Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that in a letter dated May 24, 2005 he expressed his sincere hope that the Honorable Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, will reconsider his government’s decision to require U.S. nationals to obtain 14-day permits before entry to Samoa.
A copy of the Congressman’s letter to the Prime Minister is included below:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
I recently took a Polynesian Air flight from Honolulu to Apia and, on my return to Pago Pago, I had hoped to pay a courtesy visit with you the next morning. Unfortunately, you were on a trip to China to commemorate the 30th anniversary of official diplomatic relations between Samoa and the People’s Republic of China.
I certainly want to offer my congratulations to your government for establishing such good relations with China for all these years. There is one thing I admire most in dealing with the leaders and the people of China. They honor their commitments and they treat small nations with the same dignity and respect as industrialized countries of the world. Nevertheless, this is not the main purpose of my letter.
I am writing to bring your attention to a matter involving U.S. Nationals and the status of such persons under the laws of the United States. According to U.S. immigration laws, the U.S. Territory of American Samoa is the only jurisdiction under U.S. sovereignty whereby any person who is born in the territory is classified as a “U.S. National” meaning a person who owes permanent allegiance to the United States but who is neither a citizen nor an alien. For your information, Puerto Ricans, Guamanians, Virgin Islanders, and Northern Mariana Islanders are all U.S. citizens because years ago the U.S. Congress passed authorizing legislation to grant citizenship to these island groups.
Because the people of American Samoa have yet to decide whether they want U.S. citizenship, Congress has not acted on this matter. However, as a matter of national policy, U. S. Nationals are authorized to travel under U.S. passports and are entitled to the same privileges and protection of the United States Government.
As you may be aware, years ago, one of my constituents, Reverend Siaosi Mageo, visited my office in Utulei and told me that a regional church conference was going to be held in New Zealand and that U.S. Nationals who planned to travel to New Zealand had to obtain visas before they could enter New Zealand even though they were traveling on valid U.S. passports.
I immediately contacted the New Zealand Embassy in Washington and told them that I wanted to conduct consultations with officials of the New Zealand government. I informed New Zealand that even though U.S. Nationals are not U.S. citizens, they travel on U.S. passports and they also receive the same protections as U.S. citizens. After further deliberations, the New Zealand government decided to change its policy and allowed U.S. Nationals from American Samoa to travel to New Zealand without having to obtain a visa and without having to pay a $25 fee for the visa application.
While I will respect whatever decision your government has made to require U.S. Nationals to obtain 14-day permits before entry to Samoa, I just wanted to share with you the fact that New Zealand currently does not require U.S. Nationals traveling on valid U.S. passports to obtain permits or visas, and I sincerely hope that because of this precedent your government will reconsider and establish a similar policy. As you know, many times U.S. Nationals take Polynesian Air flights directly from Honolulu to Apia and the additional burden of permit requirements may be a disincentive for them to travel directly to Apia from Honolulu or the West coast.
Furthermore, I suspect this may be an added burden to your government which will have to process applications and issue permits for such passengers prior to their entry to Samoa. I wonder if singling out U.S. Nationals, who come only from American Samoa, is worth the expense your government will bear to restrict their entry through the implementation of a 14-day permit requirement.
Again, I hope that your government will reconsider its position and I sincerely hope that your upcoming meeting with Governor Togiola will bring about positive and substantive change, especially in the areas of immigration and travel.
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA
Member of Congress
Deputy Prime Minister Misa
Lieutenant Governor Ipulasi
President Lolo and Senators
Speaker Matagi and Representatives
Attorney General Sialega
“While I am disappointed that relations between our two islands have come to this, I wish Prime Minister Tuilaepa and Governor Togiola every success as they work together to resolve this very unfortunate situation,” the Congressman concluded.