Immigration Office is no longer authorized to issue any entry permits

Including those for citizens of Samoa
fili@samoanews.com

Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale has provided more details, such as examples of permitted and prohibited activities, under the new entry requirements for citizens of 38 countries listed on the American Samoa Entry Permit Waiver Program (EPWP).

Talauega stresses that the Immigration Office no longer has the authority to issue entry permits for foreigners — including citizens of Samoa — to enter American Samoa. “To be clear, the Immigration Office is no longer authorized to issue any approved entry permits,” he said.

The AG provided further details on these issues, in two separate memorandums dated Sept. 18th, pursuant to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s Aug. 29th memorandum, “Policies to Combat Illegal Immigration in American Samoa”. (See yesterday’s edition for details)

EPWP DETAILS

According to the AG’s first memo, the passport of a citizen of a country under the EPWP must be valid for at least six months “after planned departure from American Samoa” and the round trip ticket or onward passage must be “confirmed”.

The document and payment — a $20 fee — must be provided to the AG’s Office or Immigration Office at least 48 hours before travel.

However, “Payment may be made at the airport upon arrival,” Talauega said, adding that if the materials are in order the AG’s Office will issue a conditional “OK to Board” — allowing entry into the territory. Failure to pay — upon arrival— will result in “denial of entry”.

“Eligibility under the EPWP does not guarantee entry into American Samoa,” Talauega said, adding that Immigration officers “may refuse entry at the port of entry based on local laws”.

“Furthermore, a traveler who poses a threat to the welfare, health, safety or security of American Samoa will be denied entry and placed back on the arriving vessel to be returned to the point of origin,” he said. (Samoa News notes that a vessel includes airlines.)

It’s also made clear that travelers entering the territory to board fishing vessels or other commercial vessels are not eligible for the EPWP.

The AG said that the list of countries under the EPWP are the same countries also listed under the US State Department VISA Waiver Program.

Samoa News asked Talauega, if the Administration isn’t concerned that imposing a $20 fee for EPWP countries, which include Australia and New Zealand, will result in them imposing the same fee for US Nationals from American Samoa, who are US passports holders, who enter their countries.

“We do not control how other countries go about controlling their borders. We can only control ours,” was Talauega’s reply yesterday.

Some local industry representatives said New Zealand and Australia have been providing good inbound tourists for the territory — those who come here after visiting Samoa. They claim that the $20 fee, “may force” these tourists to skip the territory, which is still trying to develop its tourism industry.

In his memo, Talauega outlined examples of activities permitted while the person is in American Samoa on the EPWP. For business:

•     Consult with business associates; negotiate a contract; and attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference;

•     Attend a short-term training — and the person “may not be paid by any source in American Samoa” with the exception of expenses incidental to the person’s stay.

Another example, is tourism — which includes a person traveling as a tourist; on vacation; visit friends or relatives; medical treatment; participate in social events hosted by social or service organizations; participation by amateurs in musical, sports or similar events or contest, “if not paid for participation”; enrollment in a short recreational course of study that is not for credit towards a degree; and participation in cultural or religious exchanges.

Examples of “prohibited activities” includes study for credit towards a college degree; employment; applying for residency; applying for extension of stay, except in emergency situations; and “work as a foreign press, radio, film, journalist, or other information media.”

Samoa News sought further clarification regarding foreign press members, considering the fact that in past years, journalists from news outlets — such as  Radio New Zealand, Radio Australia — have traveled here for news reporting purposes. There were also travel writers from Europe who visited the territory to report about tourism in American Samoa. And their work is published in European or international travel magazines.

When asked if the entry requirement means journalists from the EPWP cannot travel to the territory for news reporting purposes, Talauega replied, “foreign press are allowed to travel here under the regular entry permit process. As always for emergency cases they can contact the Attorney General's Office for special arrangements.”

ENTRY PERMIT REQUIREMENTS

In his second memo, Talauega said the permit requirements “are effective immediately” and reiterated what the governor stated in his Aug. 29th memo regarding entry permits requirements. (See yesterday’s edition for details)

Talauega provided additional provisions in his memo, for example, a local sponsor for a visitor. If the sponsor resides on private land, a land deed would be required, but if the sponsor lives on communal land, signatures of the family sa’o (leading chief) and village mayor are required on the application. This requirement applies to citizens of Samoa requiring a 30-day entry permit.

The memo also provides details of “limited exceptions to requirements for entry permit”. For citizens of Samoa, they may continue to apply for the 7-, 14-, or 30-day permits using the existing process “except” that the AG or his designee must now approve all permits for Samoa.

Other requirements are: round trip ticket or onward ticket; $40 fee; clearance from the High Court and LBJ hospital; and a valid passport or travel document.

For fishing crews, immigrants entering the territory to board a fishing or commercial vessel are required to get an entry permit approved by the AG or his designee. And the requirement for a 30-day entry permit for fishing crews includes having a local sponsor as well as clearance from LBJ and the High Court.

According to Talauega, the AG or his designee must approve all entry permits, and the “Immigration Office is no longer authorized to issue entry permits.”

However, the Immigration Office is where one goes to apply for all entry permits, including submission of the supporting documents. The application with documents is then submitted to the AG’s office via the Immigration Office.

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