Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands are a territory of the United States in the Pacific Ocean. The Mariana Islands, which at that time also included the now independent island of Guam, were discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and subsequently claimed by Spain.

After the defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Mariana Islands were divided: while the island of Guam came into the possession of the United States, Spain sold the other islands (the northern Mariana Islands) to Germany; they became part of the colony of German New Guinea. After World War I, Germany lost the colony and the islands were held in trust by Japan until the islands finally had to be handed over to the United States after World War II.

Economically, the islands are almost entirely dependent on American development aid. In the past, the area was able to benefit from its special status as a foreign territory of the United States because numerous protective laws such as the minimum wage or the ban on child labor did not apply here. The American entry regulations also did not apply to these islands, which is why numerous Chinese immigrants came to the island as cheap labor. Since 2009, all of these regulations have been scrapped and the islands have failed to develop a new source of income. There is very limited tourism mainly from South Korea.


Getting here

Entry requirements
Since the Northern Mariana Islands are a foreign territory of the United States, their entry requirements also apply here, i.e. you have to register in the ESTA system and apply for an electronic visa there.

Citizens from 14 countries are exceptionally allowed to enter the Northern Mariana Islands without US immigration formalities for up to 45 days. According to the current status (2017), this does not include a German-speaking country. Citizens from German-speaking countries are therefore dependent on the ESTA system until further notice.

By plane
The only international airport is Saipan Airport (IATA: SPN). Direct connections exist mainly to Korea (Seoul-Incheon), China (Beijing, Shanghai) and Hong Kong. There are no connections from the USA to the Northern Mariana Islands.

By boat
There is currently no regular shipping service to the Northern Mariana Islands.


Getting around

There are flight connections between all three inhabited islands of the archipelago.



The official languages of the archipelago are English, Chamorro and Caroline. In general, you can get along with English without any problems.



Large hotel chains are mainly represented in the Northern Mariana Islands, so the price level is correspondingly high. Cheap accommodation is very rare.


Learning and studying

There is no higher education institution on the islands.



The job market in the Northern Mariana Islands, if you can get a work permit at all, is considered very difficult because (especially since 2009) there is a large oversupply of workers.



The area consists of 16 islands stretching over 500 kilometers, of which Saipan, Tinian and Rota are the largest. In 2009, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was designated there.



86 percent of the population speak a language other than English in private, e.g. Micronesian and Polynesian languages. Population growth is 2.8 percent per year. The Northern Mariana Islands used to be the country with the largest proportion of women in the world at 1:0.77 due to mostly female guest workers in the textile sector, but is no longer so after the collapse of the textile industry. The population has fallen in recent years, to an estimated 55,000 in 2017.


The Mariana Islands were discovered by Magellan's expedition on March 6, 1521. There, the Chamorro aborigines, who lived at the stage of the primitive communal system, stole a boat from the Spaniards, and Magellan named these islands Las Islas de los Ladrones - that is, the Islands of Thieves, or the Robber Islands.

Although these islands were declared the possession of Spain back in the 16th century, the Spaniards began to establish practical control over them only in 1668. Spanish Jesuit monks landed there, renamed the islands Marianas (Las Islas Marianas or Las Marianas) in honor of Queen Marianna of Austria and began converting the natives to the Christian faith. This caused fierce resistance from the natives, and as a result, almost the entire male population of the islands was destroyed by the Spanish soldiers accompanying the monks. Subsequently, the population of the Mariana Islands increased again due to the offspring of aboriginal women from Spanish soldiers and monks.

The Spanish colonialists practically did not develop the islands, and at the end of the 19th century Germany became very interested in the Pacific territories. As a result, under an agreement dated February 12, 1899, Germany bought the Mariana Islands from Spain for an amount equivalent to $4.5 million (except for Guam, annexed by the United States, the largest and southernmost island of the Mariana archipelago).

The Germans began to create plantations on the islands, but their rule was short-lived - during the First World War, the Mariana Islands (like the neighboring Caroline and Marshall Islands, also bought by Germany from Spain in 1899) were occupied by Japan, which, under the Treaty of Versailles, received them in accordance with the mandate League of Nations.

