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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 14) – Foreign nationals doing business in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) will be treated as nonimmigrant investors if H.R. 3079, or the Northern Marianas Immigration, Security and Labor Act becomes law.

The bill’s Section 6 states that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can allow aliens with investor visas to continue doing business on the islands under the nonimmigrant investor visa program.

"The bill allows people who have been granted investor visas under Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands law to transition to nonimmigrant investor visas under U.S. law, as long as they meet certain reasonable requirements," said David Cohen, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for insular affairs.

Homeland Security is required to publish regulations in connection with the proposed nonimmigrant investor visa.

Cohen said the nonimmigrant investor visa should allay fears of investors over the possible changes that will happen should H.R. 3079 become law.

"A nonimmigrant investor visa under U.S. law allows a foreign national to reside in the U.S. to develop or operate a business that he or she has invested in," he said in an email interview.

Congresswoman Donna Christensen, D-V.I., and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D.-W.V., jointly introduced H.R. 3079 on the floor which was passed by the House on Dec. 10.

The two said the measure will address security concerns in the Northern Marianas, the only U.S. jurisdiction, besides American Samoa, not under federal immigration jurisdiction.

They also believe that legislation, which now heads to the U.S. Senate, will curb labor abuses on the islands and improve its image among investors.

"In recognition of the commonwealth’s unique economic circumstances, history and geographical location, it is the intent of the Congress that the commonwealth be given as much flexibility as possible in maintaining existing businesses and other revenue sources, and developing new economic opportunities, consistent with the mandates of this title," H.R. 3079 stated.

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