DUE TO 2,800 DELAYED CW RENEWALS
Saipan’s only Vietnamese restaurant, Truong’s, a popular mainstay among tourists and locals, was dark and deserted over the weekend.
Saipan Tribune learned that Truong’s closed on New Year’s Day and distributed its remaining workers to Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa, which are all restaurants under Triple J Enterprises.
Capricciosa manager Lotty Hipolito stated that there are no updates as to when Truong’s will reopen. A notice outside the Truong’s restaurant posted by management states that Truong’s will be closed indefinitely.
Hipolito said that Truong’s employees who weren’t affected by the delayed renewals were given some hours at Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa, as decided by upper management.
She noted that about nine employees were affected. Of the nine, their cooks, chef, general manager, and dine-in supervisors were unable to work because of the delayed permit renewals.
She said, however, that Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa are still operating on regular hours.
Saipan Tribune also received reports that major hotels were affected, as well as one of the island’s major wholesale distributors, Luen Fung Enterprises, which reportedly shut down operations until such time that their employees get their CW renewals. Saipan Tribune attempted several times over the weekend to get further details on their situation but was unable to do so due to the New Year’s Eve festivities.
Pizza Hut also had to ask one its managers in Guam to come to Saipan to help out as the restaurant’s CW workers are also facing a delay in the release of their work permits.
Foreign workers whose CW-1 permits have yet to be renewed are required to stop working upon the expiration of their current permits.
According to the office of Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has responded to my calls for action on delayed renewals of Commonwealth-only worker permits by moving CW applications submitted over 90 days ago for permits that expire this week to the front of the line for processing—about 800 in all. Extra [USCIS] staff have also been added to clear the backlog of CW applications.”
Sablan noted that USCIS expects to act on these 800 CW petitions by the end of this week.
He said another 2,000 applications that were not submitted before the recommended 90 days will also receive the extra staff attention.
“I urge employers with applications that are more than 90 days old to contact the congressional office. I also recommend that employers submit applications for renewals as early as possible—they may do so up to 180 days prior to expiration,” he said, to mitigate the situation in the future.
Last week, immigration attorneys Bruce Mailman and Maya Kara, during their presentation for the Society for Human Resource Management, stated that the only thing employers can do for late CW-1 renewals is to have them stop working on their permit expiration date. After this time, workers will have a 120-day period to wait for renewal without leaving the CNMI.
They state that this 120-day period is considered lawful presence so long as the employee waiting to be renewed has been lawfully admitted or paroled into the U.S., has filed a non-frivolous application for a change or extension of status before the date of expiration of authorized stay, and has not been employed without authorization before or during the pendency of such application.
Both attorneys said that whether retroactivity will also be considered is unknown but that it is “unfair not to include pending applications,” noting that USCIS has the power to provide relief.
In addition to this, they recommended to hiring managers to consider better alternatives to the CW permit during the transition process such as auditing the workforce to change visa categories, considering loan programs for family based immigrants, and training and hiring U.S.-qualified workers.