Philippine nationals may now transit for more than eight hours in Guam on a direct flight to the Philippines.
U.S Customs and Border Protection announced yesterday that all Philippine nationals who hold a CNMI-Transitional Worker Only (CW) visa may transit in Guam, on a direct itinerary to the Philippines, for up to 14 hours, which waives the eight hours allowed under the U.S Foreign Affairs Manual.
Prior to this change, Philippine nationals were allowed to transit through Guam on their way to Manila as long as transit time does not last eight hours or more. Since United Airlines only has a morning flight between Saipan and Guam and the connecting flight to Manila only occurs at night, that meant Philippine nationals going to Manila would have stayed in Guam for more than eight hours. That would have meant Philippine nationals with CW visas would be unable to pass through Guam on their way to Manila. The new rule changes that.
According to a CBP source, the discretionary waiver for Philippine nationals transiting in Guam on a CW visa was forwarded to their office here on Saipan on Saturday, June 4.
Philippine nationals with CW visas are still not allowed to exit the Antonio B. Won Pat Guam International Airport while waiting for their next flight to the Philippines.
Upon reaching out to their office, CBP informed the Saipan Tribune that they are not permitted to release any more information the matter to the public until further notice.
The Foreign Affairs Manual states that all CNMI-Only Transitional Workers visa holders are not permitted to transit in any part of the United States, with the exemption of Philippine nationals.
Due to recent events leading to massive cuts to the CW visa program, a large number of immigrant workers may be required to exit the CNMI.
Since U.S. immigration laws were extended to the CNMI back in 2005, immigrant workers were slapped with a stricter set of rules and guidelines that touched base on benefits and restrictions that comes with an immigrant worker status. One of the restrictions was transiting on U.S. soil.
According to 9 FAM 402.18-3(E), CW Classification Valid Only for Travel to/use in the CNMI, a CW-1 visa is valid only for travel to the CNMI and the holder is not authorized to travel or transit on U.S. ground, with the exception of Filipino CW visa holders
“CW visa is valid only for travel to the CNMI. An alien with CW status or traveling on a CW visa may neither travel to nor transit any other part of the United States…An alien who is a national of the Philippines traveling on a CW visa may travel from the Philippines through the Guam airport in direct transit to the CNMI on a direct itinerary with a stopover or connection in Guam (and no other place) lasting no longer than eight hours,” it said.
The manual states that any other nationality, if not Filipino, cannot transit through Guam (or any U.S. territory) on a CW visa and Filipino CW holders may only remain on Guam no more than eight hours, which has been waived.
Because Filipino CW holders are restricted to an eight-hour transit period, they were encouraged to consider other routes when going back to the Philippines in the event that they are required to go home.
Other options Philippine national CW holders were encouraged to look into were booking their flights home with Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, or Hong Kong Express. That way, they won’t have to go through Guam where they cannot stay in transit for eight hours.
These alternate airlines could cost a bit more, depending on the season and amount of stopovers, than United Airlines. Fortunately, thanks to the discretionary waiver, it would ensure that Filipino CW visa holders do not face any federal altercations and do not breach U.S. immigration guidelines.