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 defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Mariana Islands were divided: while the island of Guam became the property 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 after World War II, when the islands finally had to be ceded to the United States.

Economically, the islands are almost entirely dependent on American foreign 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 did not apply to these islands either, which is why numerous Chinese immigrants came to the island as cheap labour. Since 2009 all these regulations have been removed and the islands have failed to find 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.


In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to discover the archipelago and called them Islas de Ladrones, Ladrone or Thief Islands, because Europeans believed that the inhabitants there had stolen things from Magellan's ships. In 1667 it was taken over by Spain and named after the Spanish Queen Maria Anna of Austria.

After the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded the southern part to the United States and sold the northern part to the German Empire with the German-Spanish Treaty of 1899, making it part of German New Guinea. In October and November 1899, German warships arrived on the islands. German flags were hoisted and the Germans took over the administration.

After World War I, the Mariana Islands were placed under Japanese control by the League of Nations. World War II saw the Battle of the Mariana Islands in 1944 when US troops captured the islands. Heavy fighting ensued at the Battle of Saipan and the Battle of Tinian. After the Second World War, the islands were placed under US control by the UN, which in 1978 granted them the status of a US-associated state as the Northern Mariana Islands – except for Guam, which is a “dependent territory” under direct US colonial rule and only has a certain internal autonomy as it serves as a major US military base.

The Northern Mariana Islands have been in the Commonwealth with the United States since 1975, with internal independence since 1986.



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.