There are new rules for Australians and New Zealanders visiting American Samoa. They went into effect this week and in true Samoans fashion, there was no warning. When you are visiting countries in the Pacific, the rules governing things like visa can change at any moment for any reason. That is why visiting Valenisoqo often is recommended. (However, I do have a bias)
As the rule stands right now, there still does not need to be a visa but you have to have approval before boarding the plane with the they are calling “ok to board.” There is some things that are not clear about the new rule and I am sure that the government of American Samoa will have to clear that up at some point.
There is also a $20 fee to enter American Samoa for Australians and New Zealanders. I understand this is a way for the government to try and get another million in the bank every year but this actually discourages people visiting a place that struggle to get very many tourists to start with.
Personally, I would prefer them take security of the nation much more serious than just trying to get some cash out of people. With terrorism and human trakicking as major problems; that should the concern of American Samoa, not how to milk traveling for a few dollars.
What we know about rules for Australians
When you are visiting American Samoa, you have to contact the Attorney General’s office on island and secure a permit to visit. I assume this would be a form that you print out and bring to the airport in Hawaii or Samoa that states they expect you to land in the territory of the United States.
The problem with this is that Australia remains on the other side of the dateline. This means it could take a few days to get this done. This is especially true when you consider that things do not move very fast in American Samoa (when they move at all). It could realistically take up to a week to get the permit to land.
When they do land, they are required, as stated, to pay a permit fee of $20. I am not sure what the importance of this is or what the actual fee is for or where it goes.
However, there does not seem to any changes in how long an Australian can stay in American Samoa or in the United States. It just seems to be the getting through the airport is far more complex.
The other things that is not clear is if the Australian has a visa, or green card, to the United States if they will honor it in American Samoa. I would assume that if the person from Sydney has the paper work in place to visit the mainland, that would be more than enough to also visit a territory. This might not apply as American Samoa has govern their own borders.
What about Visa Waiver program?
There is a list of countries that I will include at the end of this article that do not have to have a visa pre-arranged to visit the United States and both Australia and New Zealand are on that list.
I am sure that this issue will be raised and that the State Department will have to rule on the issue to see if this rule from the American Samoa Government will remain. I can not see how the waiver program and this rule can co-exist, personally.
As if stands, Australians do not need a visa to visit American Samoa but they will need to ask the Attorney General for a permit to land. I am not sure what the difference means practically speaking for a traveler.
The reason that this is not smart is a lot of people visit Samoa for a few weeks and they make a quick run to American Samoa just to add the stamp to their passport and to see what a territory south of the equator looks like. I am not sure that many travelers will make go through the red tape for a day visit to American Samoa. I am not sure that I would if I was in their shoes.
The rest of the rules governing the visa waiver program like work visas remains the same and if they are coming aboard a fishing vessel, this rule does not change anything for them. They still to get a visa before coming. The rules are the same for most Asians as well.
What about Samoans visiting Tutuila?
One of the common complains is that Samoans (citizens of Samoa) have to get a special permit for 30 days to visit the territory. This remains in place and will not change any time soon. As I understand it, they have to get to get a permit that requires physically applying for it and a quick interview. There is also a $40 fee connected to this permit. This will remain in place.
However, if you are a businessman from Samoa, you can visit American Samoa for up to three days without needing the permit to travel to Tutuila. I am not sure when this rule will take effect and I could not see if affecting many travelers visiting the Pacific Islands.
Americans visiting Samoa get a 60 days entry without questions asked. However, if you are from American Samoa; there is a $10 permit fee and a form to fill out. This seems to be in direct connection to the system that the government in Pago Pago has in place. It is the only country in the world that makes a dissension between an American citizen and an American national. In every other country that I know of, being a national of the United States is treated the same as a citizen.
I hope this helps people, especially Australians and New Zealanders when visiting the territory about what is and is not required to see the beauty of Tutuila.