Two years since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting petitions for the transitional Commonwealth-only worker or CW program, a total of 10,491 or 84 percent of the 12,439 foreign workers petitioned for initial permit from Oct. 7, 2011, through Sept. 17, 2013, were approved.
A total of 1,281 or 10 percent of the petitioned workers were denied.
The rest or 667 have yet to be decided on.
Of the 10,491 initial CW permits issued, there have already been 7,182 renewal applications and 5,774 or 80 percent have so far been approved and 93 or 1 percent have been denied.
Marie Therese Sebrechts, USCIS deputy press secretary, provided these latest statistics, including 6,482 initial I-129CW petitions that covered 12,439 workers.
Some 1,954 different employers filed these initial petitions.
Sebrechts said that from Oct. 7, 2011, through Sept. 17, 2013, USCIS approved 5,405 initial petitions consisting of 10,491 beneficiaries or workers.
A total of 734 initial petitions were denied, consisting of 1,281 beneficiaries.
USCIS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that handles immigration benefits, anticipates that many employers will request renewal of their CW-1 workers’ permits later in the year.
DHS announced last week a limit of 14,000 non-immigrants under the CW program for fiscal year 2014 starting on Oct. 1, a mere 6.66-percent cut from the current 15,000 cap.
The new cap takes into consideration the number of petitioned workers in fiscal year 2013 while accommodating possible economic growth that might lead to a need for additional nonimmigrant workers.
The law requires an annual decrease in the CW cap until the CW program ends on Dec. 31, 2014—unless the U.S. Labor secretary decides to extend the transition period.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said during the weekend that the cut in available foreign workers will increase pressure on businesses to do more to recruit qualified local workers.
“It also means that the Commonwealth government and educational system will have to do more to train local workers for jobs in our economy. Visitor arrivals are increasing, hotel occupancies are high, resort renovations are beginning, and the local government has made a new commitment to spend the backlog of capital improvement grants that Congress has provided. More jobs will be created as a result and we have to be ready,” Sablan said.
As of last week, the U.S. Labor secretary has yet to decide whether or not to extend the transition period.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Sablan had asked for a five-year extension or up to 2019.
The CNMI would lose access to an estimated 12,000 skilled, semi-skilled, and professional foreign workers if the transitional CW program is not extended.
Sablan said a grant of an extension “should not be an excuse to reduce efforts to assure that qualified U.S. workers are hired.”
The delegate wrote to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas on Sept. 24, asking for an update on USCIS efforts to step up investigation of employers alleged to be hiring CW workers while turning away U.S. workers who are qualified for jobs.