CNMI Guide

Moving to the Northern Mariana Islands

As the CNMI guide makes clear, the gorgeous natural scenery, idyllic beaches and friendly, laid back way of life of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) make the islands a uniquely attractive place and it’s not surprising that some would dream of leaving the cut and thrust of everyday life behind and settling permanently in this island paradise.  There are, however, a number of factors to be considered.

Firstly, anyone seeking work in the Northern Mariana Islands must be properly eligible for employment.  Since CNMI is now part of the United States, it is unlawful to discriminate against any US citizen in employment matters.  However, non US citizens must have necessary work permits or authorizations.  Employment opportunities in CNMI are limited, as you might expect in such a small island territory, and securing employment would be a key consideration before taking any further steps towards making a move.


In terms of finding somewhere to live, whether you’re looking to buy or rent property, there are some particular issues to be aware of.  At present, Article 12 of the CNMI’s constitution requires that land in CNMI can only be owned by a person of at least 25% CNMI descent.  This legislation was, at the time of writing, in a state of flux with proposals to reduce the criterion to allow any US citizen with any degree of CNMI or Carolinian descent to own land and also to allow landowners to opt out of the restriction in respect of land sales at some time in the future.  The result of the Article 12 restriction has been that most property in CNMI is sold on the basis of a long lease – typically 50 years or more – which can usually be extended if required.  A further effect of the legislation is an increase in demand for rented property, with a consequent upward pressure in rents.  However, with a top-end four bedroom property available in a stunning location at around $400,000 on a 55 year lease, or something more modest from around $130,000, you may consider property prices worth paying for such an attractive location and lifestyle.  Even in the private rented sector, monthly rents of between $500 and $1500 may seem affordable for anyone looking to live the island dream.  The proposed changes to Article 12 are bound to affect real estate prices, however, and anyone considering a move should take considered advice as to the possible implications.

Having made the decision to make the move to CNMI, you will need to think about how to uproot your existing home and move your furniture and possessions to your new island home.  Clearly DIY is unlikely to be an option here, and it’s best to leave it to one of the specialist companies located on the Northern Mariana Islands themselves or in your home territory.  The two basic options are to use air freight or to ship in via container vessel.  Most people contemplating the move will decide on a combination of the two methods, with some immediate essential items arriving by air, which will inevitably be more expensive but rather quicker.  Your removal specialist will advise on any customs requirement if your move is from outside the US.  Good luck and happy landings!