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Immigration Topics

The information contained in this section is intended as general information only, and not as individual legal advice. Readers should obtain professional legal advice before taking action with respect to their individual situations.

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On November 28, 2009, the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), which includes the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota, came under United States Federal Immigration and Labor laws. This was as a result of Public Law 110-229 (The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008). This new law and the resulting regulations will affect tourism, as well as living and doing business on Saipan. Certain aspects of previous CNMI law will be extended during the 2-year transition period until November 28, 2011 What this means, among other things is:

Visa Waiver Program

  • Chinese and Russian tourists will be allowed a 45-day stay in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands without a visitor visa even when U.S. immigration law takes effect in the CNMI on Nov. 28, 2009 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided.
  • Chinese and Russian tourist can continue to visit the CNMI under a special parole arrangement granted by the Secretary of DHS.
  • Please note that guest workers can no longer freely travel to foreign countries and re-enter the CNMI with their CNMI issued work permits. Their work permit no longer functions as a visa. (Pls see articles by Maya Kara and Bruce Mailman in "Non-resident Worker" section below) To re-enter the CNMI, guest workers will need a US visa that allows them to work (B1/B2 does not) or advance parole.. More information is at :
    http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1238533954343.shtm (opens in new browser window)
    the GUAMPDN website (opens in new browser window)

    Do i need a visa for saipan?

    do i need a visa for saipan (aka: What are the Saipan entry visa requirements? What are the Saipan passport requirements?)
  • ANSWER: As of November 28, 2009, Saipan's immigration and entry is being handled by the United States, therefore, all the rules that apply for entry into the US now also apply to Saipan. However, because Saipan is a unique territory, there are a few exceptions. See DiscoverSaipan for a short step-by-step guide to determining if you need a visa. Q: If my country of citizenship (for which I hold a passport) is on the list of countries for which the visa requirement is waived, what documents do I need to carry and have with me upon my arrival on Saipan?
  • ANSWER: A valid passport and an "onward" or return airline ticket.

    Permanent Residents of the US ("green card" holders)

    Can I keep my green card active by entering Saipan? I am a current Permanent Resident of U.S. (a.k.a. "green card holder"). As for the official policy, I am supposed to enter U.S. twice an year (once every 6-month). Thus, I was wondering if entering Saipan would be considered as entering U.S. If so, visiting Saipan twice an year would still guarantee my status as an U.S. Permanent Resident - Is this correct?
  • ANSWER: Yes. For immigration purposes, Saipan is now considered "inside" the US. As of Nov 2009 when the US took over Saipan's immigration management, Saipan is now considered part of the US for immigration purposes. So, the answer is yes. By entering Saipan, you are in fact, entering the US.

    Check out this article for more: http://www.visalaw.com/01jan4/12jan401.html Hello there, I am presently residing in Los Angeles with my family. We are planning to move to Saipan. You may wonder why somebody who is living in California would think of moving to an island. I was laidoff last October because of the economic crisis.

    I have a relative living in Saipan, she is inviting me to visit Saipan so I would have a view of what is it like to live in an island, although I came from Philippines, at least to see for myself what Saipan has to offer.

    My question is...I am a lawful permanent resident or a green card holder, obviously I am not a U.S. citizen yet, do you think I will have a problem with regards to immigration? I understand you are not an immigration attorney, but do you have any idea as far as immigration is concerned for someone like me who would like to relocate to Saipan. the economic situation here in the mainland is very bad right now. it scares us.

  • ANSWER: [According to Immigration Attorney Maya Kara:]
    After November 28, 2009, time spent in the CNMI counts as time in the USA for green card holders. Furthermore, PL110-229 cures all time spent in the CNMI for green card holders and deems it to be time inside the US for purposes of determining whether or not the green card holder abandoned their permanent resident status. However, according to current interpretation, time spent in the CNMI prior to November 28 does not count toward the total time you need for naturalization purposes.

    [Further clarification by Immigration Attorney Bruce Mailman:]
    Time spent in the CNMI by a US permanent resident BEFORE November 28, 2009 does NOT count toward the total time for naturalization unless the permanent resident was "inside"¬ù for immigration purposes under the Covenant as the spouse, parent or child of a US citizen who also lives here. In that case, the time does count. Also, if the permanent resident had a valid re-entry permit from USCIS, then CNMI time beore November 28, 2009 will not count against the permanent resident as "outside" time that would interrupt continuous presence in the US.

