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Admin seeks to amend application process for foreign investment programs —a relatively untapped resource

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the Administration bills being considered during the Fono Special Session, called by the governor, is legislation to amend current application procedures for foreign investment programs in American Samoa.

The bill’s preamble states that ASG has attempted to attract investments from many different sources, including foreign nationals. “Foreign investment is relatively untapped resource that could provide significant economic benefits” to the territory.

According to the Administration, American Samoa has an existing program for vetting foreign investment enterprises and providing for a corresponding limited immigration entry permit. Furthermore, local laws on the foreign investment program have not been updated since 1991 and technological advances have made certain application requirements obsolete. “Investors will be attracted to a more streamlined and user friendly process,” it says.

Among the amendments proposed in the bill is deleting a section of the law on financial requirement, which - among other things - requires a financial report by a registered and certified public accountant and evidence that the applicant has made available or obtained the financing for an investment of at least $1 million for an individual enterprise.

Under the proposed changes, a background report may be conducted by the local Department of Homeland Security and the Certificate of Foreign Investment from the Commerce director for the approved investment enterprise is issued.

Additionally, digital copies of the application materials may be accepted by the Attorney General but applicants must provide certified hard copies upon request. An application will not be considered compete until all materials are received by the AG’s Office. And the time of review of the application will not begin until the application is complete.

Current law requires three reference letters of good character from non-relatives, but this provision is removed by the bill, and replaced with the requirement of a report on the applicant’s criminal history from the country of origin.

Current law specifies information needed for any foreign investor to apply for a Certificate of Foreign investment. The bill adds additional required information - evidence that the applicant has made available the necessary funds or obtained or has been approved for the necessary financing for an individual or group investment enterprise.

Another change sought by the bill includes digital copies of application documents to the Commerce director. The applicant must furnish certified hard copies upon request.