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USCIS announcement ‘welcome news,’ says press secretary

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Thursday announced that the application period for those seeking the new Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands long-term resident status will open on Feb. 19, 2020.

“It is welcome news,” Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said, adding that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios support long-term status for qualified longtime nonresidents.

Bautista noted that Gov. Torres was a member of the CNMI Senate when it recommended improved status in 2011.

According to Bautista, the NMI Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act signed by President Donald Trump on June 25, 2019 was a “vital part of the Torres administration’s 902 consultations, and our work with the White House, Congressman Kilili, and other members of Congress.”

“You know, I know am talking on behalf of the administration, but as a Filipino-American, in this administration, it means a lot to see this policy now being implemented by USCIS,” Bautista added.

He said, “The governor’s office will do everything it can to support USCIS in making sure that this [law will be implemented] as smoothly and efficiently as possible so that the qualified families can benefit from it in the right way.”

In a statement on Thursday, USCIS said, “Eligible aliens will have 180 days to apply for the new status, which was created by the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act (48 U.S.C. 1806(e)(6)), signed by President Trump on June 25, 2019.”

USCIS said applicants must file Form I-955, Application for CNMI Long-Term Resident Status (https://www.uscis.gov/i-955), together with Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765) by August 17, 2020.

CNMI long-term resident status is not the same thing as lawful permanent residence and does not lead to lawful permanent resident status, USCIS stated.

To be eligible for the CNMI long-term resident status, USCIS said an alien must fall into one or more of the following categories:

• Certain “stateless” individuals: Foreign nationals born in the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974 and Jan. 9, 1978.

• Immediate relatives of qualifying “stateless” individuals: Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of foreign nationals born in the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974, and Jan. 9, 1978.

• CNMI permanent residents under CNMI immigration law: Individuals who were permanent residents of the CNMI on Nov. 27, 2009.

• Immediate relatives of qualifying CNMI permanent residents: Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an individual who was a permanent resident of the CNMI on Nov. 27, 2009.

• Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens: Individuals who, on Nov. 27, 2011, were either a spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen, and continue to have such family relationship with the citizen.

• In-home caregivers: Caregivers of critical medical or special needs individuals in the CNMI who on Dec. 31, 2018, had a grant of parole under the former USCIS parole program for certain in-home caregivers.

Additionally, USCIS said, they must:

• Have been lawfully present in the CNMI on Dec. 31, 2018, or June 25, 2019, under the immigration laws of the United States, including under a grant of parole under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182[d][5]) or deferred action;

• Be admissible as an immigrant to the United States under the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), except that no immigrant visa is required;

• Have resided continuously and lawfully in the CNMI from Nov. 28, 2009, through June 25, 2019; and

• Not be a citizen of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia or the Republic of Palau.

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