Moving Internationally To American Samoa

American Samoa is a beautiful unincorporated territory of the United States.  It is comprised of five main islands and a couple coral atolls located in the South Pacific Ocean.  The climate is tropical year round, with two distinct seasons, the wet and dry season.  Regardless of the season, the temperature averages in the high 80s Fahrenheit, so it the perfect destination for someone seeking the beauty of the tropics.  Home to a national park, a wonderful marine sanctuary, and a plethora of beautiful beaches, American Samoa is a good fit for retirees, adventurers, and family alike.  If you have decided to relocate to the islands of American Samoa, then there are a few things you should know before doing so.

Country Facts and Interesting Information

  • Capital: Pago Pago
  • Currency: United States dollar
  • Languages: English, Samoan
  • Major Religion: Christianity
  • Largest Village: Tafuna
  • People born in American Samoa are American nationals, but not American citizens (unless one of their parents is a citizen)
  • Population of just over 55,000, with 95% residing on the largest island of Tutuila
  • American Samoa has a higher rate of military enlistment than any of the other U.S. states or territories

Process of Moving Overseas to American Samoa

  1. The first thing you will need to do is enlist the help of a reputable international moving company. Whoever you choose will be your best resource throughout the entire relocation process, so choose wisely and thoroughly vet any prospective companies.  A few things to look for are:
  • Experience – Because American Samoa is a US territory, but still considered unorganized and unincorporated, there are certain things that must be done differently during the move. A moving company that has previously worked in American Samoa will know offhand these differences, so they can help move the process along smoothly.
  • Reputation – If you have trusted friends or family who have worked with a moving company they liked and trusted, then by all means go with the recommendation. If you don’t have that luxury, check the company’s history with the Better Business Bureau and consumer reviews sites like Yelp to get a general consensus of past client experiences.
  • Cost – While moving abroad tends to be a pricey undertaking, keep in mind that you do not need to enlist the help of the most expensive moving company to garner the best service. Many companies are willing to work with your budget to customize a relocation package that best fits your needs without breaking the bank.
  1. Next, make sure you have a U.S. Passport that is good for a minimum of 6 months.  As a U.S. Citizen, you are not required to have a visa to visit, but you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa if you intend to stay.
  2. Finally, you will want to make sure you begin a job hunt (if needed) well in advance of your move. The job market for expats in American Samoa is not that great, so make sure if you move without any prospects, you have budgeted and set money aside to live comfortably until you find a steady job.

Citizenship

Citizenship is a very tricky subject in American Samoa.  Because those born in American Samoa are not considered U.S. Citizens, rather U.S. Nationals, then there isn’t truly a way to become a legal citizen.

Residency

Instead, you are more than welcome to establish residency if you intend to stay long-term.  There are two routes you can take in order to do this:

  • Family Based Petition for Residency- Complete form P-12 from the Immigration Office in Utulei to begin this process.
  • Employment Based Petition for Residency- Submit application form P-45 also available at the Immigration Office in Utulei.

Applicants for residency can expect to pay a $75 application fee, a $30 identification card fee, and post a bond depending on your country of origin.

Any other questions regarding this process can be directed to the Immigration Office in Utulei or Tafuna.

Transportation

There is an abundance of taxis in the capital of Pago Pago and on the large island of Tutuila.  There are also family buses on Tutuila which offer a very affordable mode of transport, but tend to be very erratic with scheduling and not at all reliable.  Vehicles are driven on the right side, just like in the U.S., but the speed limits are very low (never more than 30mph), so don’t expect to get anywhere fast.  The good news is that American Samoa recognizes the International Driving Permit and any international driver’s license from your country of origin, as long as you are older than 21.

Auto Transport

If you are an American expat moving to American Samoa, you are more than welcome to bring your vehicle along with you.  Keep in mind that although much less expensive than a true international auto transport situation, the cost of the car shipping itself may be more than you care to spend.  Make sure that you shop around smartly, and it often makes sense to bundle auto transport in with your full-service moving package to save money.

Culture

The ethnic culture and traditions of American Samoa are very similar to Western Samoa (often referred to simply as Samoa), because it really is only the U.S. sovereignty that sets them apart.  Samoans enjoy dance, or siva, which consists of gentle movements in time with music that tell a story.  They also have continued the traditional Samoan ways, going so far as to incorporate much of their mythology in with their Christian beliefs.  Samoans enjoy playing and watching cricket, rugby union, American football, and in many villages, volleyball is also very popular.  Finally, along with many other Polynesian cultures, tattooing is very common and symbolic, popular with both men and women.

Employment

As previously stated, it can be difficult for an expat to break into the Samoan job market, but it is far from impossible.  Employment falls into three main categories- the public sector (almost entirely made up of employees of the American Samoan territorial government), the private sector, and the lone remaining tuna cannery, StarKist.  Unemployment is quite high, at approximately 22%, a direct result of minimum wage increases back in 2010.  Unlike many other popular expat destinations, the opportunity to work as an English teacher is virtually nonexistent, since the vast majority of the population is already fluent.  It will definitely be in your best interest to check out some of the following websites for job opportunities prior to making your move, so you know exactly what to expect when you arrive:

Communication

Phone and Internet

Compared to the mainland, American Samoa has a much lower rate of people with mobile phones, and the percent of the population still utilizing landlines is much higher.  The most popular and reliable mobile and internet providers are ASTCA and Bluesky, but be forewarned, that internet in American Samoa is some of the most expensive in America.  Luckily, the government has been working to remedy this issue by investing in a fiber optic network which should increase internet speeds and lower prices.

Postal Service

Unfortunately, despite being an American territory, postal service in and out of American Samoa can be somewhat erratic and unreliable, mostly because of the distance to the mainland.  There is also only one post office in American Samoa, located in Pago Pago (zip code is 96799).  The good news is you will need to use only regulation American postal stamps for all your mailing needs.

Visas

U.S. citizens are not required to have a visa when visiting or even living in American Samoa, but you may consider applying for residency if you plan on staying long-term.

Voting Rights

As a U.S. citizen relocating to American Samoa, you will retain the same voter’s rights you had in the mainland, although you will need to vote via absentee ballot.  Residents of American Samoa also have local elections, but you must be properly registered in order to vote.  Registration and candidate information is located on the American Samoa Election Office website.

Health

American Samoa is home to only one hospital, the LBJ Tropical Medical Center, and five primary health centers.  The territory participates in the Medicaid program that allows federal funding to match territory contributions to abet the cost of medical services for eligible individuals.

Helpful Resources and Websites