Samoan nationality law

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Samoa has been an independent sovereign State since 1962. Prior to that, it was administered by New Zealand.

The most recent Samoan law pertaining to citizenship is the Citizenship Act 2004. One of its aims was to prevent obtention of citizenship through "marriages of convenience", by specifying that the spouse of a Samoan citizen must reside in Samoa with his or her spouse for at least five years before being granted citizenship. It also barred persons born in Samoa from automatically obtaining citizenship, if neither of their parents is Samoan.[1]

Obtention of citizenship[edit]

Samoan citizenship may be obtained by birth, by descent, by residence or by marriage.[2] A person born in Samoa of at least one Samoan parent is automatically entitled to Samoan citizenship. A person born outside Samoa may obtain citizenship by descent, provided that at least one of his or her parents is a Samoan citizen other than by descent, or that the parent in question is a Samoan citizen by descent who has lived in Samoa at various times for a combined period of three years. A person who is not of Samoan descent may apply for citizenship on the basis of residence, provided that he or she has been residing in Samoa for at least five years. The application in such cases is reviewed by the Minister for Immigration, who must take into account the applicant's health, character, intention to continue residing in Samoa, and understanding of the requirement incumbent upon Samoan citizens. A person may also apply for citizenship by marriage; the criteria are similar to those relating to an application on the basis of residence.

Amongst other benefits, Samoan citizenship confers the right to vote, the right to buy land, the right to claim pension, cheaper health care, and facilitated access to employment opportunities.[3]

Samoan citizenship may be renounced through a written declaration of renunciation. It may also be cancelled by the Ministry of Immigration, in cases where it was obtained through fraud, where a person who obtained citizenship through residence has ceased to reside in Samoa, or where a Samoan citizen "has been or is disloyal or disaffected towards Samoa".[3]

Samoans and Commonwealth citizenship[edit]

Samoan citizens are also Commonwealth citizens, and are thereby entitled to certain rights in the United Kingdom—notably the right to vote and stand for election if legally resident in the United Kingdom.

Samoans and New Zealand citizenship[edit]

Samoa (as "Western Samoa") was a territory of New Zealand from the end of World War I until 1962. On 28 July 1982, the Privy Council ruled that all Samoans born between 1924 and 1948, and their children, were entitled to be New Zealand citizens.[4] In response, the New Zealand government passed the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982. Under this new law, Samoan citizens who:

  • were in New Zealand on 14 September 1982; or
  • arrived in New Zealand as permanent residents after that date

were eligible to be granted New Zealand citizenship, but other Samoans born before 1949 and their children were not.

This law has been controversial. A 2003 petition asking the New Zealand Parliament to repeal the Act attracted 100,000 signatures, and the Samoan rights group Mau Sitiseni filed a petition on the issue with the United Nations International Human Rights Committee in 2007.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Announcement by the Prime Minister of Samoa, April 29, 2004
  2. ^ Samoa Immigration government website
  3. ^ a b ibid
  4. ^ So'o, Asofou (Spring 2004). "Samoa". The Contemporary Pacific 16 (1): 163–166. doi:10.1353/cp.2004.0030. Retrieved 2007-03-14. 
  5. ^ "Samoan rights group to lobby U.N. for New Zealand citizenship". International Herald Tribune: Asia Pacific. 8 March 2007.