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Amata Introduces bipartisan bill to streamline citizenship choice

Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen
Source: Office of the Congresswoman

Washington, D.C. – This week, Congresswoman Aumua Amata introduced a bipartisan bill to streamline citizenship for any U.S. Nationals from American Samoa who choose to convert their status to U.S. citizenship.

The bill would make their citizenship choice much more convenient and accessible in three key ways: 1) American Samoans would no longer have to move off Island to become citizens, 2) U.S. Nationals would no longer have to take the citizenship test, and 3) A new hardship waiver of the cost of the application fee would be available.

“American Samoa is already part of the U.S., so our people should not have to move to one of the states in order to apply,” said Aumua Amata. “It’s an unnecessary burden to expect a U.S. National to have to quit a job or move away from their family for months to become a citizen, and this would be an important change.”

Many in American Samoa are quite happy with their U.S. National status, while others find it advantageous to become citizens for their military career or as they move elsewhere in the U.S. for a job or college. Many good jobs in the military, the civil service, law enforcement or sometimes the private sector require citizenship, especially those jobs requiring security clearances. U.S. Nationals must be able to choose citizenship without extra obstacles, such as relocating, excessive travel costs or lost time far away from jobs and families to study and take the citizenship test.

It's important to know that the bill would not change the U.S. National status of anyone on the islands unless they personally choose to pursue citizenship.

“Our people enlist and serve at very high rates in the U.S. Armed Forces, and one goal of this bill is so those serving will not have their lives or duty assignments disrupted when they decide to become a citizen to advance their career,” said Congresswoman Amata. “In order to receive promotions to the officer ranks or get security clearances, those serving need to become U.S. citizens.”

“As U.S. Nationals, our service men and women were raised under the U.S. flag, were taught U.S. history in schools, have owed allegiance to the U.S. since birth, and those in the military have taken oaths to our U.S. Constitution,” continued Rep. Amata. “This streamlined access to citizenship makes sense for them and for the Pentagon.”

Specifically, the bill waives residency requirements and civics tests for U.S. Nationals; allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to administer the citizenship process (applications, oaths, interviews, ceremonies) in American Samoa, eliminating the obligation to leave the island and incur those costs; and finally, allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to adjust application fees to reduce costs, and to waive such fees based on economic hardship.

Special thanks to Rep. Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam) and Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico), who are original cosponsors in support of Rep. Amata’s bill.