Over 70,000 Tongans living in the United States will now have access to Tongan passport printing services in California.
Crown Prince Tupuoto‘a ‘Ulukalala launched the new Tongan passport printing services at the Tonga Consulate General in San Francisco on Friday 10 August and said the development recognised the important contribution the diaspora make to the Tongan economy.
“For over 20 years, the passport applications for Tongans here in America were sent to Tonga and could take weeks, up to even months,” the Crown Prince said.
“This new service will now only take a few days to process applications for new passports for our Tongan people here. This will also include issuing visas for visitors wishing to travel to our shores and other consular services.”
He said that the 200,000 Tongans who are currently living in other countries, including New Zealand, Australia and the United States, played a key role in contributing to Tonga’s economic and social development.
“This milestone achieved today symbolises a token of Tonga’s gratitude and special efforts to cater for you, the Tongan diaspora in the USA and abroad.
“Your love for our Kingdom is manifest in the remittances, goods and many ways in which you continue to give back to the motherland, confirming your commitment to national development. You do not forget the lessons we grew up with and who we are. Your love – come rain or shine, in times of happiness or sadness, times of prosperity or hardship, leave us in no doubt of your dedication to Tonga.”
Remittances to Tonga were valued at about TOP$500million (US$211 million)in the past year, and about 40 percent of the total was sent by the Tongan U.S. diaspora.
Enormous contributions from diaspora were provided in humanitarian relief assistance, in response to recent natural disasters, including Severe Tropical Cyclones Ian (2011); Gita (2018); Harold (2020) and the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha‘apai volcanic eruption and tsunami in 2022, the Crown Prince said.
The passport services launch was attended by church and community leaders from the Bay Area.. The Crown Prince presented Mr Orlando Luani Kaufusi with the first Tongan passport issued in Burlingame
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess Sinaitakala Tuku‘aho were in the USA at the invitation of the people of Nomuka, an estate of the Crown Prince in the Ha‘apai group.
The Acting Consul General of Tonga in San Francisco, Sela Tukia, said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, had first introduced passport printing at the Tongan Consulate in Auckland, New Zealand, in August 2022.
The Tonga Consulate General at Burlingame, California, will also offer passport and visa-printing services to countries in Europe and elsewhere.
“The next phase is the roll-out of these services to the High Commission of the Kingdom of Tonga in Canberra, Australia.”
The Tonga Immigration Management System (TIMS) was created by Clinicom Software who has worked together with the Tonga Immigration Division, since 2000. The Consulate General of Tonga in San Francisco was established in 1989 and provides consular services to the Tongan diaspora on the mainland, USA; continues to foster good relations with the United States federal, state and local government bodies and agencies and representative offices of other countries and organisations. It also promotes tourism and trade opportunities.