Monday, October 18, 2010

Rota and Tinian Outreach Project

The Marianas Office of Micronesian Legal Services has started a one-year project of increased service to Rota and Tinian. “We’re happy to announce that we will be visiting Rota and Tinian much more frequently,” said Jane Mack, Directing Attorney. MLSC provides free legal services in civil cases to low-income people in the CNMI. The outreach project was made possible by federal earmark funding obtained for MLSC by Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan.

New office space in Tinian: photo by Janet King

“We have always provided service to Rota and Tinian,” Mack said. “We take telephone intakes and exchange documents by fax and e-mail, but our on-island visits have been limited to once a month.” With the new federal earmark, MLSC will increase visits to 3 or 4 times each month during the one-year project term.

It was a long process to get this special funding for MLSC. “The work to obtain this funding began in April 2009 when I submitted a proposal on behalf of Micronesian Legal Services Corporation to the Approriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies,” Congressman Sablan said in a letter to MLSC. “There are literally tens of thousands of these requests from the 441 members of the House of Representatives, so it was a very competitive process.”

The Marianas Office receives most of its funding from the federal government through the Legal Services Corporation, and it has also received some local government support. “We’ve been fortunate that the local CNMI government has helped us,” Mack said. “Even in the years when the CNMI local government has not been able to provide us direct funding, it has allowed us the use of office space convenient to the people in our community.” When this one year project ends, the Marianas Office will continue to provide legal representation to the residents of Rota and Tinian in the usual way with its LSC funding and local support.

Under the outreach project, MLSC attorney Dimitri Varmazis will provide service to Rota, while attorney Linda Wingenbach visits Tinian. Paralegal Polly Anne Sablan will visit both islands to work on US citizenship and immigration status issues.

Mr. Varmazis has scheduled visits to Rota at the Courthouse for Friday October 22; Friday, November 5 (with Polly Anne); Tuesday, November 9; and Thursday, November 18. “We’ll be looking for office space in Rota to make our services conveniently available to everyone,” Varmazis said.

The Marianas Office has already obtained office space in Tinian at the first floor of the PM Building (about halfway between JC Café and the courthouse). Ms. Wingenbach has scheduled visits to Tinian for Wednesday, October 20 (with Polly Anne); Thursday, October 28; Wednesday, November 3; Wednesday, November 10; and Friday, November 19, 2010. “It’s fantastic that the people of Tinian can now have increased access to justice,” said Wingenbach.

Linda Wingenbach at her desk in Tinian: photo by Janet King.

Clients and applicants can set appointments for Rota or Tinian by calling the Marianas Office in Saipan. Walk-in clients and applicants are also permitted, although people may have to wait if they don’t have an appointment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tinian Schedule

Thanks to the federal earmarked funds we received through our US Congressman's efforts, we will be traveling to Tinian and Rota more frequently to provide legal help in these under-served areas.

Our Tinian calendar right now looks like this:

Friday, October 15
Wednesday, October 20 (with Polly Anne)
Thursday, October 28
Wednesday, November 3
Wednesday, November 10
Friday, November 19

Attorney Linda Wingenbach will be there and available to meet new applicants and talk with clients at our new office space at the first floor of the PM Building (about halfway between JC Café and the courthouse). Appointments can be made by calling our Saipan office. People may also walk-in, but may have to wait.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New CNMI Divorce Law--P.L. 17-20

The CNMI has a new divorce law.

It provides for 3 major changes to our current code.

1. It changes the jurisdictional residency requirement (8 CMC sec. 1332(a)) from two years to 90 days.

2. It changes one of the grounds for divorce (8 CMC sec. 1331 (g))--deleting "leprosy" and replacing it with "irreconcilable differences."

3. It makes dissolution available (8 CMC sec. 1331 (b)) upon 2 conditions: *) 7 days residency of one of the parties and **) signed and notarized consent of both parties. [Note the consent must be acknowledged before a US consular officer if signed outside of the US.]

Effective date: 10/3/2010.

These changes are welcomed. The previous law's 2-years-residency requirement was a difficult hurdle to meet at times, especially for those who left and returned, or who were relatively new to the island and saw their marriages collapse.

Irreconcilable differences are described as
"persistent and unresolvable disagreements between spouses that result in the breakdown of the marriage."

And more importantly:
"Irreconcilable differences may be cited generally without citation of specific differences as grounds for dissolution of the marriage."

This will be a great help; we will no longer have to show that the other spouse is guilty of cruel treatment. If one party feels the marriage is beyond repair, that should be enough proof of irreconcilable differences!

Although the statute is silent on its effect on the need for hearings, the Court might analyze the need for hearings like this:

*As in the past, all divorces based on "grounds" (including irreconcilable differences) require a hearing and proof of the grounds.

*The dissolutions, based on mutual consent, may be obtained without a hearing upon sufficient pleadings.

We will be encouraging this procedure. And it is likely that for those divorces in the pipeline, where disputes about grounds have been raised, we will seek to amend and plead "irreconcilable differences."

A good change, all in all.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Family-based Green Cards Filing Fees Update

MLSC published a blog post on May 22, 2009 regarding family-based green card fees and costs in the CNMI. Fees will increase this November 2010, and so here is an update to the numbers. (You can still file with the lower fees through November 22, 2010.)

FormRequired with FormFee/Cost
I-130Petition for Alien Relative• Evidence of relationship (e.g., marriage certificate, joint account information, etc.)
• If previously married, evidence of termination of marriage
• 1 passport photo
• G-325A biographical info
I-485Adjustment to Permanent Status Application• G-325A biographical info
• Copy of passport
• Copy of CNMI immigration permit
• Birth certificate
• 2 passport photos
• Police clearance or, if criminal history, provide evidence
• I-693 Medical report
• fingerprinting fee

I-864Affidavit of Support for Immediate Relative• Most recent tax filing (w/ W2 form)--
Total USCIS Fees$1,485
Medical exam for
I-693 report

Estimate only. Prices range based on what tests are needed for the applicant.

AttorneyEstimate only. Fees vary.$1,000
Total Est. Costs$1,500

Continuing in effect: family-based green card applicants can have their interviews conducted in Saipan at the recently-opened Application Support Center in the TSL Plaza, Beach Road in Garapan.

We hope to get a better sense of what private attorneys are charging when we host an immigration training in December 2010.

Medical exams may depend on your age, and for children whether vaccinations are up-to-date. You can run a search of authorized health care providers on the USCIS website's by searching "Find civil surgeons" and entering the zip code. Here is the current list that is generated when typing 96950 for the CNMI:

•Dr. Ahmad Al-Alou, Pacific Medical Center
P.O. Box 501908 CK, Saipan, MP 96950
(670) 233-8100

•Dr. Anthony R. Stearns, Marianas Medical Center, PO Box 5006 CHRB, Saipan, MP 96950(670) 234-3925

•Dr. Christine Brown, Island Medical Center, P.O. Box 504669, Saipan, MP 96950(670) 235-8880

•Dr. Richard Brostrom, Department of Public Health, Commonwealth Health Center, P.O. Box 409 CK, Saipan, MP 96950 (670) 234-8950

Note that although Dr. Brostrom at CHC is still listed, he has left the CNMI.

We hope you find this helpful. As always, please feel free to leave a comment or advise us if any information we provide is inaccurate or out-of-date.