Under US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence but instead to forge closer links with the US. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the US was approved in 1975, and came into force on 24 March 1976. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978.



Oceania, islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines

Geographic coordinates

15 12 N, 145 45 E

Map references



total: 464 sq km
land: 464 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: consists of 14 islands including Saipan, Rota, and Tinian

Area - comparative

2.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


1,482 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical marine; moderated by northeast trade winds, little seasonal temperature variation; dry season December to June, rainy season July to October


the southern islands in this north-south trending archipelago are limestone, with fringing coral reefs; the northern islands are volcanic, with active volcanoes on several islands


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed elevation on Agrihan 965 m

Natural resources

arable land, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 6.6%
arable land 2.2%; permanent crops 2.2%; permanent pasture 2.2%
forest: 65.5%
other: 27.9% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

1 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

active volcanoes on Pagan and Agrihan; typhoons (especially August to November)

Environment - current issues

contamination of groundwater on Saipan may contribute to disease; clean-up of landfill; protection of endangered species conflicts with development

Geography - note

strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean

People and Society


Christian (Roman Catholic majority, although traditional beliefs and taboos may still be found)


53,467 (July 2016 est.)


noun: NA (US citizens)
adjective: NA

Ethnic groups

Asian 50% (includes Filipino 35.3%, Chinese 6.8%, Korean 4.2%, and other Asian 3.7%), Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 34.9% (includes Chamorro 23.9%, Carolinian 4.6%, and other Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 6.4%), other 2.5%, two or more ethnicities or races 12.7% (2010 est.)


Philippine languages 32.8%, Chamorro (official) 24.1%, English (official) 17%, other Pacific island languages 10.1%, Chinese 6.8%, other Asian languages 7.3%, other 1.9% (2010 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.54% (male 7,041/female 6,614)
15-24 years: 13.59% (male 4,073/female 3,194)
25-54 years: 44.32% (male 10,035/female 13,663)
55-64 years: 11.26% (male 3,210/female 2,811)
65 years and over: 5.29% (male 1,388/female 1,438) (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 32.7 years
male: 30 years
female: 33.7 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

2.07% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

17.2 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

3.8 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

7.4 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 89.2% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 0.39% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

SAIPAN (capital) 49,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.28 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.73 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.14 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 5.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.7 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78 years
male: 75.3 years
female: 80.8 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.96 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Drinking water source

urban: 97.5% of population
rural: 97.5% of population
total: 97.5% of population
urban: 2.5% of population
rural: 2.5% of population
total: 2.5% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 79.7% of population
rural: 79.7% of population
total: 79.7% of population
urban: 20.3% of population
rural: 20.3% of population
total: 20.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths



Country name

conventional long form: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
conventional short form: Northern Mariana Islands
abbreviation: CNMI
former: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Mariana Islands District
etymology: formally claimed and named by Spain in 1667 in honor of the Spanish Queen, MARIANA of Austria

Dependency status

commonwealth in political union with the US; federal funds to the Commonwealth administered by the US Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs

Government type

presidential democracy; a commonwealth in political union with the US


name: Saipan
geographic coordinates: 15 12 N, 145 45 E
time difference: UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (commonwealth in political union with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 4 municipalities at the second order: Northern Islands, Rota, Saipan, Tinian


none (commonwealth in political union with the US)

National holiday

Commonwealth Day, 8 January (1978)


partially effective 9 January 1978 (Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands); fully effective 4 November 1986 (Covenant Agreement); amended several times, last in 2012 (2016)

Legal system

US system applies, except for customs, wages, immigration laws, and taxation


see United States


18 years of age; universal; note - indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch

chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)
head of government: Governor Eloy S. INOS (since 20 February 2013); Lieutenant Governor Ralph TORRES (since 20 February 2013)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate
elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by an Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state; president and vice president serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); under the US Constitution, residents of the Northern Mariana Islands do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in Democratic and Republican party presidential primary elections; governor directly elected by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed; election last held on 4 November 2014 with a runoff on 21 November 2014 (next to be held in 2018)
election results: Eloy S. INOS reelected governor; percent of vote in runoff - Eloy S. INOS (Republican) 57%, Heinz HOFSCHNEIDER (Republican) 43%; Ralph TORRES reelected lieutenant governor
note: Benigno R. FITIAL was impeached by House of Representatives on 11-12 February 2013 and resigned on 20 February 2013; Eloy INOS (Republican) sworn in as governor the same day

