President Obama finally signed the massive $1.1-trillion federal spending bill into law yesterday and with it, three provisions dealing with CNMI immigration were extended for another five years.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the President’s signing of H.R. 83 could only help the islands in sustaining the revival of its economy. Key to the massive spending measure is the extension of the islands’ E-2C investors’ immigration status and the CNMI and Guam’s continued exemption from the national numerical cap on H visas.
“I applaud and extend my appreciation for the untiring efforts by our Congressman [Gregorio Kilili C.] Sablan, his colleagues in the House and Senate who voted for the approval of HR 83, and the Office of Insular Affairs for constantly looking out for the interests of the people of the CNMI. Furthermore, my administration certainly appreciates President Obama’s quick action on approving HR 83. Our collaborative efforts with our federal partners can only result in positive outcomes for our islands,” he said.
Interestingly, H.R. 83, a territorial bill co-sponsored by Sablan, became the vehicle for passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, which funds the federal government for the next year.
HR 83 also extends a bar on foreign nationals from seeking asylum in the Northern Mariana Islands. This, together with the E2-C visa extension and the H visa cap policy, would all otherwise expire on Dec. 31, 2014, without the enactment of H.R. 83 into law.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a press release yesterday that the two provisions (E-2C and H visa caps) of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 have been extended until Dec. 31, 2019.
“Public Law 110-229 included a provision that exempted H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrant workers performing temporary labor or services in the CNMI and Guam from the congressionally-mandated H-1B and H-2B annual numerical limitations (the ‘caps’) from Nov. 28, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2014. The enactment into law of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83) extends this cap exemption for five years During this time period, a nonimmigrant worker granted H-1B or H-2B status for employment in Guam or the CNMI is not counted toward the H-1B or H-2B caps.”
USCIS spokesperson Marie Thérèse Sebrechts said more information on filing for H-1B or H-2B nonimmigrant workers is provided in the Instructions for Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
Sebrechts said that USCIS is encouraging current E-2C investors to apply immediately for an extension, in order to minimize a lapse in valid nonimmigrant status.
She also clarified that E-2C nonimmigrants are not eligible for parole in the CNMI.
“Likewise, anyone who has previously held any nonimmigrant status is not eligible to apply for or to receive parole in the CNMI, regardless whether or not the nonimmigrant status has expired.”