Employers can now begin preparing the CW-1 employment petitions for their foreign workers for fiscal year 2020, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ready to accept them beginning April 4, 2019.
This time, USCIS will be requiring all CW-1 filings to include an approved temporary labor certification from U.S. Department of Labor.
All CW-1 petitions that have a start date on or after Oct. 1, 2019, that are filed without an approved TLC from U.S. Labor will be rejected.
Employers must also include a prevailing wage rate when petitioning a guest worker for a fiscal year 2020 CW-1 visa.
“The TLC will confirm to USCIS that there is not a qualified U.S. worker available to fill the employer’s job opportunity in the CNMI, and that the employment of a CW-1 worker will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers,” said USCIS in a statement.
In a statement sent to Saipan Tribune, the Torres administration thanked the U.S. Department of Labor for the new labor certification process for CW-1 petitions based on the published Interim Final Rule.
“The new regulations, mandated under the NMI U.S. Workforce Act, establishes an added requirement as a prerequisite for approval by [the U.S. Department of Homeland Security] of an employer’s CW-1 worker petition and ensures protections for both CW and U.S. workers,” said the Torres statement.
“The administration looks forward to working with USDOL as it conducts educational outreach on this new labor certification process within the next 120 days as mandated by Public Law 115-218 [the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018]. This will allow for greater clarity for businesses and the community at large for obtaining a CW-1 visa and for the ongoing development of more U.S. workers in our economy.”
The NMI Workforce Act extended the CW-1 program to the year 2029 and set a numerical cap for each fiscal year until then: 13,000 (FY 2019), 12,500 (2020), 12,000 (2021), 11,500 (2022), 11,000 (2023), 10,000 (2024), 9,000 (2025), 8,000 (2026), 7,000 (2027), 6,000 (2028), 5,000 (2029), and 1,000 (first quarter of fiscal year 2030).
USCIS will announce additional guidelines in submitting CW-1 petitions in the coming days.
“Other than complying with the TLC requirement applicable to CW-1 petitioners with employment start dates on or after Oct. 1, 2019, CW-1 petitioners should continue to follow current USCIS regulations, procedures, and forms,” said USCIS.
Enough CW1 slots
The Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp., meanwhile, reminds employers that they are still trying to come up with a prevailing wage for the CNMI and they must not worry as there are enough CW-1 slots available based on USCIS data.
“The NMBAC has recommended that employers that will be submitting applications for a CNMI prevailing wage determination from the U.S. [Labor] should know that there is no current CNMI prevailing wage available for CW-1 applicants,” NMBAC president Alex Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
“The [CNMI] Department of Commerce, in conjunction with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, through Hive Analytics and DataTalks, will conduct a sector-by-sector prevailing wage survey, which should…[be] completed by May 16. An announcement of the completion and posting to the CNMI Prevailing Wage website will be forthcoming.”
Sablan again reminded employers to wait until a CNMI prevailing wage is established. “It’s only a recommendation that employers wait for a CNMI Prevailing Wage posting because the current law requires that, in the absence of a CNMI Prevailing Wage, U.S. DOL foreign labor desk adjudicators must use the ‘mean’ wage determination of Guam for CW-1 applications.”
He added that there are enough CW-1 slots. “There is no risk of running out of CW-1 visas this fiscal year  as was indicated by USCIS that less than 9,000 of the 13,000 available CW-1 visa quotas were utilized in fiscal year 2019. There are no new hotels or industries opening in fiscal year 2020 so the chances of visas running out is not likely.”
“Again, we encourage everyone to wait for the 2019 Saipan Chamber of Commerce and CNMI DoC Prevailing Wage Survey to be complete before filing your wage determination,” Sablan said.