About 1,800 Latvian citizens could be served by mobile passport stations that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs are expected to bring to Australia, Canada and the United States this summer.
According to a proposal for extra funding approved June 8 by the Cabinet of Ministers in Rīga, the mobile passport stations will allow Latvian citizens abroad to get new type passports complete with biometric data in time for the Oct. 2 Saeima election.
The Cabinet of Ministers approved supplementary spending in the amount of LVL 27,551 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and LVL 21,865 for the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. The funding will allow for two technicians each to travel to the three countries beginning later this month through August.
Latvia began issuing new passports with biometric data in November 2007. Because it is necessary for persons to be physically present at the time of requesting a new passport, problems have arisen for Latvian citizens abroad who no longer have valid passports and are not able to easily obtain new ones. In Australia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposal noted, Latvia has no embassy, while honorary consuls are not authorized to issue passports. In Canada and the United States, the location of embassies (in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., respectively) would require citizens to travel great distances to deal with passport issues.
The problem has been accentuated by the coming parliamentary election, because citizens may not vote without valid passports.
In Australia, a mobile passport station will be brought to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. About 400 Latvian citizens could be served, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In Canada, a passport station will be brought to Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. An estimated 300 citizens could be served.
And in the United States, a passport station will be brought to Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. About 1,100 Latvian citizens could be served, according to the ministry.
Costs of the mobile passport project, according to the foreign ministry’s proposal, will be offset by help from Latvian organizations and honorary consuls in the three countries.
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