    The permanent resident who has been outside the US for too long will have to put in additional time -the usual formula is "four years and a day" before being able to apply for naturalization. This can seriously affect what happens to immediate relatives of permanent residents for whom the permanent resident would like to file immigration petitions.

    Hope that helps.

    US Citizens

    Keep in mind that the CNMI is a US "territory." We use that term loosely to make it easier for people to understand the relationship. It is actually a commonwealth in political relationship with the United States. US Citizens are free to come and go. It is NOT a foreign country as far as US citizens are concerned. There is no change in citizenship that is required for you--as a US citizen--to live here. All you need is some sort of proof of US citizenship. US citizens without passports may show birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. You will typically be required to show this at the time you START your trip. Airlines will not allow you to embark on your overseas journey to Saipan without such proof.

    Quarantine and Health Certification:  All plants and animals must be given prior approval before entry, and animals must be quarantined. Importation of controlled substances or weapons is strictly prohibited. Vaccination certification is not required unless the traveler comes from an infected area.

    Currency and Monetary Instruments: The transportation of currency or monetary instruments, regardless of amount is legal. However, if you bring in $10,000 or take out more than $10,000 from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ( in U.S. or foreign equivalent, or any combination of the two) whether in currency, coin, travelers checks, money order, or negotiable instruments, you are required by law to file a report on Form 4790 with the CNMI Customs Service. If you have someone else carry the currency or instruments for you, you also file the report.

    Agricultural Products: To prevent the entry of dangerous agricultural pests, the following are restricted: fruits, vegetables, plants, plants products and other plant materials, soil, meat, meat products, birds, snails and other live animals or animal products (whether fresh, cooked, raw, or processed; whether for sale or personal use).

    Alcohol and Tobacco: Any passenger disembarking from a ship or airplane may import for personal use and consumption, exempt from excise tax, the following:  An amount of distilled alcoholic beverages not to exceed 77 ounces. Beer or other alcoholic malt beverages not to exceed 288 ounces. Wine or sake not to exceed 128 ounces. Tobacco, other than cigarettes, not to exceed one pound. An amount of cigarettes, not to exceed 3 cartons of 10 packages per carton. However, only ten (10) packs of labeled cigarettes not complying with the Cigarettes Labeling and Advertising Act, or not listed on the Attorney General's Directory of Approved Cigarette Brands available upon request from a Custom's Officer ("prohibited brands"). Thus, if you possess more than ten (10) packs of any one cigarette brand, please list them below. Any prohibited brands over the exempted pack amount shall also be subject to forfeiture at Customs. For a listing of the directory of approved brands, please access the CNMI Attorney General Office's website (http://www.cnmiago.gov.mp) under Tobacco Enforcement section.

    Firearms and Ammunition: Any person who possesses any firearm, dangerous device, or ammunition shall, before or immediately upon entrance in the CNMI, turn it in to a Customs Office. The firearm, dangerous device, or ammunition shall be return to the person upon his or her being issued an identification card pursuant to the provisions of 6 CMC §2201-30.

    Contract Workers

    As a result of the recent "federalization" of Saipan/CNMI immigration law, there have been many questions and concerns about what the new regulations mean for the commonwealth's thousands of non-resident workers/contract workers/guest workers living on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

    Here on Saipan, we have experts on such matters who have been offering information for the benefit of all. The following series of articles have appeared in the Saipan Tribune courtesy of Maya Kara and Bruce Mailman, immigration lawyers on island.

    Maya Kara is a native of Hungary and comes to the practice of law by way of her interest in Asian history. Bruce Mailman is a native of Bakersfield, California and was a private investigator in California prior to becoming a lawyer. Both have lived and practiced law in the CNMI for over 20 years, Maya in government service and Bruce in private practice. They currently specialize in immigration law.

    They are married and are partners in the law firm of Mailman & Kara, LLC in Garapan, Saipan.

    DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is intended as general information only, and not as individual legal advice. Readers should obtain professional legal advice before taking action with respect to their individual situations. Readers may submit questions regarding federalization or immigration issues to the authors by email to lexmarianas@pticom.com.

    Relevant Articles

    Articles by Immigration Attorneys living on Saipan Article #1: Things We Can't Do Anymore
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