RUSSIAN, CHINESE TOURISTS IN CNMI GET 45-DAY LIMIT

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Also must have round-trip tickets, visa waiver

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 18, 2009) - The U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday the entry requirements for Russian and Chinese tourists visiting the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands through the parole program starting on Nov. 28.

Only nationals from the People's Republic of China or the Russian Federation are eligible for the CNMI-only parole provision beginning on the implementation date of federal immigration in the CNMI.

To be eligible for the parole provision, Chinese and Russian tourists should be solely entering and staying in the CNMI for only up to 45 days, and should be in possession of a roundtrip ticket that is nonrefundable, nontransferable, and bears a confirmed departure date not exceeding 45 days from the date of entry to the CNMI, CBP said.

They should also be in possession of a completed and signed Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Information form, or the CBP Form I-736.

Chinese and Russian tourists are also required to be in possession of a completed CBP Form I-94, or the arrival-departure record, as well as a valid unexpired ICAO-compliant, machine readable passport. ICAO stands for International Civil Aviation Organization.

"Parole will be authorized only for entry into the CNMI and will not extend to other areas of the United States," CBP said.

The parole program does not apply to Russian and Chinese tourists visiting Guam.

On Oct. 21, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that she will exercise her discretionary authority to parole into the CNMI nationals from China and Russia, until DHS issues a final rule on the joint Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.

The CNMI government and businesses welcomed the parole program, citing the need for continued access to these two important tourist markets, which account for 20 percent of tourism revenue.

CBP said for carriers to be eligible to transport eligible Russian and Chinese tourists, they should already be signatory to the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.

Carriers are also responsible for ensuring that travelers meet the eligibility requirements for the CNMI-only parole.

Carriers that are not currently signatories are required to complete CBP Form I-760 and initiate the process with CBP no later than Nov. 23, to be eligible by the Nov. 28 implementation date.

CBP said it will not initiate fines against the carrier under Section 273 of the Immigration and Nationality Act for boarding nonimmigrant aliens without a valid U.S. visa, provided the carrier is signatory to the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Agreement.

The carrier should also acknowledge its responsibility for the removal of such aliens if they are determined to be inadmissible to the United States on grounds other than the specific provision of the INA: 212(a)(7)(B)(i)(II).

Starting on Nov. 28, CBP will assume immigration functions in the CNMI.

As a result, new security features will be in place for all travelers entering the CNMI, including Chinese and Russian tourists.

These features include a notice of entry to CBP before the flight takes off; vetting of the passengers on a security watch list before entry; and compliance with strict exit controls upon departure from the CNMI.

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