IPI avails of fast-track immigration program


Brian Humphrey, left, director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Donald Browne, senior vice president-Operations, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, hold up copies of the memorandum of understanding yesterday morning at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. (Bea Cabrera)

Casino operator Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection inked a memorandum of understanding yesterday that would hasten the immigration process for IPI guests coming to the CNMI.

The MOU was for the Reimbursable Services Agreement Program that, according to IPI executive Donald Browne, basically eases the immigration process for IPI customers who enjoy coming here but don’t want to wait for hours at immigration.

“It has been a long process but this is going to enable us to assist our guests in the CNMI and expedite their processing through immigration and customs,” Browne said.

The Reimbursable Services Agreement Program allows CBP to provide additional service inspections.

“This particular program…will allow us to provide for additional services for private aircraft [or] chartered aircraft with overtime funds that otherwise won’t be available under our base budget,” said Brian Humphrey, Field Operations director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“We have entered a number of these reimbursable agreements at various airports where each stakeholder has a specific need for each location. Some want additional overtime service, some want additional flights. So we tweak these arrangements specific to what the stakeholder needs so that it will be moving forward nicely,” he added.

IPI was prompted to avail of the program as the number of its guests grew before and after the casino opened at the Imperial Pacific Resort.

“We saw this need. When you come here and there are 1,500 or 2,000 people that arrive at the same time, and they wait for hours at the arrival area, it is very frustrating for our guests and for our leadership to accept,” Browne said.

“We did a little bit of homework, filled up the application and, in the application, we let CBP know what we need. The CNMI [government], Commonwealth Ports Authority, and Customs knew what our needs were and they worked with us. With CBP, we had to go through an application process.”

Humphrey said the program application goes through a two-step process. “We have a process at our headquarters where they convene a board of senior managers. They review all applications and then determine which ones can be supported or not and then the commissioner makes the final decision and signs the approval.”

“The program is approved based on the merits of the proposal. If it’s something that we can support, something that makes sense operationally and there is a good business plan behind it, then the proposal could be approved. Today we are here to sign, seal, and deliver. The signing is the second step or localized agreement, which spells out the specific services to be provided,” Humphrey said.

The agreement does not state a specific duration or when the agreement will be extinguished.

According to Humphrey, the agreement is for an open-ended period—one that can be modified at any time based on a joint agreement.

“It could be altered, changed. The agreement is very flexible,” he said.

IPI is the only company that currently has this agreement with the CBP in the CNMI.

The program is available to all guests of IPI and specifically targeted to those that arrive via private jets.

“Clearly, it is a lucrative and rapidly growing market. This agreement will allow us to service as they arrive. It doesn’t spell out specific times because, in the general aviation environment, those aircrafts don’t operate on a rigid schedule. When they are ready to fly, they provide notice and we provide service,” Humphrey said.

“There were projections from IPI and the CNMI government that say they are expecting as much as a 300-percent increase in private aircraft operations here, so this agreement is specific to provide immigration processing services for those general aviation charter aircraft,” he added.

According to Browne, the program will benefit all guests that arrive in the CNMI. When you take one person out of the line, everybody benefits. So as we expedite our VIP guests, it will also benefit the rest of the guests.”

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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