United Workers Movement-NMI president Rabby Syed said yesterday that a Bangladeshi security guard with an approved Commonwealth-only worker permit couldn't get a CW visa at the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh for almost two months now despite going through the application process. Instead, he was told to wait until the embassy gets a lot of information about the transitional CW program.
“He's still waiting, and it's been almost four months since he left Saipan for a two-month vacation. It's a long vacation because many like him go on vacation only once in three or four years. He went through the process online, paid the fee, and at the date of the interview at the embassy in Bangladesh, they asked him to wait for a decision because they still don't know much about the CW process,” Syed told Saipan Tribune.
Syed said the CW permit holder, who has been working on Saipan for some 15 years, asked that his name not be published for fear that his CW visa application could be further jeopardized.
“He's scared that he won't be able to go back to Saipan and continue his work,” Syed added.
The security agency where the Bangladeshi national works for is still willing to have him return to Saipan, said Syed, but if the non-issuance of a CW visa drags on longer, the employer might just pull the plug on the worker.
“This situation, just like the one about the Filipino worker who was denied a CW visa in the Philippines, is creating concern and fear among CW permit holders. They might just hold off on any vacation. But what if it's an emergency?” he said.
Syed also said that during presentations by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services months ago on the transitional CW program, “they assured that if there's no criminal problem involved, then there's no reason to be denied a CW visa.”
“But that's not the case here. If it's true that the Filipino CW permit holder was denied a CW visa because he was earning only $5.05 an hour and not $7.25 an hour, then there's something wrong with the process. I believe USCIS should have been coordinating with the U.S. State Department or embassies to avoid denial or non-issuance of CW visa to those with valid CW permits,” he said.
USCIS has yet to respond to media inquiries about the issue.
Saipan Consul General Medardo Macaraig, meanwhile, separately said that the Philippine Consulate General requested the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to “look into” the situation of a Filipino maintenance staffer at Pacific Islands Club who was denied a CW visa at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Macaraig was referring to Teodolfo C. Perez, who went on vacation in the Philippines early this month. Perez obtained a CW permit before leaving for a vacation, and applied for a CW visa beforehand.
“If it is true that he was denied only because he's earning $5.05 an hour, which is the minimum wage in the CNMI, then that is something that really needs to be looked into because that's wrong. And another minimum wage increase of 50 cents won't be due until September but that's still not going to be $7.25,” he said.
Of the close to 12,000 foreign workers in the CNMI petitioned for a CW permit, only some 35 percent or over 4,000 have been granted such permits.
Most still have pending applications, including some 3,000 with requests for evidence, while less than a hundred petitions were denied.