USCIS Final Rule for CNMI Nonimmigrant Investors Issued

December 17, 2010

The USCIS is formally releasing the Final Rule for CNMI-Only Investors on Monday, December 20, 2010. The rule was scheduled to be released in July 2011, but was delayed. By reading the USCIS Final Rule, which includes background and supplemental information including changes from the proposed rule and an explanation of their consideration of comments, it is obvious that a great deal of consideration and thought was used in creating the final rule.

The rule becomes effective 30 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register.
Their press release:

USCIS Update                                                                                                Dec. 17, 2010

USCIS Issues Final Rule for CNMI-Only Investor Program

Rule provides status for eligible long-term investors

WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today posted a final rule in the Federal Register that creates a nonimmigrant investor visa classification in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The “E-2 CNMI Investor Visa” allows foreign long-term investors to reside in the CNMI through December 2014. Petitions for the E-2 CNMI Investor classification will be accepted beginning Jan. 18, 2011. Petitions received prior to Jan. 18, 2011, will be rejected.

Authorized by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA) of 2008, the E-2 CNMI Investor Visa will be issued for two years, is renewable, and is valid only in the CNMI. The investor’s spouse and children may also apply for status as dependents of the investor.

Long-term investors are individuals with certain CNMI-issued investor permits that required a fixed minimum investment amount and whose permits can be renewed over a period of multiple years. Investors eligible for the E-2 CNMI Investor status include:
  • Long-term business investors;
  • Foreign investors; and
  • Retiree foreign investors.
To qualify for E-2 CNMI Investor status, the investor must:
  • Have been admitted to the CNMI with a long-term investor visa under CNMI immigration law before Nov. 28, 2009;
  • Have continuously maintained residence in the CNMI with long-term investor status;
  • Currently maintain the investment(s) that formed the basis for the CNMI long-term investor status; and
  • Otherwise be admissible to the United States under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Investors must have an initial petition filed before Jan. 18, 2013, and must use the existing Petitioner for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with Supplement E. After the initial petition is granted, extensions are available until Dec. 31, 2014. The current processing fee is $325, plus an $85 biometrics fee for certain beneficiaries who require an initial grant of status in the CNMI. Fee waivers for inability to pay are available.

For more information and announcements in regards to CNMI, please visit the CNMI Web page at


Some Main Points

The USCIS estimates that there are 500 individuals in the CNMI who qualify for E-2 CNMI Investor visas under this rule. Foreign nationals lawfully admitted under the CNMI short-term business entry permit or the regular-term business entry permit categories are not eligible because these permits are not long-term and they do not require investments. 

USCIS stated: "Individuals with short-term and regular-term business entry permits will not be eligible to obtain the E-2 CNMI Investor visa and therefore must depart the CNMI at the expiration of their CNMI issued status or Nov. 27, 2011, whichever occurs first OR apply for and obtain another immigrant or nonimmigrant classification under the INA that permits them to remain in the CNMI."

This rule is a CNMI-only transitional regulatory provision and will expire in December 31, 2014. By the end of the transition period the investors are required to get another USCIS immigrant or nonimmigrant visa or must depart the CNMI. This rule will not be extended. The Secretary of Labor can only extend the CNMI-only worker rule.

Individuals can apply for the status between January 18, 2011 and January 18, 2013.

Dependents (spouse and children) of investors can apply for dependent status under this rule.

Certain investor statuses qualify. Qualifying individuals have to have been admitted to the CNMI in long-term investor status under CNMI immigration law before November 28, 2009. They are:
  • A long-term business investor who was issued a long-term business certificate by the CNMI based upon an investment of at least $50,000;
  • A foreign investor with a foreign investment certificate issued by the CNMI based upon an investment of at least $100,000 in an aggregate approved investment in excess of $2 million or at least $250,000 in a single approved investment; and
  • A retiree investor over the age of 55 years who was issued a foreign retiree investment certificate based upon a qualifying investment in an approved residence in the CNMI (but not including the two-year non-renewable retiree investor program limited to Japanese nationals).
The USCIS explained, "The CNMI permit for the two-year program for Japanese retirees is nonrenewable and only requires monthly rental payments rather than long-term investment."

Additionally, retirees are not issued work permits.  The USCIS stated, "Entering the CNMI as a “retiree” is inconsistent with obtaining employment." 

The E-2 CNMI investor visa does not allow the holder to travel anywhere in the U.S. including Guam. Permission for travel would have to be obtained under another visa. Violation would result in deportation.

An investor could also lose status if the investment is not maintained or if he/she does not maintain continuous residence in the CNMI. USCIS explains continuous residence: 
“Continuous maintenance of residence in the CNMI” means residence in the CNMI from the date that an individual obtained his or her CNMI status through the date on which USCIS grants the new E-2 CNMI Investor status. This is not the same as continuous physical presence; therefore, an investor does not need to remain in the CNMI for the entire period in order to have maintained continuous residence. The rule provides, however, that an investor must be physically present in the CNMI for at least half the time for which continuous residence is required. Additionally, an individual will not maintain continuous residence if he or she leaves the CNMI for more than one year or leaves the CNMI for more than six months and cannot demonstrate that he or she did not abandon his or her residence by this absence.
Thirteen comments were received by USCIS concerning this rule.

The Question and Answer Sheet clearly explains the rules and application:

The rule is appropriate for the transition to the rules under the INA.

Read the in-depth explanation, analysis and consideration of comments, and final rule:


Anonymous said...

How can you be an investor and request a waiver of fees? So what about all of the mom and pop stores, farmers, roadside vendors and the "Taxi's" They do not have the investment nor able to pay for insurance??
This will be interesting!!

the teacher said...

This is brilliant and my compliments to the person or persons who participated in constructing such a comprehensive and thorough set of regulations.

This answers many complicated circumstances with the consistency law provides; absent from our broken and corrupt local system.
Mom and pop operators and street vendors, the source of our current labor cases of non-payment are out. Foreign national retirees who lease their property or work themselves are out as well. The reprieve for CNMI investors is short lived as 2014 is too close for current holders of those certificates to invest more capital if they can’t or don’t plan on upgrading to the US investor visa.

Chinese presence in Taiwan and PI has grown into economic dominance, but these regulations will check their influence here. This is the huge victory for local citizens that we expected from federalization.

as for the noni comment above, impoverished farmers have worked here under paid for a long time, and enough is enough.

Thanks Wendy, for posting this so quickly.

Anonymous said...

8:15,what you stated is exactly my point. ALL of these "questinable" operation will be gone.
Now ALL of the people that are complaining about these people taking their job can now fill in the spaces by starting their own business and taking over the farms.
Put all of the out of work US Cit. to work now in Agriculture,fishing, Taxi's and small neighborhood stores.
This hopefully will also have an impact on the Poker Parlors, "clubs" and massage parlors.
The ones now crying about all of the "fees" also will be gone.
The underhanded deals by many of the local political and other "connected" as a "front" for many of these off island "investors" and illicit business will be cut.
Now what will become of the "regs" for the legal CW workers?
If these new regs. is any indications, then those Regs.concerning the workers should prove very interesting also.(6:57)