18 Mar 2009

Visa waiver exemption almost definite for visitors to CNMI and Guam from Russia and China

2:57 pm on 18 March 2009

An official of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration Services says the exclusion of China and Russia from the soon-to-be implemented Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Programme has already been decided.

The Marianas Variety says the decision was based largely based on security concerns.

The official, Michael Aytes, says that that unless there are compelling new information comes forward, China's and Russia's citizens will be required to get a U.S. visa to enter Marianas as tourists.

Guam and the Northern Marianas have strongly lobbied for the inclusion of China and Russia.

CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial says the inclusion of Russia and China in the visa waiver programme is crucial to the survival of the islands' tourism industry.

He says without their inclusion the islands would lose about US$200 million in potential economic activities each year.