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Northern Mariana Commonwealth Legislature consists of the Senate (9 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms) and the House of Representatives (20 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 2-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held on 8 November 2016 (next to be held on November 2020); House of Representatives - last held on 8 November 2016 (next to be held on November 2018)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Covenant Party 3, Republican Party 3, Democratic Party 1, independent 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Republican Party 14, independents 6
note: the Northern Mariana Islands directly elects 1 member by simple majority vote to serve a 2-year term as a delegate to the US House of Representatives; the delegate can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of delegate last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or CNMI (consists of the chief justice and 2 associate justices); US Federal District Court (consists of 1 judge); note - US Federal District Court jurisdiction limited to US federal laws; appeals beyond the Northern Mariana Islands Supreme Court are referred to the US Supreme Court
judge selection and term of office: judges of the Supreme Court of the CNMI appointed by the governor and confirmed by the CNMI Senate; judges appointed for 8-year terms and can serve another term if approved through voter election; US Federal District Court judges appointed by the US president and confirmed by the US Senate; judges appointed for renewable 10-year terms
subordinate courts: Superior Court

Political parties and leaders

Covenant Party [Benigno R. FITIAL]
Democratic Party [Dr. Carlos S. CAMACHO]
Republican Party [Juan S. REYES]

Political pressure groups and leaders


International organization participation

PIF (observer), SPC, UPU

National symbol(s)

latte stone; national colors: blue, white

Flag description

blue with a white, five-pointed star superimposed on a gray latte stone (the traditional foundation stone used in building) in the center, surrounded by a wreath; blue symbolizes the Pacific Ocean, the star represents the Commonwealth; the latte stone and the floral head wreath display elements of the native Chamorro culture

National anthem

name: "Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi" (In the Middle of the Sea)
lyrics/music: Jose S. PANGELINAN [Chamoru], David PETER [Carolinian]/Wilhelm GANZHORN
note: adopted 1996; the Carolinian version of the song is known as "Satil Matawal Pacifico;" as a commonwealth of the US, in addition to the local anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)


Economy - overview

The Northern Mariana Islands' economy benefits substantially from financial assistance from the US. In fiscal year 2013, federal grants accounted for 35.4% of the Commonwealth’s total revenues. A small agriculture sector is made up of cattle ranches and s

The Commonwealth’s economy continued to recover in 2013. Real GDP increased 4.4%, following a 2.1% gain in 2012. Economic growth in 2013 reflected increases in consumer spending and exports of services, mainly spending by foreign tourists.

Tourism continued to grow in 2013, after posting double-digit growth in 2012. The tourist industry employs approximately a quarter of the work force and accounts for roughly one-fourth of GDP. The Commonwealth is making a concerted effort to broaden its t

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$682 million (2013 est.)
$665 million (2012)
$649 million (2011)
note: GDP estimate includes US subsidy

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.232 billion (2013 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

4.5% (2013)
2.1% (2012)
-6.8% (2011)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$13,300 (2013 est.)
$12,900 (2012)
$12,400 (2011)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 91.3%
government consumption: 51.5%
investment in fixed assets: 3.8%
investements in inventories: NA%
exports of goods and services: 42.2%
imports of goods and services: -88.9% (2013)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.7%
industry: 2.9%
services: 95.4% (2012)

Agriculture - products

vegetables and melons, fruits and nuts; ornamental plants; livestock, poultry, eggs; fish and aquaculture products


tourism, banking, construction, fishing, handicrafts, other services

Industrial production growth rate


Labor force

note: includes foreign workers (2010 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1.9%
industry: 10%
services: 88.1% (2010 est.)

Unemployment rate

11.2% (2010 est.)
8% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $246.4 million
expenditures: $249.8 million (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

20% of GDP (2013 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-0.3% of GDP (2013 est.)

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

-2.5% (2013 est.)
1.1% (2012)


$288 million (2013)
$268 million (2012)

Exports - commodities



$606 million (2013)
$531 million (2012)

Imports - commodities

food, construction equipment and materials, petroleum products

Debt - external


Exchange rates

the US dollar is used


Electricity - production

60,600 kWh (January 2009)

Electricity - consumption

48,300 kWh (January 2009)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (January 2009 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (January 2009 est.)


Telephone system

general assessment: digital fiber-optic cables and satellites connect the islands to worldwide networks
domestic: wide variety of services available including dial-up and broadband Internet, mobile cellular, international private lines, payphones, phone cards, voicemail, and automatic call distribution systems
international: country code - 1-670; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2015)

Broadcast media

1 TV broadcast station on Saipan; multi-channel cable TV services are available on Saipan; 9 licensed radio broadcast stations (2009)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 16,000
percent of population: 30.6% (July 2015 est.)



5 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2013)


1 (2013)


total: 536 km (2008)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Saipan, Tinian, Rota


Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international