FY ’16 cap for CW program reached

Labor encourages H-2B applications for qualified workers

For the first time since the beginning of the CNMI-only transitional worker program, the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services has reached its fiscal year cap for the visa classification.

According to USCIS, it has “received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the numerical limit of 12,999 workers who may be issued CW-1 visas or otherwise provided with CW-1 status for Fiscal Year 2016.”

The final receipt date for CW-1 worker petitions included in the current fiscal year was May 5.

Now that the cap is reached, USCIS will reject CW-1 petitions with employment start dates prior to Oct. 1, 2016 and were received after May 5, 2016—including CW-1 petitions for extensions of stay that are subject to the CW-1 cap. 

“If an extension petition is rejected, then the beneficiaries listed on that petition are not permitted to work beyond the validity period of the previously approved petition. Therefore, affected beneficiaries, including any CW-2 derivative family members of a CW-1 nonimmigrant, must depart the CNMI within 10 days after the CW-1 validity period has expired, unless they have some other authorization to remain under U.S. immigration law,” USCIS said.

Due to the cap being reached, the CNMI Department of Labor said it hopes to not see another round of businesses being affected by shortage of workers like what happened to CW delays earlier this year.

“We are also cognizant that when the cap is reached for the current fiscal year then understandably so the next allocation will be the next cap to work with on petitions that are caught in the current fiscal year cap,” CNMI Labor Secretary Edith DeLeon Guerrero said.

Since it is only less than five months until Oct. 1, 2016, USCIS can now accept CW petitions for the next fiscal year. While USCIS encourages CW-1 employers to file petitions months in advance of the requested employment start date, it also rejects a petition if it is filed more than six months in advance.

“USCIS is currently accepting CW-1 petitions requesting employment start dates on or after Oct. 1, 2016 (which apply to the FY 2017 CW-1 cap),” USCIS said.

To give way to workers needing CW classification visa and status, DeLeon Guerrero said they are encouraging employers to apply for H-2B visas for their qualified workers.

The H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.

“We are also encouraging employers to process, for example construction workers, under the H-2B visa so that CW-1 visas can be preserved for other business operations that are fitting under the CW-1 visa category,” DeLeon said.

Currently, USCIS has also reached its cap for the H-2B cap for Fiscal Year 2016 which is at 66,000 per fiscal year; however, the CNMI is exempt from the H-1B and H-2B visa caps until 2019.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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