USCIS Ends Northern Mariana Islands Categorical Parole Programs

On December 27, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) terminated all categorical parole programs for certain individuals present in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) [PDF version]. This termination affects “USCIS parole programs for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and certain stateless individuals [see article]; CNMI permanent residents, immediate relatives of CNMI permanent residences, and immediate relatives of citizens of the Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or Palau); and certain in-home foreign worker caregivers of CNMI residents.”

The effect of the termination is that the USCIS will not review grants of parole under any of the aforementioned CNMI parole programs once such grants of parole expire. However, the USCIS “will allow a transitional parole period and extension of employment authorization (if applicable) for up to 180 days for affected individuals, with parole not extending beyond June 29, 2019.” (Emphasis added.)

The USCIS states that current beneficiaries of the aforementioned CNMI categorical parole programs who request an extension of parole will receive a letter being granted a period of transitional parole for a period not exceeding 180 days or June 29, 2019, unless case-specific circumstances lead the USCIS to deny the application.

Those granted parole for a transitional period will automatically receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) automatically. No EAD fee will be required.

The USCIS's decision to end CNMI categorical parole programs is in line with Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) directive to only grant parole on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, several of the parole programs were designed to ease the Northern Mariana Islands' transition to U.S. immigration laws, which is still ongoing.

Those whose only legal authorization to remain in the Northern Mariana Islands is tied to one of the now terminated categorical parole programs should consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately if they intend to explore whether they may be eligible for a different lawful immigration status.