CNMI SEEKS RESIDENCY INCENTIVE TO BOOST INVESTMENT

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, October 2) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will re-introduce a permanent residency program for individuals who invest at least US$200,000 in the commonwealth.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial on Friday said the proposed residency program will be drafted by Oct. 15 and enacted through the legislative process.

He said the local residency program will target Japanese and Chinese investors.

At US$200,000 each, residency cards sold to 2,000 Chinese investors would yield US$400 million worth of investments, Fitial said.

"We should look into re-enacting the Residency Act and bring in investors. We will be selling residency only to investors…. We are looking at US$200,000 to US$250,000. This is not final yet," said Fitial.

"We want to make a condition that there should be a reinvestment. They cannot just run away (after making the investment)," he added.

Fitial said the CNMI’s first Residency Act was enacted during the Trust Territory days but it was later repealed by the islands’ first elected governor, Carlos Camacho, in 1981 due to its failure to bring economic gains to the commonwealth.

"The intent of that act was to increase the population because the then-District Legislature believed in an economy of scale. Unfortunately, the mixed population was not conducive to promoting the economy of scale, so they repealed it," he said.

The first Residency Act benefited mostly foreign workers who were granted permanent residency on condition that they live in the islands at least five years immediately prior to their application for permanent residence status.

Attorney General Matthew Gregory said the proposed new Residency Act would assure that only legitimate investors gain entry to the islands.

He added that the dependents of the principal applicants would be required to enroll in private schools so as not burden the financially struggling Public School System.

October 2, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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