A bill that increases the numerical cap of the CNMI-Only Transition Worker Nonimmigrant Visa program has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate for another round of deliberation, with the hope to have President Barack Obama sign it into law before his term ends on Jan. 20 next year.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) introduced House Resolution 6401, a bill that aims to amend Public Law 94-241 with respect to the Northern Mariana Islands. HR 6401 passed with unanimous consent at the House through a rider by Republican Delegate Amata Coleman Radewagen of American Samoa.
HR 6401, if it becomes a law, would increase the number of CW permits from 12,998 to 15,000 for fiscal year 2017; that was the same level more than three years ago. HR 6401 is also known as the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act.
The move could give a much-needed reprieve and short-term relief to the CNMI, which had been hit hard by CW issues. The CW1 cap has hounded the local workforce, with hundreds of foreign workers already sent home after the numerical limit was breached. The CNMI has been facing a labor shortage as development and other economic activity increases.
Sablan’s bill would also restrict the CW cap increase—construction workers could no longer use the CW1 visa and now have to go to the H2 category as required by law.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce secretary Alex Sablan, speaking in yesterday’s monthly general membership meeting at the Royal Taga Hall of the Saipan World Resort, said they are thankful for the efforts made by Sablan as they welcomed the news of the close to 3,000 increase in the numerical cap.
“This gives a much-needed reprieve because the estimate is we have already lost 3,600 to 4,000 workers by the end of the calendar year. It has passed with unanimous consent in the House and is on its way to Senate, where we believe it would pass,” said Alex Sablan.
“We are also thankful to [Delegate] Radewagen for allowing [Gregorio Sablan] to utilize her vehicle and put [HR] 6401 in passage of the legislation. We are thankful for her help in assisting us to pursue our need for CW workforce.”
HR 6401 also aims to increase the education fee for each approved CW permit of a foreign worker from $150 to $200, with the funds going to training U.S. qualified workers that are either studying at the Northern Marianas College or at the Northern Marianas Trades Institute.
Alex Sablan said the chamber would continue to work with Delegate Gregorio Sablan and the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in finding a long-term solution for the CNMI’s labor and immigration issues.