This year, the number of foreigners living in Lithuania has surpassed the 200 000 mark for the first time: more than a third of them live in Vilnius. According to the latest survey, the majority of foreigners come to Lithuania for work purposes and are most excited about the opportunities to study at universities and to send their children to private kindergartens and schools, but have difficulties integrating into local communities and learning Lithuanian.
According to the data of the Migration Department, at the beginning of October, there were slightly more than 208 000 people from various foreign countries living in Lithuania, while at the beginning of the year, this number was almost 190 000.
“Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, large numbers of war refugees have joined the Lithuanian population, however, usually foreigners come here to work. It is estimated that almost 50 % of all foreigners in Lithuania have come to work, most of them in professions that are in short supply. The most common are long-distance drivers and construction workers. The number of foreigners coming to work in these sectors is constantly growing, with 1 to 2 thousand more coming to Lithuania every month,” says Evelina Gudzinskaitė, the Director of the Migration Department.
She points out that our country is also attractive for highly qualified specialists, such as IT or engineering workers, who are subject to favourable migration rules: there are almost 6 500 such foreign specialists in Lithuania.
“The number of highly skilled professionals is slowly increasing, which is a good sign. Lithuania is competing globally for highly skilled workers because there is a shortage of them everywhere, and the fact that we are able to win the competition and attract them shows that we can be attractive,” she noted.
According to Vilnius TechFusion, an ecosystem of high-tech companies, the capital’s gaming industry has seen a particularly strong change over the last two years. With more than 1 000 game developers moving to the capital in a very short period of time, the number of people working in the games industry in Lithuania has almost doubled: the number of game development companies has increased by 11 % between 2020 and 2022, and the number of employees in the ecosystem has grown by 98 % over the same period. Last year, compared to 2021, average wages in this sector grew by 20 %.
The largest number of foreigners is in Vilnius
According to the data of the Vilnius Tourism and Business Development Agency “Go Vilnius”, foreigners, who come to Lithuania, mostly choose to live in Vilnius. More than 73 000 people have declared their place of residence in the capital, and the rate of arrivals is increasing rapidly. For example, at the beginning of this year, the number reached 71 000, while, last January, only 38 000 foreigners lived in Vilnius.
In order to find out how foreigners perceive Vilnius and how they feel about it, this year, from May to June, International House Vilnius conducted a survey of foreigners staying in Vilnius on their satisfaction with living and working conditions. According to the survey, foreigners rate their life in Vilnius as a 4-point out of 5, and 31 % of the respondents say that they intend to stay in Vilnius for more than 5 years. Only 5 % of respondents plan to spend less than a year in the capital.
“They are the most pleased that it is relatively easy to get into universities or colleges, to access healthcare in private institutions, to get into private kindergartens and schools, and that there are opportunities for business development,” says Agnė Camara, head of International House Vilnius, a centre for relocation and integration services for foreigners. “Despite the positive attitude of foreigners, they also talk about the problems that they face. We see that it is still very important to find ways to improve the integration of foreigners in our country. Although we have made a lot of progress, foreign nationals still face challenges when it comes to obtaining or replacing a driver’s licence, integrating into Lithuanian communities in Vilnius, learning Lithuanian, finding housing and accessing public health services.”
According to the Head of International House Vilnius, regular surveys of foreigners are essential for the development of public policies and programmes aimed at improving the integration of foreigners, such as more effective language training, employment and community engagement strategies.
Students intend to stay in Vilnius
A. Camara notes that Vilnius is also attracting the attention of foreign students, with 1 300 of them studying in the capital this year.
“The number of foreign students in the capital has remained similar in recent years, with the exception of the coronavirus period, when movement was severely restricted,” she said.
The most popular choice for international students studying in Vilnius was social sciences with 380 students. Other popular fields of study among international students are engineering sciences, business and public management, and law. According to the survey of foreigners conducted by International House Vilnius, almost half of the surveyed students (42 %) say that they see their future in Vilnius even after graduation.
By the way, Vilnius also has a large number of minors coming from abroad. Last January, there were only 5 000 foreign minors living in the capital; in January this year, the number had risen to 13 000, and now there are over 11 000 of them.
“This figure is constantly changing, but recently it has remained more or less the same. It is likely that minors, who stay in Vilnius with their families, will finish their schooling, and then perhaps study at universities in the capital and will find themselves in the local labour market. It is clear that we should do more not only to attract students to the capital’s universities, but also to help foreign citizens to integrate into the society. Nevertheless, we can be happy that the general attitude towards Vilnius is very good and that our labour market is becoming more and more attractive for foreigners,” she concluded.