Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on Thursday, February 16, 2006, he called upon the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to assist in improving the burdensome and expensive US visa application processes for Samoan’s whose spouses are US citizens or US nationals. The request was made to Secretary Rice when she appeared before the International Relations Committee to testify on the International Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2007.
“I have approximately 20 000 U.S. Citizens and U.S. Nationals living in my district who are married to citizens from the Independent State of Samoa. While Citizens and Nationals of the U.S. enjoy the unlimited right to travel to and from the United States, their spouses do not” Faleomavaega said.
“I understand that visa applicants are required to appear for both interview and biometrics in order to apply for a visa. My constituents and their spouses are burdened with 3400 miles, which is 7 hours, of flight to and from Auckland, New Zealand, an airfare that averages over $1,500 roundtrip and hotel expenses. Given these restrictions, it is more frustrating that there is no guarantee whether a visa would be granted or not.”
The per capita income in American Samoa is less than $4,500 per year and air service in and out of the Territory is only available on Fridays and Mondays, thus it is financially and logistically infeasible for the spouses and family members of U.S. Nationals to travel to New Zealand to fulfill the requirements of the visa application process.
“It is my understanding that our Embassy in Apia, Samoa has been fully equipped to secure the necessary documentation as far as properly processing visa applications,” Faleomavaega said.
“I would greatly appreciate your assistance in allowing an officer from our Consulate Office in Auckland to utilize the location and equipment in Apia in order to alleviate such a hardship for many of my constituents,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.
Congressman Faleomavaega has raised this issue previously with the US State Department. On March 23, 2004, he wrote a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State regarding the issue. The letter was also signed by the Honorable Henry Hyde, Chairman of the International Relations Committee, Ranking Member, Tom Lantos, and Chairman James Leach of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.