in the Republic of Lithuania have a right to emergency medical assistance. In accordance with the Law on Health Insurance, persons who hold a permanent residence permit are insured with compulsory health insurance. Compulsory health insurance is also available to foreigners who hold a temporary residence permit and work in Lithuania or have worked in the country for at least 6 months and are registered with the regional Labour Exchange as unemployed, as well as their minor family members and unaccompanied minors.
However, third-country nationals who come to the country to work with a national visa (D) are not insured with compulsory health insurance.
In accordance with the Law on Education, all foreigners who legally reside in the country and hold a temporary or permanent residence permit have a right to study and to acquire education and qualification. The state guarantees elementary, basic, and secondary education, as well as access to higher education or vocational education programs leading to the first qualification. Even though education is recognised as one of the most important areas of the integration policy, it remains one of the most problematic. ‘Schools are basically not prepared to accept foreign children, they have no basic infrastructure that meets their needs; /…/ there is a lack of a system in schools that would allow assessing professionally the quality of the knowledge acquired by a child abroad, addressing effectively the problems of integration into the educational system arising from the linguistic barrier, bilingualism, and multilingualism, etc.’ (The Strategic Document for Integration of Third-Country Nationals, 2015:12).
Experts of MIPEX 2015 also criticize the lack of the infrastructure to integrate foreign children into the Lithuanian education system. The authors of the study conclude that without concrete integration policy measures that would be applied to all migrant children on different education levels, potential school students are not able to take advantage to the compulsory education opportunities.
Political and civic involvement
In accordance with Art. 119 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, foreigners who hold a permanent residence permit have the right to vote and to be elected in municipal elections. Foreigners who have a temporary residence permit do not have such a right.
Only EU citizens who have lived in Lithuania for 5 years without intermission can found a political party and become its members. This condition limits third-country nationals’ involvement in the activities of political parties, as well as their opportunities to participate in municipal elections.
In accordance with the amended regulations of the Law on the Trade Unions, the right to join a trade union is applied to everyone employed. Thus, at the moment this right applies also to foreigners who hold a temporary residence permit (before the amendments, they did not have such a right).
Third-country nationals also have the right of association equal to that available to Lithuanian citizens (the Law on Associations). However, there is still a very small number of associations established in Lithuania by third-country nationals.
Third-country nationals who hold both a permanent and a temporary residence permit can be members of public institutions, small community and religious organisations, as well as members of religious communities and societies. Meanwhile, a meeting or an individual action may be organized only by third-country nationals who have a permanent residence permit.
Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania
Grounds for the Acquisition of the Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania (the Law on Citizenship, Art. 13):
- at birth;
- on being granted citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania by simplified procedure;
- on being granted citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania through naturalisation;
- on being granted citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania by way of exception;
- on having citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania restored;
- on the grounds established by international treaties to which the Republic of Lithuania is a party.
Acquiring the citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania through naturalisation is a complicated and time-consuming procedure. In accordance with Art. 18 of the Law on Citizenship, a foreigner who wants to be granted citizenship through naturalisation has to meet the following conditions: has to have been legally permanently residing in the Republic of Lithuania for the last ten years; at the time of the citizenship application, has to hold a permanent residence permit; has to pass an examination of the state language; has to pass an examination of the fundamentals of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania; has to have legal means of subsistence; has to express his/her willingness to renounce his/her citizenship of another state (if (s)he is a stateless person or a citizen of a state under the law of which (s)he loses citizenship of that state on acquiring citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania).
Persons who have reached 65 years of age, persons whose capacity for work has been rated at 0–55 percent, and persons who have reached a pensionable age and have been assessed in accordance with the legally prescribed procedure as having high or moderate special needs, as well as persons with serious chronic mental disorders are exempt from the examination of the state language and examination of the fundamentals of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.
MIPEX 2015 experts criticise the procedure of the acquisition of the Lithuanian citizenship and state that foreigners have to pass a long and arduous procedure. According to the authors of the study, Lithuania is not prepared to become a country of immigration in the future as it is not reforming the rules of citizenship eligibility and is not solving the matters of dual citizenship.
Foreigner integration centres
Migrants’ Foreigner integration centres are established in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda. Their activities are financially supported from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund 2014-2020 National Programme (AMIF).
The aim of the Centre is to provide services in order to promote integration of third-country nationals and refugees, to ensure their security, social and economic independence by guaranteeing basic needs and teaching competences to create a positive future in the receiving society. Services of the Centre are provided to foreigners who have a residence permit, but are not citizens of the Republic of Lithuania.
- Social consultations: visitors of the Centre are consulted on tax, education, health care, social guarantee, and employment issues.
- Consultation on legal issues.
- Psychological consultations help to reduce emotional tension, overcome negative feelings and discover their strengths.
- Career guidance counselling helps jobseekers and foreigners who study assess their professional qualifications and professional experience.
- Lithuanian language course;
- Civic orientation training helps foreigners get acquainted with the Lithuanian culture and traditions, learn more about the country’s geography and history, understand social communication skills and mentality.
- Personal competencies development includes events on topics of interest to foreigners: gender, emotional intelligence education, conflict management, presentation to the employer, communication skills, and internal motivation.
- Public events with the society and foreigners, aiming to break stereotypes and Intercultural barriers.
- Project of Red Cross Infocentre for Migrants (Klaipėda)
Infocentre for Migrants provides free-of-charge social services to third-country nationals. Information is given in Lithuanian, English, and Russian.
Services: social consultations; individual legal counselling; carrier guidance counselling (consultations and agency services during the employment procedure); psychological consultations; Lithuanian language courses; civic orientation training; awareness-raising events; educational–informational training.
- Archbishopric of Vilnius Caritas Programme of Foreigner Integration
Aim: social integration into the Lithuanian society for refugees, asylum seekers, and newly arrived third-country nationals.
Services: social workers help foreigners find accommodation, integrate into the labour market, get a qualification; register with healthcare institutions. Particular attention is paid to children’s education, as well as to the teaching of the Lithuanian language. Meetings with the local community are also held, celebrating foreigners‘ national and local Lithuanian festivals.
Aim: to actively contribute to the social, moral, spiritual, artistic, and cultural development of the public and to promote initiatives driving the development of a cohesive society to ensure cohesive and active social involvement and well-being of its members and socially vulnerable groups; to promote development of cultural awareness and tolerance towards different ethnic and other social groups; to implement public interests relating to living in a neighbourhood through a variety of initiatives.