Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program
Beginning November 28, 2009, U.S. federal immigration law is scheduled to extend the local immigration laws of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam. The Guam Visa Waiver Program currently in effect will be replaced by the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.
The change comes from Subtitle A of Title VII of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (also known as PUBLIC LAW 110–229). According to U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, bringing U.S. federal control of the borders “will reduce the scams and abuses that have been a hallmark of local immigration control.”
However, the change in the law is tainted by one major obstacle. Congressman Kilili, who became the first member of Congress from the CNMI, has also stated that “the Department of Homeland Security, which has had almost a year and a half to prepare, is not ready to implement U.S. Public Law 110-229 on November 28.”
A new legislation introduced by Guam delegate Madeleine Bordallo on October 7, 2009, mirrors the same concern. Her amendment numbered H.R. 3770 is designed “to make technical corrections” and to delay the federal immigration control by one year. This may in turn delay the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program by one year as well.
Legislative Hearing on the H.R. 3770 amendment is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 22, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. This bill will be the first step in the legislative process. Usually, introduced bills and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate. The majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee. Thus, the fate of the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program is unknown until the House Natural Resources and House Judiciary committees vote on the Bordallo’s amendment.
Overview of the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program. Japan is among twelve other countries enrolled in the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program. The Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program allows the traveler to enter Guam or CNMI visa-free for 45 days for business or pleasure. To utilize the program, the traveler must:
- Be solely entering and staying on Guam or the CNMI not exceeding 45 days;
- Be in possession of a nonrefundable and nontransferable round trip ticket that bears a confirmed departure date not exceeding 45 days from the date of admission to Guam or the CNMI;
- Be in possession of a valid unexpired ICAO-compliant, machine readable passport issued by a country that meets the eligibility requirements of this section;
- Have not previously violated the terms of any prior admissions. Prior admissions include those under the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, the prior Guam Visa Waiver Program, the Visa Waiver Program as described in section 217(a) of the INA and admissions pursuant to any immigrant or nonimmigrant visa;
- Have a completed and signed form I-736 and Form I-94, Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Information form, and Arrival-Departure Record;
Persons travelling to Guam or the CNMI under the new Guam-CNMI VWP will not need ESTA. Travelers who plan to spend more than 45 days in Guam and the CNMI or plan to travel on to another U.S. destination can utilize the regular Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for their trip, using the regular VWP requires an ESTA and a VWP compliant passport. Travelers going to any U.S. destination (including Guam and the CNMI) who plan to work or study in the U.S. or have certain medical problems, criminal convictions, prior denial of entry into the U.S., etc. will continue to need visas.
For further information and updates on the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program and the prior Guam Visa Waiver Program, contact Kosins Attorney at Foreign Law Office.