Are American Samoans U.S. Citizens?

American Samoa is a U.S. territory located in the South Pacific Ocean. Despite being a part of the United States, American Samoans are not automatically granted U.S. citizenship at birth. This has been a topic of debate and controversy for many years, with American Samoans fighting for their right to citizenship.

What is the Current Status of American Samoans?

American Samoans are considered U.S. nationals, which means they are entitled to some rights and protections under U.S. law, but they are not considered U.S. citizens. American Samoans cannot vote in U.S. elections, run for political office, or serve on a jury. They also do not have the same access to federal benefits as U.S. citizens, such as Social Security and Medicare.

The current status of American Samoans as U.S. nationals but not citizens has been challenged in court. In 2016, a federal court in Utah ruled that denying citizenship to American Samoans is unconstitutional. However, the ruling was later overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which stated that citizenship is a political question that should be decided by Congress, not the courts.

What Are the Relevant Laws?

The main law governing U.S. citizenship is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA sets out the requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen, including residency, good moral character, and knowledge of English and U.S. history. However, the INA does not apply to American Samoa, as it is not considered a part of the United States for immigration purposes.

Instead, American Samoans must rely on a separate law, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA 1952), which grants U.S. citizenship to persons born in “outlying possessions of the United States.” However, the INA 1952 does not define what constitutes an “outlying possession,” leaving it up to Congress to decide.

In 2000, Congress passed the U.S. Citizenship Clause of the Revised Organic Act of 1950, which granted U.S. citizenship to persons born in American Samoa after January 13, 1941, and who meet certain residency requirements. However, this law does not apply to those born before 1941, leaving many American Samoans without a clear path to citizenship. But even claiming U.S. citizenship as a American Samoan requires going through a process.

How Can an Experienced Lawyer Help?

An experienced lawyer can help American Samoans navigate the complex legal process of obtaining U.S. citizenship. They can provide guidance on the residency requirements and help gather the necessary documentation to support the application.

Call Yew Immigration Law Group today at 408-645-6395 for a case evaluation!