U.S. Immigration Law in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

On May 8, 2008, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA) extended most provisions of U.S. immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The transition period for implementing U.S. immigration law in the CNMI began on Nov. 28, 2009, and is now scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2029.

Working in the CNMI

Because the CNRA extends U.S. immigration law to cover the CNMI, numerous immigrant and nonimmigrant employment-based classifications are available to noncitizens in the CNMI.

All noncitizens must have permission to work legally in the United States and in the CNMI. Each employment classification has different requirements for admission, conditions of employment and authorized periods of stay. For more information about temporary and permanent worker categories, visit our Working in the United States page.

CNMI-Only Transitional Workers

An noncitizen who does not qualify for any of the traditional temporary worker categories under the Immigration and Nationality Act may be eligible for the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker classification (CW visa). This nonimmigrant classification enables employers in the CNMI to apply for temporary permission to employ noncitizens who are otherwise ineligible to work. Prospective employer CW petitions must include a certified Temporary Labor Certification (TLC) from the Department of Labor (DOL). For more information about this classification, go to the CW-1: CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Web page.

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.

CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Investor (E-2C) Program Extended until Dec. 31, 2029

Congress has extended the CNMI-Only Investor (E-2C) nonimmigrant classification until Dec. 31, 2029. This classification allows eligible foreign, long-term investors and their spouses and children to remain lawfully present in the CNMI from Nov. 28, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2029. For more information, visit the E-2C Web page.

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

Noncitizens in H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrant 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 Nov. 28, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2029. To qualify for this exemption, the prospective employer’s petition must include a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) for the H-1B classification or a certified TLC for the H-2B classification. The LCA or TLC must show that the employment or services will only be in the CNMI and/or Guam.

Additionally, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA) exempts certain H-2B positions on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from the requirement to show that the need for a worker is temporary.

A USCIS policy memorandum, “Implementing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 and the Exemption to the Temporary Need Requirement for H-2B Workers on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (PDF, 116.25 KB)” provides guidance on qualifying for the exemption.

The spouse and qualifying children of an H-1B or H-2B 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. After obtaining H-4 status, a noncitizen must file future requests to extend that status with USCIS using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Please see the relevant web pages for more information about these temporary worker categories.

Employment Authorization Verification

Employers must use the standard Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification for all new hires and reverifications in the CNMI. The CNMI page on I-9 Central provides additional guidance on the Form I-9 for employers in the CNMI.

E-Verify to Verify Employment Eligibility of Newly Hired Workers

E-Verify can verify the employment eligibility of all newly hired employees, including noncitizens with CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) or CNMI-Only Investor (E-2C) nonimmigrant statuses. While some employers in the CNMI may choose to enroll in E-Verify, effective June 18, 2020, any employer submitting a CW-1 petition must be an E-Verify program participant in good standing.

Enrolling in E-Verify is easy. The E-Verify website has a variety of resources to help employers prepare. Visit the Getting Started page of the E-Verify website to explore enrollment resources.

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

Asylum in the CNMI

Noncitizens physically present in or arriving to the CNMI are not eligible to apply for asylum. This includes noncitizens brought to the CNMI after being intercepted in international or U.S. waters. This bar will be lifted on Jan. 1, 2030.

Long-term Residents of the CNMI

Certain noncitizens who have resided in the CNMI since Nov. 28, 2009, and who meet other eligibility requirements, may apply for long-term resident status. The application period for this program opened on Feb.19, 2020 and will end on Aug. 17, 2020. 

You can find more information on how to apply for CNMI long-term resident status on our CNMI Long-Term Resident Status page.

Grant of Status

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

For more information about applying for a grant of status, please see the Grant of Status page.

Travel for Noncitizens 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 or a grant of advance parole by USCIS in order to return to the CNMI.

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

Contact Us

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

  • Call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283. During regular business hours, applicants who need more information or assistance can speak to a USCIS service representative. This toll-free number has automated information available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the CNMI, live assistance is available Tuesday through Saturday, Saipan Time Zone: 5 a.m.-10 a.m. (Pacific Time Zone: 12 p.m.-5 p.m.).
  • Find the status of your case by using the My Case Status tool.
  • Email us at CNMI.CSC@uscis.dhs.gov for questions related to your Form I-129CW or Form I‑129 nonimmigration petition for employment in the CNMI.

More information on U.S. immigration-related and travel issues can be found below.

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