Visa issues for Games’ delegates raised


A female player serves during the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa. Beach volleyball players will head to the CNMI in 2022 for the Pacific Mini Games. (Contributed Photo)

The 2022 Pacific Mini Games Organizing Committee will be talking to the United States Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address concerns on the entry of non-U.S. athletes and officials to Saipan for the regional competition.

The committee chair, Marco Peter, said they will reach out to the two federal agencies under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in response to Northern Marianas Sports Association’s inquiry on the visa requirement for the Pacific Mini Games delegates. NMSA treasurer John Hirsh during the committee’s meeting held early this month said that citizens of several countries participating in the rescheduled competition may need a visa to enter the CNMI, which will host the Mini Games from June 17 to 25 in 2022.

The host transitioned from local to federal immigration law in November 2009, mandating non-immigrant visitors seeking entry to the CNMI to secure a U.S. visa.

2022 Pacific Mini Games Organizing Committee chair Marco Peter, left, talks, while Oversight Committee member J.J. Atalig listens during a meeting at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium early this month. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The Pacific Games Association has 22-member countries and 14 of them are not included in the CNMI and U.S. visa waiver programs—Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Niue, Norfolk Island, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia could be taken out of the list of countries whose citizens will need a U.S. visa since it’s a French territory and France is included on the 39 nations under the U.S. visa waiver program.

Papua New Guinea and Nauru are among the 14 countries on the CNMI visa waiver program and will have a pass to come to Saipan along with citizens of the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesian, and American Samoa—another U.S. territory. Palau, FSM, and the Marshall Islands can enter the U.S. and its territories without a visa because they are part of the Compact of Free Association.

Neither Peter nor Hirsh elaborated on the visa concerns, but it was discussed in previous meetings about the Mini Games the possibility of providing visa waiver to the affected countries during the competition period. Securing a U.S. visa is expected to be major challenge for several participating countries at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletes compete in the steeplechase event in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. Athletics is in the program for the 2022 Pacific Mini Games that will be held here. (Contributed Photo)

Pacific Games Council chief executive officer Andrew Minogue, who joined virtually the committee’s first meeting since it was formed late last year, estimated the number of athletes, officials, and guests coming to Saipan for the Mini Games between 800 and 1,000.

The number could grow depending on the decision of the PGC and member-countries regarding the suggested inclusion of tennis and weightlifting to the competition’s sports program. Initially, only six sports were approved for calendar of events for the Mini Games. The list includes athletics, badminton, golf, beach volleyball, triathlon, and baseball.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Pacific Mini Games Organizing Committee said that the selection committee tasked to hire a CEO for the Mini Games will include Oversight Committee head Alex Sablan and members Erlinda Naputi, J.J. Atalig, and Joey Dela Cruz, NMSA president Jerry Tan, Minogue, and Peter.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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