The Japanese actively developed sugar cane plantations on the islands, as well as coconut palms, tobacco and citrus fruits, pursued a deliberate policy of settling the islands with Japanese and forcibly assimilated the aborigines (including through the method of forced physical mixing of aborigines with Japanese settlers).

During World War II, American troops captured the Marianas and other Pacific islands, and at the end of the war, Japanese settlers were deported to Japan; at the same time, the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands, by decision of the UN, were transferred to the trusteeship of the United States in 1947.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was created in 1976 during the division of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Unlike the Marshall and Caroline Islands, the Marianas decided to renounce state sovereignty, preferring internal self-government within the United States.

On January 9, 1978, the constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands came into force.

On November 4, 1986, the final agreement on the political status of the Northern Mariana Islands within the United States came into force.

For a long time, the islands remained a tax-free zone, from where goods produced there under the “Made in the USA” label were freely imported into the United States. Since US labor laws (including minimum wage laws) did not apply to the Northern Mariana Islands, this made it possible to use cheap immigrant labor. At the request of the Democrats, a commission was created in the US Congress that was supposed to investigate the activities of companies operating on the islands. However, the administration of the islands turned for help to the famous lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who achieved the dissolution of the commission. For these services, the island administration alone paid Abramoff at least $6.7 million. However, Abramoff was arrested in 2005 and convicted in 2006. The Abramoff case led to the victimization of several high-ranking officials, and Congressman Randy Cunningham received 8 years in prison in 2006 for bribes totaling $2.4 million. In addition, lobbying legislation was tightened.

As a result, after the Abramoff case in 2007-2008, changes were made to the agreement on the political status of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands within the United States, bringing the laws of the Commonwealth closer to the requirements of the United States, including a gradual increase in the minimum wage to the levels established in the United States, about elections of a delegate to the US House of Representatives and changes in immigration laws (the last changes came into force on November 28, 2009).



The Northern Mariana Islands are a "unincorporated, organized territory" of the USA with internal autonomy since 1986 and its own constitution since 1978. The political system consists of a bicameral parliament - a Senate with nine and a House of Representatives with 18 members - and an elected governor. The head of state is the President of the United States, the current head of government is Governor Ralph Torres after his predecessor Eloy Inos passed away on December 28, 2015. Citizens of the Mariana Islands are US citizens but do not have the right to vote in US presidential elections. You don't have to pay federal taxes.

In 2018, the Northern Mariana Islands became the first US territory to legalize the possession of small quantities and the licensed manufacture of recreational and medicinal cannabis products.

The official languages are English, Chamorro and Caroline, while Korean and Japanese are also spoken on the island.



The basis of the economy of the Northern Mariana Islands is foreign tourism (up to 0.5 million tourists per year, mainly from Japan). Until October 2019, Russian citizens had the right to visa-free entry for up to 45 days for tourism purposes. In the tourism service sector there are many visiting workers (Filipinos, Chinese, etc.)

Agriculture does not meet domestic needs. Coconuts, fruits and vegetables are grown. On a small scale - livestock farming and fishing.

There is practically no export; food, industrial goods, fuel, etc. are imported.

Financial subsidies from the United States are essential.

The monetary unit is the US dollar.



On the Mariana Islands, the former aboriginal culture has long since become a thing of the past; only isolated, faintly visible traces remain of it. Its place was taken by one of the variants of the so-called Spanish colonial culture. Decades of German, then Japanese and finally American rule also had an impact.

Chamorros have been wearing European-style clothing for a long time; traditional elements are poorly preserved in food, utensils, and housing. Only the relatively high position of women (traces of matriarchal traditions) reminds us of the former social order of the aborigines. Previous religious beliefs have not been preserved. Today's Chamorros are overwhelmingly Catholic.

However, despite significant changes in culture, the modern mestizo population of the Mariana Islands has retained the language of their Oceanian ancestors in relative purity.