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Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Status of Transition to Federal Immigration Law

GAO-11-805T Published: Jul 14, 2011. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 2011.
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In May 2008, the United States enacted the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA), amending the United States' covenant with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to establish federal control of CNMI immigration in 2009, with several CNMI-specific provisions affecting foreign workers and investors during a 5-year transition period that began on November 28, 2009, and ends in 2014. One of these provisions authorizes a transitional CNMI-only work permit program that may be extended for up to 5 years at a time past 2014. In addition, CNRA amends existing U.S. immigration law to establish a joint visa waiver program for the CNMI and Guam. CNRA requires that GAO report on implementation of federal immigration law in the CNMI 2 years after enactment. In May 2010, GAO reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had established border control operations in the CNMI in 2009 but had not concluded negotiations with the CNMI government to resolve certain challenges involving access to CNMI airport space, detention facilities, and databases. GAO also noted that DHS had not yet finalized regulations needed to fully implement CNRA provisions affecting foreign workers, visitors, and investors. This statement updates GAO's May 2010 findings regarding the transition to federal immigration law and discusses several pending issues. GAO based its statement on prior reports, information provided by DHS and the Department of the Interior (DOI), and interviews with CNMI private sector officials..

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