‘Govt should push for premium processing’


Janet King

A CNMI lawyer believes the government and the business community should work on existing U.S. immigration laws to salvage the workforce needed in the CNMI before the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program expires in Dec. 20, 2019.

According to attorney Janet King, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) must work with the existing U.S. immigration framework.

“Our representatives should push for premium processing of U.S. visa applications from the CNMI for H1B, H2B, EB2, EB3, and other visa categories for the next two years to soften the effects of the end of the CW program and should the CNMI attempt to go through the U.S. Congress and submit a bill that amends the sunset provision of Public Law 110-229 to extend beyond Dec. 31, 2019, or pass a new law recreating the CW-1 program,” she said.

King said that pushing for premium processing of U.S. visa applications is more likely to succeed as “it focuses on what we need now.”

“This solution is also in line with the intent of the CW-1 program’s temporal limits as it was always meant to be a temporary solution to give businesses [time] to move to U.S. visas,” she added.

On the business side, King said that employers can prepare to work on preparing and filing U.S. visas for their employees before Dec. 29, 2019, while the government and business community is working with Congress to have the program extended beyond 2019.

King said there are different visa categories available to employers.

“A construction company that wishes to hire foreign workers to perform one-time, seasonal, non-agricultural work can consider H-2B visas. Under this visa category, upon completion of the temporary work, the foreign worker returns to his or her home country,” she said.

“On the other hand, for employers with professional staff with a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, such as accountants and engineers and who are employed in a specialty occupation related to their field of study, they can consider the H-1B visa for their foreign employees,” she added.

King pointed out that there is currently no cap for H-1B visas from the CNMI. This can benefit CNMI employers now; after Dec. 31, 2019, any H-1Bs from the CNMI will be subject to a nationwide 65,000 per year cap.

“Therefore, CNMI employers should file H-1B visas for their employees now and not later. For employers with workers who are professionals or skilled workers but do not have a bachelor’s and master’s degree such as tour operators, bus drivers, cooks, administrative staff, sales staff and the like, they can consider the EB-3 visa,” she said.

“Of course, employers should consult an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss the requirements and filing procedures for the full range of available U.S. visas,” she added.

Given that there are only two years left until the CW program ends, King said that CNMI representatives should push for deferred action, on a case-by-case basis, for foreign workers in the CNMI who are lawfully present and waiting for their U.S. visas to process so they can remain in the CNMI until their U.S. visas are adjudicated.

“This will allow businesses to move away from filing CW-1 petitions because, once deferred action is granted, the individual may apply for employment authorization for the duration of their deferred action,” she said.

“If the U.S. visa is denied, the foreign worker returns to his or her home country but if the U.S. visa is granted, the foreign worker remains in the CNMI to work,” she added.

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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