DHS asked anew to loosen CW work restrictions


With a proposed 240-day grace period still not approved, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands have jointly asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow foreign workers with expired CW permits to continue to work so long as their renewal permits are under process.

Alex Sablan, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, told Saipan Tribune yesterday that their joint letter with HANMI was sent on Tuesday.

The letter was addressed to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Leon Rodriguez. USCIS is one of DHS’ component agencies.

Employers in the CNMI have long been asking DHS and USCIS to allow those whose CW renewal permits are still under process to continue to work, citing negative impacts on businesses and employees’ livelihood, among other things.

DHS and USCIS have advised that employers should submit the renewal applications six months ahead of the expiration so that the permits could come out before the expiration date of the original permit.

A DHS proposal allowing a 240-day grace period to this day remains as such—a proposal.

Many CW workers have already stopped work for weeks and months because their renewal CW permits were not adjudicated yet, long after the expiration of the original permit.

“We are kindly requesting that DHS/USCIS allow a worker that has submitted a CW visa application in advance of their renewal and is pending USCIS processing and adjudication be allowed to continue to work until a final determination is made on the application,” Sablan said in his report to Chamber members yesterday.

Sablan said this could be handled in much the same way USCIS handles a CW worker transfer between two different employers, wherein the worker is allowed to continue to work until the transfer is complete, “thus not denying the worker gainful employment or depriving the employer continuity in their business establishment.”

The Chamber of Commerce president said he hopes to receive a favorable response to the joint request.

Sablan thanked attorney Sean Frink for drafting the letter. He also continues to encourage Chamber and HANMI members to keep providing concerns and feedback in writing for the board to address and “hopefully resolve if we are able.”

Many CW permits are expiring on Dec. 31, 2014, the supposed date of the end of the transitional CW program. But U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez extended the CW program by five years or up to 2019. This allows the CNMI continued access to some 10,000 foreign workers, among other things, for five more years.

For more information and announcements about the CW-1 program, visit www.uscis.gov/cw.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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