The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. remains optimistic that the White House would quickly act on House Resolution 5956, or the Northern Mariana Islands Workforce Act of 2018, so all of their affected nurses by the CW numerical limit would get the chance to stay and continue serving the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Health Center is one of the establishments that have been affected by the numerical cap set at 4,999 for the coming 2019 fiscal year by U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services. USCIS received more CW petitions than the cap and used a lottery system to determine which will be approved.
The numerical cap was reached in April and USCIS conducted a lottery for the 4,999 petitions where no nurses or any of the hospital’s ancillary staff were selected. All of the hospital’s 111 nurses are affected that could cripple the Commonwealth’s healthcare system.
CHCC public information officer Sami Birmingham-Babauta told Saipan Tribune that although they have yet to make an official statement they are hopeful the bill would be signed just in time before FY 2019 starts on Oct. 1, 2018.
“CHCC is optimistic that President Trump will sign the CW1 bill and hopeful that we will be able to retain all our  nurses and continue operations as normal,” Birmingham-Babauta said.
She added that CHCC’s human resources department would still move forward in transitioning their nurses to other U.S. applicable visas. “We are still moving forward to transition our nurses from CW to EB2 [visas]. But the bill signed into law, it allows us [more] time to have that transition done smoothly.”
CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muna, in earlier interviews, said that they are exhausting all of their efforts and won’t stop processing all of their nurses to other employee-based visa categories like EB2 and H1-B.
Most of CHCC’s CW nurses would expire on Sept. 30, 2018 and they would have to leave the CNMI if the bill, which unanimously passed in the U.S. House and Senate, is not signed on time.
Once H.R. 5956 is signed it will extend the Commonwealth-only Transitional Worker or CW1 program until 2029 and increase FY 2019’s numerical limit to 13,000 from the 4,999.
However, the CW1 cap would still be reduced by 500 for every FY from 2019 to 2023 and 1,000 until 2029. There would be 1,000 permits approved only for the first quarter of FY 2030.