A Lativian - born Soviet translator at the United Nations has defected to the United States with his wife and daughter, the State Department said yesterday.

A department spokesman said Imants Lesinskis, 48, and his family had asked for and received permission to remain in the United States. The department refused all other comment on the case.

Latvian exile sources, who revealed the defectionsaid Lesinskis, who had been employed as a translator by the U.N. secretariat, actually was a major in the KGB, the Soviet intelligence service.

However, reliable administration sources said U.S. officials who questioned Lesinskis and his family have not yet established whether he was connected with the KGB.

Some sources expressed skepticism about the intelligence connection and said that if Lesinskis was a Soviet espionage agent, his activities appaently were not at a very high level.

Lesinskis is the second Soviet citizen working at the United Nations to defect to the United States this year. In April, Arkady Shevchenko, an undersecretary general and the highest ranking Soviet citizen in the U.N. secretariat. left his post. He has remained in this country.

The administration sources said lesinskis was born in Latvia, one of the formerly independent Baltic states absorbed into the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

They said Lesinskis and his wife Rasma, who worked at the Soviet U.N. mission, had been in New York about two years. When their daughter, Ieva, was allowed to visit them from the Soviet Union, the sources added, the family drove to Washington earlier this month and turned themselves over to the State Department.