U.S. Department of Homeland Security to decide on visa waiver

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, will decide whether the CNMI can continue a visa-waiver program for Chinese and Russian tourists, Marianas Variety reported, citing an interview with a U.S. official.

In the meantime, the program will continue.

“The final decision is up to the [DHS] secretary. The secretary has the authority to continue the parole. We have a new administration, and the new secretary has asked for information about the parole, including the numbers, and we have provided that information to the secretary. It’s for him to decide where he wants to go with the parole. Until then, we will continue with the parole as is and we are executing it on a case-by-case basis,” Brian J. Humphrey, director of field operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the newspaper.

Humphrey said long wait times at the border were being addressed by filling vacancies for additional immigration officers, upgrading the processing system and by working with the airline companies.

“We are responsible for filling vacancies that we have, and that’s one part of the solution, and another part of the solution is working with the airlines to see if they can spread out their flights in such a way that they don’t stretch our resources too thin…. Another part of the solution is…to automate the process — that alone will save a significant amount of time,” he said.

Saipan’s only casino, a temporary facility run by Imperial Pacific, has been reporting VIP rolling volume averaging about $2 billion a month since it began operations in late 2015. The result was in part attributed to the visa-free access enjoyed to the island.