Fewer Latvians get U.S. green cards in 2008

The number of persons born in Latvia who last year became legal permanent residents of the United States decreased to a level last seen five years ago, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

A total of 455 persons from Latvia received their “green card” during 2008. That number is comparable to the 453 who became legal permanent residents in 2003.

From 2003 through 2006, the number of Latvia-born persons becoming legal permanent residents increased every year. In 2006, a total 892 persons from Latvia got “green cards,” nearly double the 2003 figure.

Then in 2007, the number of Latvians recorded by DHS showed a sharp decline, a 36 percent drop to 568 permanent residents. Last year’s total represents a nearly 20 percent drop from the 2007 figure.

The number of Latvians earning “green cards” saw a similar rise and fall from 1999 to 2003, according to the DHS data.

In all, 6,132 persons born in Latvia have become permanent residents of the U.S. since 1999. During the same 10-year period, a total of 17,390 persons from Lithuania and 3,145 from Estonia have earned permanent resident status, according to the DHS.

More than 1.1 million persons got “green cards” last year, according to the DHS. Persons who become legal permanent residents “may live and work permanently anywhere in the United States, own property, and attend public schools, colleges, and universities,” according to a DHS Annual Flow Report. “They may also join certain branches of the Armed Forces, and apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements.”

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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