COFA Citizens And Our National Security
Since 1986, the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) have defined the relationship between the United States
and the independent governments of the Freely Associated States (FAS) including the Republic of the Marshall
Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. Under the Compact, in exchange for
permitting the U.S. exclusive military use and strategic positioning in the Pacific, the U.S. provides grants to
fund education, health care, and infrastructure in the FAS. Maintaining good relationships with the FAS is
imperative to our national security as other countries seek to grow their influence in the Pacific region.
The Compacts also permit citizens of the FAS broad migration privileges to the U.S. and its territories. Known
collectively as “COFA citizens” when they enter the U.S., the Compacts allow citizens of the FAS to apply for
admission to the U.S. as “non-immigrants” and without visa requirements. Currently there are at least 61,000
such COFA citizens legally residing, working, and studying in the U.S. and its territories.1 These official estimates
likely undercount the numbers.2 These COFA citizens pay taxes and play a role in driving our economy, but
they are not eligible for many of the programs that their tax dollars support.