860P.512 Residence/23

The Minister in Latvia (Coleman) to the Secretary of State

No. 7309

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Legation’s despatch No. 6960, of May 10, 1930, reporting that Mr. Birznieks, Chief of the Administrative Division of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had informed the Legation orally that the Latvian Ministry of the Interior had finally agreed to the abolition of the sojourn tax on American citizens residing in Latvia and had stated that the Foreign Office hoped to be able to inform the Legation officially to that effect in a few days.

The Legation did not fail to bring this matter up at frequent intervals in conversations with the appropriate officials of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the latter always replied that it would require a few days more to adjust the matter. On September 19, 1930, Mr. Sussdorff, Counselor of the Legation, called at the Foreign Office and requested a definite reply to the Legation’s Note of March 3, 1930, at the same time reminding Mr. Birznieks, the Foreign Office official who is handling the matter, that the latter had stated orally on May 10, 1930, that the question of the sojourn tax would be arranged satisfactorily in a few days. In order that the Department may be fully informed concerning this matter, I am enclosing herewith a memorandum setting forth the substance of Mr. Sussdorff’s conversation with Mr. Birznieks and a copy of an informal letter, addressed by the former to the latter on September 20th.9

In view of the attempt of Mr. Birznieks to introduce into the negotiations matters relating to visas, I deemed it advisable to call personally on the Latvian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Celmins, in order to present him with a further Note, a copy of which is enclosed, and to make orally statements incorporated into a memorandum, a copy of which is also enclosed.9

The Legation has today received a Note from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a copy of which is enclosed,10 stating that the competent Latvian authorities have found it possible to settle the question of the sojourn tax on American citizens residing in Latvia by fixing a registration fee of 2 lats for a year or for each time a permit of sojourn is issued. The new regulations will enter into force on November 1, 1930. It will be observed that the Latvian Foreign Office expresses the hope that “this solution will correspond to the desire of the United States Government.”

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It should be pointed out that despite the fact that the new charge of 2 lats is described by the Latvian Foreign Office as a “registration fee” it is actually in the nature of a sojourn tax and the authority to collect it, according to informal information received from the Latvian Foreign Office, is based on the law regulating the question of sojourn taxes. The nationals of countries which are paying a sojourn tax are not charged registration fees, since the Latvian Government considers that registration fees are included in the sojourn tax. The only country whose nationals are paying neither a sojourn tax nor a registration fee is Estonia. The nationals of Great Britain residing in Latvia are paying 2 lats a year; and Latvian citizens in Great Britain are charged one shilling upon their arrival for the supply of an Alien’s Registration Book. Under the new regulations, the nationals of the United States and of Great Britain* residing in Latvia are paying a lower fee for their sojourn than the nationals of any other country except Estonia. The Latvian Government is treating the nationals of no country except Estonia on the basis of reciprocity with respect to sojourn taxes or fees. The Latvian Government has assumed the attitude that the provisions of the law of March 7, 1927, which state that the amount of the sojourn tax paid by foreign nationals residing in Latvia is to be based on reciprocity, are permissive, not mandatory.

In view of the fact that the registration fees provided for in the new regulations are, as has been pointed out, nothing else than a form of sojourn tax, and that Latvian citizens residing in the United States are not required to pay any form of sojourn tax, I deem it advisable to refer this matter to the Department before replying to the Latvian Government’s Note of October 22, 1930.

Respectfully yours,

For the Minister:
Louis Sussdorff, Jr.

Counselor of Legation
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See Legation’s despatch No. 5601, October 3, 1928, Enclosure No. 1. [Footnote in the original; for text of despatch, see Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. iii, p. 237.]