New Visas Available for Northern Mariana Workers

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently signed regulations to provide special worker visas in the Northern Mariana Islands.

In 2009, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands began transitioning from a local immigration authority to a system governed by U.S. agencies. A temporary worker visa was created for the transition period, which is scheduled to last until 2014. However, a federal court blocked the institution of this visa category, leading to uncertainty in the islands.

Doug Brennan, president of the CNMI Chamber of Commerce, told the Saipan Tribune the local economy has suffered because business owners have not known whether to hire foreign workers. Foreign workers without an H-visa or other work permit were eligible for deportation as of November 27, until the new policy was signed.

CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan told the source he was briefed by DHS officials, who said the agency will send representatives to the islands in September to clarify the new visa policies and help streamline implementation.

Immigrant rights groups have called for more sweeping policy changes to enable foreign workers in the Marianas to apply for a green card.

The U.S. embassy in the Philippines, just to the west of the Marianas, recently launched a blog, VISAtisfed Voyager, to spread information about how Filipinos can apply for worker and educational visas.