Foreign workers who have yet to get their initial transitional Commonwealth-only worker permit need to apply for an extension of their parole in place up to Dec. 28, 2012, the new self-imposed deadline for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to make a decision on all initial CW-1 filings. This comes two years before the end of the CW program in 2014.
As of Sept. 25, over 5,000 foreign workers remain without CW permits.
Many of those petitions are still awaiting responses from employers that received “request for evidence” notices.
Moreover, many employers may now need to start applying for an extension of their workers' initial CW-1 permits-at least 90 days prior to the expiration of these permits.
Stephen P. Green, field office director for USCIS Guam and CNMI, provided updates on the transitional CW program and answered over 60 questions from members and guests of the CNMI Chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management during their monthly meeting yesterday at the Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio.
Green's main topic was the extension of CW-1 status for workers.
However, many in the audience asked Green about initial CW applications that have yet to be adjudicated to begin with.
Those who still have pending CW applications and whose parole in place expired need to apply for an extension of their parole in place.
Green said parole will be extended for 90 days from Sept. 30, 2012, or up to Dec. 31, 2012.
He said there are some 700 requests for parole extensions with pending CW applications received in the Guam office. Application for extension can also be filed with the Saipan ASC.
“We're working on it,” Green told Saipan Tribune, when asked whether all these 700 applications for extensions have already been granted.
He said the adjudication period depends on the availability of personnel but he said this has been made a priority.
Accompanying Green at the SHRM presentation was USCIS Saipan Application Service Center manager Jody Luntsford.
Over 60 questions
Green answered more than 60 questions from the audience up to almost 2pm but many of those questions have yet to be researched for proper answers.
These include questions about responsibility over medical costs and repatriation if the CW-1 worker resigns or is terminated before the expiration of his CW permit.
Eric Plinske, one of the SHRM members, said the question on medical issue “is a local law issue.”
“The law still says that all lies with the Attorney General's Office,” he said, adding that when they called former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham, his answer was, “We'll look into it.”
Plinske said SHRM can still make a follow up inquiry with the Office of the Attorney General.
Another question that has yet to be answered fully is whether the recent 50-cent minimum wage increase and an employer-decided salary raise should require an amendment to the CW status. Green said he thinks a mandatory minimum wage increase does not need an amendment, adding that he would research more on this.
Green said as of now, there is still no change in the status of nonresident immediate relatives of minor U.S. citizens and others covered in Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan's (Ind-MP) H.R. 1466. The bill proposes a “CNMI-only resident status” to four groups of people.
“We are waiting for guidance right now,” Green said in an interview.
The humanitarian parole for these individuals will expire on Dec. 31, 2012.
Extending CW status
Green gave a step-by-step process on how to apply for an extension of CW-1 status for workers.
Employers need to submit filled out Form I-129CW, petition for CNMI-only nonimmigrant transitional worker, which has a fee of $325, and CNMI education funding fee of $150.
Green said these should be two separate checks payable to “Department of Homeland Security.”
Each petition should include: an attestation for each worker; evidence to support employer's attestation that he has tried to hire a U.S. worker for the position; copies of recent pay statements or W-2s to show that the worker has been employed and is being compensated at the salary represented in the filing; and documentation to show that the employer is still doing business such as tax returns.
If the position requires a license, employers should send a photo of the license.
The employer's attestation should be a “new” advertisement for the job, not the original one, Green said.
Green pointed out that employers should “not” include the biometrics fee.
“The petition will be rejected if you include this fee on an extension,” he told the audience. “Most I-129CW case rejections and delays were due to incorrect fees.”
Green said employers should submit the form and evidence for the CW extension “at least 90 days before the current CW status ends.”
During question-and-answer, Green said an application filed six months in advance is for companies that are just starting out and wanting to hire employees.
Another SHRM member asked whether employers can apply for two-year CW permits, but Green said right now it's only a one-year permit that can be renewed annually until the end of the transition period.
An employer can file extensions for multiple workers on one I-129CW if the workers have the same job title, same location, same duration, and same requested action in Part 2 of the I-129CW form.
After the employer files for the extension application, it will get a receipt notice from USCIS California Service Center. The employer may receive a Request for Evidence, or approval/denial notice.
If the employer receives approval, they must give their employees the I-94 document showing the worker's lawful status.
Workers must have been working in the CNMI as CW-1 worker and their employer must petition for them to have their CW status extended.
CW-2 status extension
The spouse and children under 18 years old of a CW-1 worker who has received an extension are eligible to apply for CW-2 extensions.
The dependents can file Form 1-539 at the same time I-129CW is filed. Spouse and children can be included on one Form I-539 and the filing fee is $290.
“All fees for dependents are paid by the worker/family. Do not submit a biometric fee,” Green said.
CW-1 workers can also get CW-2 status for their dependents outside the CNMI. A CW-1 worker must mail the original CW-1 approval notice to the spouse or child overseas.
These dependents must go to www.travel.state.gov to make an appointment for a nonimmigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or consulate. They must complete the DS-160 form and pay the fees.
More than one job
Green said a worker can work for more than one employer if each employer submits an I-129CW petition.
CW workers can change employers but the new employer must petition for the worker.
“If a worker has an approved CW, the worker may start work for the new employer as soon as the new employer files the I-129CW petition,” Green said.
Green said employers need to avoid common mistakes such as submitting applications that are not signed, fee was incorrect, or the check is not filled out correctly; for example, monetary amounts did not match.
“Application will be rejected and this will cause delays,” he added.
More information is available at www.uscis.gov/cnmi or www.uscis.gov/cw.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce have been pushing for a five-year extension of the transitional CW program beyond Dec. 31, 2014, citing the need to still have access to skilled foreign labor to help run the local economy.