American Samoa’s REAL ID certification almost a reality
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa has achieved success in complying with the federal REAL ID law and is waiting for the Certification Checklist to be finalized for submission to US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) for “their validation and certification.”
This is one of the accomplishments the local Homeland Security Department (ASDHS) cited as an achieved in 2021 in the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report distributed to lawmakers on Jan. 10 during a joint session of the Fono.
USDHS’s REAL ID online public record — as of this week — shows that American Samoa’s status of compliance with this federal law is “under review”. The law allows federal agencies to accept driver's licenses and identification cards from American Samoa at federal facilities, nuclear power plants and on federally regulated commercial aircraft.
In April 2021, USDHS announced the extension deadline — to May 3, 2023 — for all states and territories as well as Washington D.C. to come into full compliance with the REAL ID law.
The extension from Oct. 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023, is due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, USDHS announced at the time.
Complying with the REAL ID law was one of the issues that lawmakers raised last year with Homeland Security director Samana Semo Ve’ave’a.
In the governor’s comprehensive report, ASDHS provides a summary update of the REAL ID compliance saying that following the 2018 Tropical Storm Gita, the department along with Department of Public Safety (DPS) partnered with U.S-based Ledge Light Technologies “to satisfy statutory requirements” of the Real ID Act for American Samoa.
“To date, American Samoa is 100% completed with Real ID and awaiting the Certification Checklist to be finalized for submission to US Department of Homeland Security for their validation and certification” — thus approving the Facility’s Security Plan, SOP, Software, Hardware, Staff Training, and meeting SSA requirements to begin issuing Real ID cards to qualified residents and citizens of American Samoa and the United States, the report says.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited travel for Ledge Light Technologies and federal partners to complete their review and validation process.
“Flight restriction has prohibited this final step,” said ASDHS, noting that bringing this operational concept into fruition is due to the collective efforts and partnership of the ASDHS, DPS, and the Attorney General’s Office in the last four years.
In October 2018, then Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga signed into law, legislation submitted by his Administration, amending local law by creating the American Samoa REAL ID Act, which complies with the federal REAL ID Act that has been in place for more than a decade.
The new law provides major changes to the current statute for issuing driver’s licenses, and a new provision that would allow a “driving privilege card” to be issued. It also transfers issuance of American Samoa identification cards from the Office of Vital Statistics to the Public Safety Department’s Office of Motor Vehicles, through the Police Commissioner.
ASG’s official website (www.americansamoa.gov) provides a link to the “ASG REAL ID Policy” with more specific details, which includes required documents needed to obtain a REAL ID.