Hundreds of employers and employees swamped the first day of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ outreach program yesterday, with so many people crowding the indoor auditorium of the American Memorial Park for the 2pm session that the USCIS was forced to set an unscheduled session later at 4pm.
USCIS officials held four sessions in all from morning ’til night to provide an overview of the final rule governing foreign workers in the CNMI and to answer questions from the audience.
With barely two months before the Nov. 28 deadline for employers to petition for a Commonwealth-only worker, employers and their employees hope to learn more about the final rule.
USCIS’ nine-day outreach sessions, excluding Sunday, will wrap up on Sept. 29.
“This event is useful for us employers and managers who want to maintain our workforce. I recommend others to attend,” G4S Security Services-Saipan branch manager Moses Pangelinan told Saipan Tribune after attending the two-hour session for employers at the memorial park.
Pangelinan said that G4S Security Services has over 200 employees on Saipan, and some 145 of those need to be petitioned for CW status.
“Most of my questions were answered, especially on the petition filing fee for multiple employees,” he said. “By Oct. 7, I think we can start petitioning them.”
The USCIS team held an outreach session with the Society for Human Resource Management-CNMI Chapter at the Pacific Islands Club yesterday morning, followed by two separate outreach sessions for employers in the afternoon, and one session for the Filipino community and the Philippine Consulate General last night.
With still some 30 minutes to go before the 2pm session for employers at the American Memorial Park indoor auditorium, the place was already packed to the rafters. The place was able to accommodate a little over 120 because of extra chairs, per session.
Due to the big crowd, USCIS had to immediately schedule a new 4pm session for those who were not accommodated in the 2pm session.
At 6pm, Filipinos, who make up the majority of foreign workers in the CNMI, turned up in droves at the ground floor of the Marianas Business Plaza in Susupe.[B]The team[/B]
The USCIS team is headed by district director David Gulick, who served as the main resource speaker during the sessions.
With him are Philip Busch from the Office of Chief Counsel; Irene Adame, acting field office director for Guam; community relations officers Darlene Kutara and Janna Evans; Monica Verma, immigration services officer from USCIS’ California Service Center; Claire Nicholson from the Office of Communications; and regional media manager Marie Therese Sebrechts.
Jess Pantaleon, general manager at PSG Professional Group, an accounting and document handling firm, said all of his questions about the CW rule were answered during the session.
“This is a big help for our company. We also got to hear several other cases and we learned from their examples,” he said after attending the 2pm session. He said he arrived at 1:20pm and within minutes, the auditorium was already full.
He said PSG Professional Group, which has 13 employees, saw an increase in the number of “green card” application from families after the final CW rule came out.
“People don’t know what to do, so they’re asking for help. Everybody is learning from this outreach session. I think it’s also a learning process for the USCIS team that is here. That’s why they told us we should stand by for developments in the next few days,” he said.
Doris Bisnar, a representative of a law firm handling immigration cases, came prepared with a list of questions for the USCIS team at the session for employers.
One of her questions was whether an employer can switch to a CW application if the H1B application is denied, to which she said she received a “yes” response, so long as the employee still has a valid umbrella permit at the time of the CW petition filing.
Bisnar also said their firm saw an increase in the number of individuals applying for “green card” after the CW rule came out.
Former Lands and Natural Resources secretary Dr. Ike Dela Cruz also turned up for the 4pm session to know more about the process of retaining his house worker and two employees for his business, Ike’s House and Land Rental and Construction and Farming.
“One of my employees is an electrician, and one is a mason. I hope to retain them, along with my house worker,” he said, while lining up.
Annaliza Guancia, who owns a beauty parlor, general merchandise and accounting services firm, said she wants to know whether employers are still required to secure labor bonds and shoulder the medical exam costs for employees, among other things.
Guancia was one of the many employers who were not accommodated for the 2pm session because the auditorium was already filled to capacity. She went back for the 4pm session.
The final CW rule came out almost two years after most CNMI-related provisions of U.S. Public Law 110-229, which placed CNMI immigration under federal control, came into effect.
Title VII of PL 110-229 extended most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act to the CNMI for the first time.[B]Some points[/B]
At the session, Gulick and Evans, among other USCIS team members, gave an overview of the CW rule. Gulick, with the assistance of the rest of the USCIS team, answered several questions from the audience.
Employers may begin filing petitions for workers on Oct. 7, 2011. The last day for filing is Nov. 28.
But Gulick said employers should not wait for the last minute to file petitions.
Employers of foreign workers ineligible for other employment-based nonimmigrant visa classifications can apply for temporary permission to hire workers in the CNMI under the CW classification during the transition period ending on Dec. 31, 2014.
Employers need to prove that they tried to hire qualified U.S. citizens for positions they need to fill, when petitioning for a CW worker.
An employer must sponsor or petition the worker. An employee cannot petition himself.
If the petition is approved, the worker will get CW status. If the petition is denied, work authorization and lawful status end, and the worker should leave the CNMI.
Employers can file for multiple workers on one I-129 CW if the workers have the same job, location and duration of employment.
A spouse and child under 18 of a CW-1 worker are eligible for CW-2 status as dependents.
If a CW-1 worker or CW-2 dependent leaves the CNMI, they must get a visa to return. They must take their original CW approval notice with them.
They are required to make an appointment with a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country for a nonimmigrant CW visa, not a B1/B2 tourist visa.
The USCIS team encourages people to visit the following websites for more information about the CW rule: www.uscis.gov/cnmi, www.uscis.gov/cw, and www.youtube.com/user/uscis. To speak to someone in person, visit www.uscis.gov and make an InfoPass appointment.
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce will have a private session with the USCIS team today. And at 5pm to 7pm today, there will be a USCIS public session at the American Memorial Park indoor auditorium.