To state policy under which a person living in the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) may be considered a resident of the United States and either a citizen of or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, for purposes of special age 72 payments (Prouty benefits) under title II of the Social Security Act and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under title XVI of the Act.
Section 502(a) of Public Law 94-241; Section 228 of title II and Sections 1614(a)(1)(B) of title XVI of the Social Security Act; President's Proclamation 4534; Regulations No. 4, sections 404.2(c), 404.374(a)3), 416.120, and 416.202(b).
The Congress passed legislation (Public Law 94-241) extending Prouty and SSI benefits to the people of the NMI. To be eligible for either of these benefits, a person must be a resident of the United States and either a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. (For SSI purposes, an alien permanently residing in the United States under color of law may also qualify. For Prouty, aliens must meet a 5-year residence requirement.) The legislation if clear that once the NMI achieves Commonwealth status broad categories of people who are affiliated with the NMI will, in fact, become citizens of the United States. However, it is not expected that Commonwealth status will be achieved until sometime in 1980 or later, following dissolution of the trusteeship and approval by the United Nations. Nevertheless, the intent of the legislation is that these benefits be payable in the NMI beginning on January 9, 1978, as indicated by the President of the United States in his proclamation dated October 24, 1977. As provided in Program Policy Directive No. 32, citizens of and qualified aliens in the NMI will be treated as if they were residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, and citizens of or qualified aliens in the United States. Thus, the question is: how can an individual establish that he or she meets these requirements between January 9, 1978, and the time Commonwealth status is achieved?
Ordinarily, for persons residing in the 50 States or the District of Columbia, we look to documents demonstrating United States citizenship in determining whether a person meets the citizenship requirement for SSI or Prouty. But during the interim period before the NMI achieves Commonwealth status, these documents would not apply for most residents of the NMI. Therefore, they cannot be relied upon to determine whether a person in the NMI is a citizen of or lawfully admitted alien in the NMI. We must instead look to guidelines developed by interpreting the Covenant between the United States and governmental policy of the NMI to determine who meets the applicable citizenship and alienage criteria.
For the purpose of establishing eligibility for Prouty or SSI benefits during the period when those benefits are payable in the NMI but before Commonwealth status is achieved, the following interpretations and definitions will apply:
For purposes of the Prouty and SSI programs, the NMI will be considered as being included within the definition of the United States; hence, residents of the NMI will be considered to be residents of the United States;
The same policies will be used for establishing whether a person is a resident of the NMI as are used for establishing residence in the United States;
An otherwise eligible person will be considered a citizen of the United States for Prouty or SSI purposes if he or she meets one of the criteria in the interim definition of United States citizenship in section 8 of the Schedule of Transitional Matters of the Constitution of the NMI; or, for SSI eligibility, is born in the NMI after the date of approval of the constitution by the people of the NMI (March 6, 1977) and is a citizen of Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands who is domiciled in the NMI or United States;
For purposes of qualifying as an alien in the SSI program, aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the NMI or otherwise permanently residing in the NMI under color of law will be considered as aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence or otherwise permanently residing in the United States under color of law;
For the purposes of meeting the "lawfully admitted alien" requirement for Prouty eligibility, an alien must be lawfully admitted for permanent residence to the NMI or to the United States and, during the 5 years immediately preceding the month in which he or she files an application for special benefits under section 228, must have continuously resided in the NMI, or the United States (as defined in section 210(i) of the Social Security Act; that is, the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa), or the NMI and the United States (as defined in section 210(i)).
January 9, 1978
Contacts with appropriate liaison offices will have to be established in order to ascertain whether an individual in fact meets the residence and citizenship (or alienage) requirements.
Final regulations covering these policies were published in the Federal Register on June 9, 1978, at 43 FR 25090.
Program Policy Directive No. 32, Interpretation of section 502(a) the Northern Marianas Covenant (Public Law 94-241); Claims Manual sections A2150-A2153.
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