A total of 709 individuals applied for new Latvian passports during July’s seven-city tour of the United States by officials carrying a mobile processing station, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced.
The project, which concluded its U.S. tour on July 30, is an effort by the Latvian government to provide new passports for Latvian citizens abroad in advance of the Oct. 2 parliamentary election. The project is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by the Ministry of the Interior’s Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (Pilsonsības un migrācijas lietu pārvalde, or PMLP).
A similar tour is underway in Australia and another is set to begin in Canada.
The effort is funded by an allocation of LVL 49,416 approved in June by the Cabinet of Ministers. In their request for funding, the interior and foreign affairs ministries estimated about 1,800 Latvian citizens would be served in the three countries. Of those, 1,100 would be in the United States, so the U.S. tour has come up short of expectations.
Latvian organizations in the U.S., Canada and Australia also have supported the project.
Of the total served in the U.S., the largest number was in New York, where 175 Latvian citizens applied for new passports. Chicago was second with 173, followed by Los Angeles, 96; Minneapolis, 83; Boston, 64; Cleveland, 62; and Seattle, 56. In all, 448 citizens had registered for appointments, while another 261 showed up when the passport station came to their community.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the U.S. tour took in about LVL 30,000 in passport application fees.
The mobile passport stations allow the government representatives to take digital passport photographs and to record biometric data through fingerprint scans. One representative each from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from the PMLP make up the three teams sent to the U.S., Australia and Canada.
In Australia, a team already has visited Brisbane and Sydney, processing a total of 117 passport applications, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The team is wrapping up its visit to Melbourne and heads next to Adelaide and Perth.
Another team will begin its tour of Canada during the first week of August, stopping in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. The team is scheduled Aug. 5-7 in the Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, followed by Aug. 10-11 in Edmonton and Aug. 13-14 in Vancouver. Further information about the team’s visit to Canada is available from the Latvian Embassy in Ottawa.
The passport project has not been without criticism. The center-left political party Harmony Centre (Saskaņas centrs), in a July 12 letter to Interior Minister Linda Mūrniece, questioned why the project is taking place just before the October election and shortly after Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, head of the Vienotība political coalition, visited Latvian communities abroad. Kristovskis traveled to Canada and the U.S. in March and to Australia in June.
Mūrniece has not publicly responded to Harmony Centre’s letter.
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