On Friday morning, Governor Ralph DLG. Torres announced that the Biden administration approved his request for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to re-include Hong Kong into the CNMI Visa Waiver program.
Governor Torres sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security 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, Governor Torres emphasized the importance of resuming tourism with trusted travel partners in order to support the long-term well-being 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 well-being 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,” Governor Torres wrote.
In a statement following his Friday morning call, Governor 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.”