Most of the initial applications for transitional Commonwealth-only worker permits have been decided on, leaving 2,213 foreign workers still without CW permits as of Jan. 15 and most of them are just awaiting further evidence from their employers. There is also less than two years to go before Dec. 31, 2014, when the number of CW1 permit holders in the CNMI needs to be zeroed out unless the U.S. Secretary of Labor extends the transition period.
Employers have also started applying for renewal of the initial CW permits.
From Oct. 7, 2011 through Jan. 15, 2013, USCIS's California Service Center had data-entered 6,186 I-129CW petitions.
Marie Thérèse Sebrechts, USCIS regional media manager, said during the weekend that 12,495 CW1 workers are sponsored on these petitions filed by 1,885 different employers.
“A total of 5,025 petitions were approved consisting of 9,443 beneficiaries. A total of 576 petitions were denied, consisting of 839 beneficiaries,” Sebrechts said, responding to Saipan Tribune request for latest statistics on the CW program.
This means that 82 percent of the CW petitions have been decided on, including those that were already denied.
“USCIS has issued decisions on most of the initial applications received other than those for which we await further evidence from the petitioner/employer,” Sebrechts said.
The number of CW petitions is not static as USCIS continues to receive new petitions. In February 2012, for example, USCIS received some 5,000 petitions, and the number has since grown to over 6,000 petitions covering almost 12,500 workers.
The current cap on the number of CW workers is 15,000, which provides ample room to accommodate additional workers in response to an improvement in the tourism industry.
Some workers told Saipan Tribune that while they have yet to receive a decision on the initial CW petitions that their employers filed on their behalf, they are not worried about it so long as they can continue to work legally for their employer. But they said it would be better if they have a CW permit in their possession.
Meanwhile, as of last week, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Society for Human Resource Management-CNMI have yet to receive formal response to their Dec. 20, 2012 letter requesting USCIS to ease its rules, particularly on the requirement that workers should stop working if they do not have a renewal CW permit past the expiration of the original permit, despite submission of renewal application ahead of the initial permit's expiration date.