Guidelines out on travel for CW holders with B visas

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued additional guidance on travel for Commonwealth-only worker permit holders, specifically those that have nonimmigrant B1 or B2 visitor visas.

A CW status is a “CNMI-only” nonimmigrant status. It does not authorize entry to Guam or to any other part of the United States.

Travel or attempted travel from the CNMI to another part of the United States without the appropriate visa-such as B visa-or other authorization is a violation of CW status.

CW permit holders with B1 (business) visa or B2 (tourist) visa would still need USCIS approval in advance of the travel (or parole), which has been the practice since the federal government took over CNMI immigration.

But in late June, USCIS amended its CNMI transitional worker classification “questions and answers” to provide further guidance on CW permit holders’ travel.

Rabby Syed, president of the United Workers Movement-NMI, said last night that UWM encourages its members to check the USCIS website for the latest information on the CW permit or status, as well as issues such as travel.

Syed said there may be other questions that other foreign workers in the CNMI have, and they will continue to present these questions to USCIS.

USCIS said travel of an alien in CW status directly to Guam and other U.S. destinations is authorized under the following conditions:

1. The alien is traveling to the U.S. destination and back to the CNMI on a U.S. itinerary only (i.e., to Guam only, or to another U.S. destination only through Guam, and return, without passing through any foreign airport); and

2. The alien needs to travel to another part of the United States for a valid business or personal reason, such as a necessary business meeting, professional training, or medical treatment, and the travel plans are consistent with the length of stay and activities that would be authorized for “B” nonimmigrant visitors, including visitors under a visa waiver program as appropriate; and

3. The alien has received USCIS approval in advance of the travel.

The procedure for how to receive USCIS approval in advance of the travel depends upon the CW alien’s nationality and/or visa.

If the alien has a valid “B” nonimmigrant visa, is a national of a participating country who is eligible to visit the U.S. under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, or seeks to visit Guam only and is eligible to visit Guam under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, the alien should make an Infopass appointment with the USCIS Application Support Center on Saipan.

The alien should bring to the appointment his or her valid passport, evidence of CW status (Form I-94), and information on his or her travel plans including, as available, invitation letter, documented business or personal reason for travel, and itinerary.

Upon approval, USCIS will annotate the Form I-94.

The alien should present the annotated Form I-94 and passport to any U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer encountered when departing the CNMI or elsewhere in the U.S. The ultimate decision whether to permit the travel is CBP’s decision.

There is one other specific authority for nationals of the Philippines to “transit” the Guam airport when traveling to or from the Philippines, and USCIS issued such guidelines last year.

Philippine nationals may travel between the CNMI and the Philippines or vice versa through the Guam airport under the following conditions: The individual is in valid CW status and is traveling on a direct itinerary involving a flight stopover or connection in Guam of no more than eight hours, and the individual remains at the Guam airport during the stopover or connection.

Philippine nationals eligible for this transit privilege do not require a B visa or advance approval of travel by USCIS.

USCIS also recently answered the question, “Can an alien with CW status who is otherwise eligible for B visitor status (either with a valid B visa or VWP eligible) attempt to travel to or from another part of the United States through a foreign airport?”

USCIS said this is strongly discouraged.

“CW status is lost upon departure from the United States, and a CW visa is invalid for admission to the United States at any port of entry outside the CNMI. Even if the alien has a valid B visa or is VWP eligible, he or she might well be deemed inadmissible because B visitors are supposed to have foreign residence, rather than residence in the CNMI or any other part of the United States,” it said.

If the alien succeeded in being admitted to the United States as a B visitor, he or she could only regain CW status in the CNMI by returning to the CNMI again through a foreign airport (not returning through Guam) with a valid CW visa (not the B visa).

If the alien returned to the CNMI through Guam, he or she would remain in B status, which does not permit engaging in the employment authorized in CW-1 status.

USCIS said a CW nonimmigrant who wishes to travel to the rest of the U.S. after transiting through a foreign place should apply to the USCIS Guam Office by filing a Form I-131 requesting an advance parole document.

This document would authorize the parole of the CW nonimmigrant into the U.S. when arriving from a foreign place.

However, the CW nonimmigrant using this method must obtain a CW visa abroad before returning to the CNMI.

If the CW nonimmigrant was paroled into the United States, and returned to the CNMI through Guam, the individual would remain a parolee rather than resuming the CW status which provides authorization to work in the CNMI.

By Haidee V. Eugenio

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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