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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Transition to U.S. Immigration Law in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Starting in November 28, 2009, pursuant to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 , U.S. Department of Homeland Security will assume full control of U.S. immigration matters in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Some Key Effects (for full details, see Department of Homeland Security Page Link)

  • Includes the CNMI in the definition of “United States” under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Provides for the Department of Homeland Security, through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to immediately resume its role as a protection consultant with regard to asylee and refugee protection, followed by full federal assumption of responsibility for these functions on the transition program effective date. The INA section on asylum, however, continues to be inapplicable to the CNMI during the transition period.
  • Amends the Guam Visa Waiver Program statute to create a Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program and extends the authorized period of stay from 15 days to 45 days, as of the beginning of the transition period.
  • Creates a nonimmigrant transitional worker immigration status during the transition period.
  • Continues lawful presence and employment authorization (if applicable) for aliens lawfully admitted by the CNMI as of the transition program effective date. Such lawful presence and employment authorization will remain valid until the end of the CNMI authorization or at the end of two years – whichever is first.
  • Provides for treaty investor nonimmigrant status for aliens with certain CNMI authorized long-term investor status.
  • Exempts the CNMI and Guam from the statutory caps on the number of H nonimmigrant temporary workers during the transition period.
  • Limits the removal of aliens lawfully present in the CNMI as of the start of the transition period on the basis of presence without admission or parole during the initial two years of the transition period or until that lawful status expires, whichever occurs first.
  • Eliminates the provision in the Covenant specifying that immigration-related fees are paid to the CNMI government, given that the Federal Government is to assume immigration responsibilities in the CNMI.
  • Specifies that prior residence in the CNMI will count as residence in the United States for a permanent resident alien who may otherwise have been considered to have abandoned residence in the United States by residing in the CNMI.
  • Authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to establish operations in the CNMI prior to the beginning of the transition period.
  • Requires the Departments of Homeland Security, Labor, and Justice to recruit and hire personnel from among qualified local applicants, to the maximum extent practicable.

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