Chamber opposes 121% hike in CW fee
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce is not in favor of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule that will increase fees for certain immigration requests and petitions, including the I-129CW or the petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker.
In his letter to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan dated Feb. 7, 2023, Chamber president Joe C. Guerrero said the proposed rule will bring additional challenges to local businesses that employ CW workers.
“Under the new proposed fee, an employer filing a I-129CW must pay a total of $1,265 per petition, inclusive of the base fee of $1,015 plus a $200 CNMI Education Funding Fee and $50 Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee. The proposed base fee increase is 121% higher, or $555 more than the current fee and will cause severe financial hardship to the many businesses affected,” he said.
Guerrero said while the Chamber understands the rationale for the proposed rule, which is to allow USCIS to fully recover the costs of all expenses and meet projected demand for services, they are very concerned about the timing and the severe consequences that the new fee will impose on businesses in the CNMI.
He added the proposed rule will particularly affect smaller employers, who are now the most vulnerable as they struggle to stay afloat during the difficult economic times the CNMI is currently experiencing.
“As you are aware, the Gross Domestic Product for the CNMI, as reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, has dropped by 29.7% in 2020 after decreasing by 11.3% in 2019. With the 40% drop in GDP in recent years, the prolonged and slow resumption of our primary industry, tourism, and the NMI government’s fiscal crisis unfolding before us, now more than ever, businesses need help to remain in operation.”
Guerrero added that if more local businesses remain open, more U.S. workers potentially will remain employed and this would help the ultimate recovery of the economy.
“They can continue to employ U.S. workers and provide essential services and goods to residents, including healthcare, local agriculture products, elderly care, education, and information technology, to name a few,” he said.
Instead of the proposed rule’s immediate implementation, Guerrero asked Sablan’s help in developing a “phase-in” proposal to gradually increase the proposed I-129CW petition fees in equal amounts over the next seven years in anticipation of the CNMI GDP improving during this timeframe.
“We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the proposed rule and to explore ways to continue assisting Northern Marianas businesses during these difficult times,” he said in his letter to Sablan.