In violation of the Constitution, current federal statutes and agency policies do not recognize people born in American Samoa as U.S. citizens and do not give them any right to be a citizen (unless one of their parents was a U.S. citizen). Instead, they are put in a second-class status known as the “non-citizen national.” In order to be recognized as citizens, people born in American Samoa are generally treated like immigrants and must go through the same naturalization process and follow most of the same naturalization requirements applicable to foreign nationals.
To apply for naturalization, a “non-citizen national” must pay nearly $700 in administrative fees alone, take an English language and Civics exam, and submit to a background investigation into his or her “moral character,” which includes being fingerprinted and subjected to an in-person interview. The entire process can take a year or more, with the ultimate decision made on a case-by-case basis by an officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, with no guarantee of success. And before those living in American Samoa can even start the application process, they must first relocate stateside, which can cost thousands of dollars more and cause a significant disruption in a person’s work and personal life. In addition, all of the current naturalization requirements could change at any time, including the fees. The federal government could even make naturalization impossible for American Samoans—just like it did before 1952, when non-citizen nationals born in American Samoa were not eligible to naturalize at all, even if they were residing on the mainland.