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Attorney General would determine permanent residency

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Feb. 10, 2010) - The Attorney General will have exclusive jurisdiction in declaring eligibility for permanent residents in American Samoa under a proposal by the Department of Legal Affairs to amend administrative rules on immigration matters.

According to the "notice of intended action" the proposed amendment is to confirm these rules to changes in the law relating to the immigration board and permanent residents; current policies and practices involving ministers, missionary workers, adoption decrees, entry permits, certificates of identity, fees, and to correct grammatical and typographical errors.

The proposed amendment goes into effect on Mar. 1, according to the notice that also states interested persons may submit written comments on views, arguments, data or other information on the proposed amendments to the Attorney General’s office on or before Feb. 19.

Copies of the proposed changes are also available and may be picked up at the AG’s Office at the A.P. Lutali Executive Officer Building in Utulei.

Current regulations state the application for an alien to become a permanent resident goes before the immigration board along with the alien’s sponsor. But the proposed changes have them appear before the "attorney general or his designee."

"If permanent resident status is granted, a bond must still be posted for the alien," according to the amendments.

It further states the "attorney general" (and no longer the immigration board) shall have exclusive jurisdiction in declaring eligibility for permanent residents and it’s the "attorney general" and no longer the board who makes the decision on the application for permanent residents.

Additionally, it is the policy of the Attorney General that an alien applying for permanent resident status, pursuant to provisions of (American Samoa Code Annotated) ASCA 41.0403, who was granted permission to remain and/or work in American Samoa pursuant to ASCA 41.0301 (outside of the numerical limitations established by ASCA 41.0301 provision), shall not count the years of that status towards the residency requirement for permanent residence.

Local regulations state that permanent residents may lose their status if they reside outside of American Samoa for a period in excess of 6 months without approval of the board. The proposed amendments say it’s the Attorney General or his designee, who will give this approval.

The proposed amendments would exempt church ministers and missionary workers from the numerical limitation for foreigners to reside in the territory. The amendment states that the board finds that ministers and missionary workers are a group of individuals whose assignment to and work in American Samoa, "constitute extenuating circumstances".

"The Attorney General or his designee is delegated the authority and responsibility to grant entry and oversee the orderly processing of ministers and missionary workers of the community," the amendment says.

Current regulations provide a description of who is considered a church minister or a missionary worker, along with documents needed in order for them to enter and reside in the territory specifically for religious work.

If an alien minister or missionary worker ceases to perform service in the territory as contemplated in the original approval by the "attorney general or his designee", the individual must depart the territory "within 20 days or shall be subject to the numerical limitations within 30 days," according to the proposed changes.

The proposed changes add two more categories of entry permit fees:

authorization to enter American Samoa granted to an alien due to an emergency, to permit entry without proper travel documents or other non-compliance with entry requirements— US$50; and

a memorandum or letter confirming authorization to enter American Samoa prepared for alien crew member faxed or otherwise transmitted with an entry permit to facilitate entry— US$25.

Another change being proposed is that a visitor granted a 30-day permit may apply for only one extension of 30 days; upon expiration of the extension, "the visitor shall depart American Samoa immediately."

Current provision states that the chief immigration officer may grant an extension of 7 more days but only one extension can be granted. This provision will be deleted under the proposed amendments.

Several changes are also being proposed for the issuance of a certificate of identity (CI).

Current regulation states that no person who is eligible for a U.S. passport as a citizen or national shall be issued a CI except in an emergency, and provides explanation of what is considered an emergency situation.

But the Legal Affairs Department is seeking to delete this entire provision and propose that "a national or citizen of the United States may be issued a certificate of identify if the attorney general or his designee is satisfied" with certain requirements.

Among those requirements is that the applicant has "been informed and encouraged" to apply for a U.S. passport; the "applicant’s identification is sufficiently verified through other photo identification documents or other credible evidence or sources and conforms to photographs provided" for the CI.

Additionally, the applicant’s birth certificate is authentic and verified to be that of the applicant.

It further provides what is needed if the applicant is a minor child.

CI "may be issued for a six-month or a one-year period. The Attorney General shall determine the period of duration of a certification of identify. Upon expiration of a term of a certificate of identity, the holder must apply for a new certificate of identity," according to another proposed change.

For a six month period, a C.I. is US$50 and US$100 for a one year period.

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