860P.512 Residence/25

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

No. 7864

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Legation’s despatch No. 7309, dated October 23, 1930, and the Department’s Instruction No. 772, of October 28, 1930, concerning the sojourn tax which is being applied to American citizens in Latvia, and to enclose for the Department’s information, a copy of the Legation’s Note dated May 22, 1931, and a memorandum of a conversation which took place on July 6, 1931, between an official of the Foreign Office and a member of the Legation’s staff, on this subject.

Respectfully yours,

F. W. B. Coleman
[Enclosure 1]

The American Minister (Coleman) to the Latvian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign A fairs (Ulmanis)

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to this Legation’s Notes dated February 27, 1929, June 4, 1929, October 18, 1929, March 3, 1930, and September 29, 1930, in which the attention of Your Excellency’s predecessors was called to the desire of my Government to secure the complete abolition of the Latvian sojourn tax on American citizens residing in Latvia.

In these Notes, the hope of my Government was expressed that, as Latvian nationals in the United States are not required to pay a sojourn tax and as the second paragraph of the Latvian law of March 7, 1927, contemplates that the sojourn tax in Latvia shall be executed on the basis of reciprocity, the Latvian Government might see its way to arrange for the exemption of American nationals from this tax.

In a Note from the Latvian Foreign Office dated October 22, 1930, I was informed that the appropriate Latvian authorities had found it possible “to settle this question by fixing a registration fee of Ls. 2 for a year or for each time a permit of sojourn is issued.”

[Page 326]

Since the registration fees mentioned above appear to be nothing else than a form of sojourn tax, I have the honor again to express the hope that Your Excellency’s Government will arrange for the exemption of American nationals from this tax.

I avail myself [etc.]

[File copy not signed]
[Enclosure 2]

Memorandum by the Second Secretary of the American Legation (Gallman) of a Conversation With the Chief of the Administrative Division of the Latvian Foreign Office (Munters), July 6, 1931

At the request of Mr. Munters, Chief of the Administrative Division of the Foreign Office, I called on him today to discuss the Legation’s Note of May 22, 1931, in which the hope was again expressed that the Latvian Government would arrange for the exemption of American nationals from the payment of the registration fee of two lats, which is being applied to American nationals instead of the sojourn tax.
Mr. Munters stated that a formal acknowledgment of the Legation’s Note would embarrass the Foreign Office since it could merely reply that the Ministry of the Interior is not disposed to exempt American nationals from the payment of this fee. He added that the Foreign Office was desirous of avoiding a protracted exchange of notes dealing with the legal aspects of this matter, which such a reply would give rise to.
Mr. Munters explained, confidentially, that the Ministry of the Interior had adopted the policy of charging a sojourn tax, which varies in the case of different nationals, as a means of discouraging certain nationals from sojourning in Latvia. The charge is fixed at a nominal amount in the case of those nationals which Latvia welcomes. The highest annual tax is sixty lats. American nationals are subject only to an annual tax of two lats. This he added was the lowest with the exception of that paid by British nationals, which is a fee of one lat.
Mr. Munters then pointed out that the fee, in the case of British nationals, was fixed at one lat in view of the one shilling fee charged foreigners by the British Government. He stated, moreover, that an attempt would be made to induce the British Government to agree to an arrangement whereby British nationals would pay two lats in Latvia. Should it be found that such an arrangement could not be effected, then the fee for American nationals would be reduced to one lat, thus placing American nationals on the same footing as British nationals and according American nationals, in the opinion of the Latvian Government, most favored nation treatment as provided [Page 327] in the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights between the United States and Latvia.
So far as the question of reciprocity is concerned, Mr. Munters stated that, in view of the sojourn fee now being charged American nationals, the Latvian Government could not, of course, voice any protest in case a similar fee were charged Latvian nationals in the United States.
I told Mr. Munters that the Legation did not desire to embarrass the Foreign Office unduly and that since the Foreign Office preferred not to make a formal reply to the Legation’s Note, I would prepare a memorandum of his statements to be filed in lieu of such a reply. I added, however, that such action should not be interpreted as a recognition of the right of the Latvian Government to impose a sojourn fee on American nationals and that the Legation reserved the right to take this matter up again with the Foreign Office.
W. J. Gallman