‘H-visa exemption offers quota-less skilled labor pool for tech industry’


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has touted an H-visa system without a cap on workers, a business friendly tax system, and the CNMI’s close proximity to Asian markets in a cover letter of sorts seeking interest from technology firms in developing an industry in the CNMI.

The CNMI’s ailing power utility and undeveloped infrastructure already expected to groan and taxed under new hotel and casino developers would, however, present the most obvious and immediate obstacles, but Torres touts his administration’s commitment to devote more resources to this area in the letter, which reads like a flyer seeking interested parties and comes attached with a local business resource guide.

The Saipan Tribune obtained copies of these documents yesterday.

Torres writes that the CNMI’s geographic location to the Asian market, access to skilled labor, and preferential tax structure offer “unparalleled opportunities” of technology and expansion to the growing economies of the Asian-Pacific.

“Reaching out to you is part of a larger vision I have for the CNMI,” Torres said. “I see our islands as a regional hub of information and technology that empowers American industries to realize the potential of the Asian market while encouraging innovation and creativity among the far reaches of the American flag.”

“Toward this effort I offer the support of my administration to welcome you to our beautiful islands,” he adds.

Torres says a prime strength of the CNMI to American industries is the geographic location of Asian markets, with an international airport on Saipan less than five hours away from the capitals of Japan, Korea, and China by plane.

Torres believes that with the CNMI’s geographic location so close to Asian markets and the international date line (GMT+10), businesses have the potential to “operate around the clock to meet the ever-growing demands of the international economy, while still remaining on U.S. soil and under the protections of U.S. laws and Constitution, while doing business in U.S. currency.”

The expansion of the tech industry in the U.S. also continues to rely on the availability of skilled workers, Torres also said.

Technology clusters throughout the country lists access to skilled labor as their highest priority for success and expansion, and the CNMI, under U.S. immigration laws, offers “tremendous possibilities” to firms through its exemption from H visa numerical limitations, including the essential H1-B visa.

Right now, the U.S Congress provides an annual quota allocation of 85,000 H1-B visas and every year these quotas are immediately filled by U.S. firms seeking to hire skilled workers to meet gaps between job openings and available U.S. workers.

“In current scenario, the CNMI has the potential to meet this demand for high-skilled workers,” Torres said, “beyond the Congressional quota as long as the visa holder works and resides in the Commonwealth.”

Tax structure

Torres also touts “one of the most unique tax structures for business under the American flag.”

The CNMI is considered a “mirror code” possession by the U.S. government, which means the CNMI’s tax law mirrors that of the Internal Revenue Code and this allows for alterations to the federal income and corporate tax structure.

Businesses seeking to operate in the CNMI are required to report and pay income taxes on CNMI-sourced incomes but taxable entireness are entitled to a rebate on their federal income tax liability, a rebate that ranges from 50 percent to 90 percent depending on amount of tax paid.

The CNMI also has a business gross revenue tax on CNMI sourced income ranging from 1.5 percent to 5 percent.

Further, Torres touts the CNMI government’s qualifying certificate program.

He said the QC program targets specific industries in line with economic development priorities of the CNMI.

“The CNMI’s priorities include processing of high-technology products and Internet-related business and businesses engaged in Internet commerce.

Torres said investors could receive up to 100 percent in rebates and/or abatements on local taxes for up to 25 years.


Torres gives a commitment to continue to devote resources to development of 21st century infrastructure in the CNMI, saying that they are making great strides in securing stable power and internet connectivity in its three populated islands with a new fiber optic cable.

“Currently, the Northern Mariana Islands have a single fiber-optic cable that runs between the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to the island of Guam. By early 2017, an additional fiber cable will be in place to provide secure access to the Internet at greater speed and more affordable costs to businesses and residents,” Torres said.

“The Commonwealth government is committed to providing the essential infrastructure and support to make businesses succeed as we continue toward our vision of a vibrant, modern economy,” he adds.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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