Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced Friday that the Biden administration has approved his request for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to re-include Hong Kong in the CNMI Visa Waiver program.
Torres wrote Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on April 8, 2021, commending the Biden administration for support during the pandemic, while formally requesting DHS to re-include Hong Kong on the CNMI Visa Waiver program in order to safely resume tourism.
In his letter, Torres emphasized the importance of resuming tourism with trusted travel partners in order to support the long-term wellbeing of the people of the CNMI.
“Re-inclusion of Hong Kong allows us to better plan for the possibilities of resuming our tourism industry and is significant to the long-term wellbeing of the citizens residing in this region of the world. Our efforts to support a viable and prosperous American community here, and to build the foundations of economic diversification, rely on our ability to resume our tourism market,” Torres wrote.
Hong Kong nationals used to be able to come to the CNMI using just their passports and without first securing a U.S visa. That ended after then-President Donald J. Trump’s signed an executive order on Hong Kong Normalization last July 15, 2020.
In a statement following his Friday morning call, Torres said: “This is big news, as it allows us to jumpstart plans to reopen tourism with a stable and beneficial travel partner for the CNMI. Hong Kong has seen no local COVID-19 cases for a month, and they are gradually getting their people vaccinated.”
“Any plans for resuming tourism will always prioritize the health and safety of our people first. We are committed to making sure our travel bubble with South Korea is done right to ensure the safety of both South Korean visitors and our community.”
“Our plan with Hong Kong is to build on our COVID-19 protective measures, vaccination rate, and beautification efforts by all our community partners to gradually get our tourism back to a true sense of normalcy. This means more economic growth, which provides our local people jobs, helps small businesses, restaurants, and hotels, and funds government services.”
“We thank the Biden administration, most especially Secretary Mayorkas, and DHS for their approval of my request and for their support and recognition of the CNMI for leading the nation in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a great first step, and I also thank our community for supporting us in our road to recovery.” (PR/Saipan Tribune)