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Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Federalization of Immigration Law

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Federalization of Immigration Law

On May 8, 2008, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA) extended most provisions of U.S. immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (the CNMI) for the first time in history. The transition period for implementing U.S. immigration law in the CNMI began on November 28, 2009, and is scheduled to end on December 31, 2014 or (for the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program described below) December 31, 2019.

H-1B and H-2B Cap Exemption for Guam and the CNMI Ends December 31, 2014

After December 31, 2014, H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrant workers performing labor or services in the CNMI and Guam will no longer be exempt from the Congressionally-mandated H-1B and H-2B annual numerical limitations (the “cap”). All H-1B or H-2B petitions for workers in Guam or the CNMI received on or after January 1, 2015, will be subject to the annual H-1B or H-2B cap unless otherwise exempt. For more information, please visit the H-1B and H-2B CNMI Cap Exemption Expiration Web page.

E-2C Immigration Category Expires on December 31, 2014

Unless Congress takes legislative action to extend it, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Investor (E-2C) nonimmigrant visa category will expire on December 31, 2014. This visa allowed eligible foreign, long-term investors and their spouses and children to remain lawfully present in the CNMI from November 28, 2009 through December 31, 2014 while they resolved their immigration status. For more information, please visit the E-2C Expiration Web page.

Working in the CNMI

The United States welcomes thousands of foreign workers in many employment categories every year. These include religious workers, investors, scientists, athletes, nurses, agricultural workers, artists, researchers, cultural exchange participants, information technology specialists, and others. Because of the CNRA, these employment categories are available to foreign workers in the CNMI.

All foreign workers must have permission to work legally in the United States and in the CNMI. Each employment category has different requirements for admission, conditions and authorized periods of stay. It is important that you follow the terms of your admission and visa. For more information about temporary and permanent worker categories, visit our Entrepreneur Pathways Web page.

CNMI-Only Temporary Workers

If you do not qualify for any of the established temporary worker categories, you may be eligible for the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker category (CW visa). This visa classification enables employers in the CNMI to apply for temporary permission to employ nonimmigrant workers who are otherwise ineligible to work. For more information about this category, go to the Nonimmigrant Worker in the CNMI Web page.

Please note: Premium Processing Service is currently unavailable for all Form I-129 filings that request a change or a grant of status for workers within the CNMI. Premium Processing Service is also unavailable for I-129CW filings.

Temporary Worker Categories: H-1B and H-2B

Foreign nationals in H-1B and H-2B classifications who are admitted to perform labor and services in the CNMI and Guam are exempt from the H-1B cap and H-2B cap from November 28, 2009 to December 31, 2014. To qualify for this exemption, your prospective employer’s petition must include a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) for the H-1B classification or a certified Temporary Labor Certification (TLC) for the H-2B classification.  The LCA or TLC needs to show that the employment or services will only be in the CNMI and/or Guam.

The spouse and qualifying children of an H worker may apply for H-4 (dependent of an H worker) classification. There is no cap for the H-4 classification. Family members seeking H-4 classification may apply directly at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a visa or, if lawfully present in the CNMI, may apply to USCIS for a grant of status. Once you obtain that status, you must file future requests to extend that status with USCIS using Form I-539, Application to Change or Extend Nonimmigrant Status.

Please see the H-1B and H-2B Web pages for more information about these temporary worker categories.

Employment Authorization Verification

Beginning Nov. 28, 2011, employers must use the standard Form I-9 for all new hires and reverifications in the CNMI.

E-Verify to Verify Employment Eligibility of Newly-Hired Workers

Employers in the CNMI may enroll in E-Verify. E-Verify can verify the employment eligibility of all newly hired employees, including employees with CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) or E-2 CNMI Investor (E-2C) nonimmigrant statuses. Enrolling in E-Verify is easy. The E-Verify website has a variety of resources to help you prepare. Visit the Getting Started page of the E-Verify website to explore enrollment resources. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) page on I-9 Central provides additional Form I-9 guidance for employers hiring individuals in the CNMI.

USCIS also offers Self Check, the free online service that allows individuals in the United States to check their own employment eligibility


Parole in the CNMI

The term "parole," when used by immigration officials, means "permission to be in the United States." There is no fee for this request.

The following groups in CNMI may be eligible for a grant of parole:

Individuals who have been granted ANY nonimmigrant status, including CW, are ineligible to apply for parole.

Go to the Requesting Parole for the First Time in the CNMI or Extending Parole in the CNMI Web pages for more guidance about how to apply for parole.

Grant of Status

In most cases, individuals in the United States without a nonimmigrant status need to leave the country in order to obtain nonimmigrant classification. However, exceptions can be made for individuals in the CNMI with parole authorization.

For more information about applying for a Grant of Status, please see the Grant of Status link to the right.

Travel for Foreign Nationals Present in the CNMI

If you need to leave the CNMI for any reason, you will need an appropriate visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad in order to return to the CNMI unless you have been granted advance parole by USCIS.

Go to the U.S. Department of State website for information about:

Contact Us

To get more information about immigration in the CNMI, you may:

  • Call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. This toll-free number has automated information and live assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During regular business hours, customers who need more information or assistance can speak to a customer service representative. In the CNMI, live assistance is available Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. Find the status of your case by using the My Case Status tool.
  • Make an appointment to visit the USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) at TSL Plaza in Saipan. Walk-ins for emergencies only, will be seen after people with appointments.
  • Email us at

More information on U.S. immigration-related and travel issues can be found through the links on the right.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/22/2014