IPI’s US eligible employees under 30 percent

DOL: H-2B visas should be considered

The sole casino operator on Saipan is possibly non-compliant with a local law that requires at least 30 percent of workers to be local residents after acting Department of Labor secretary Gil San Nicolas confirmed that H-2B visa holders are also included in the maximum 70 percent foreign national worker count.

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, the lone casino operator on Saipan, told the Commonwealth Casino Commission during the Sept. 24, 2018, monthly commission meeting that they are unsure if the H-2B visas are included in the count of foreign national workers.

An IPI human resource executive’s report on their workers noted that if H-2B visas were to be counted as foreign national workers, then that would mean IPI’s workforce is currently below the 30 percent mandate for local employees at only 27 percent.

If H-2B visas are not counted in the foreign national worker count, then IPI would have a high percentage of local hires at 48 percent.

As of August 2018, IPI reportedly has 508 U.S. employees, 118 U.S. permanent resident employees, 28 Freely Associated States employees, 631 CW employees, 18 H-1B visa holders, four E3 holders, 59 Employment Authorization Document holders, and 1,049 H-2B visa holders.

In an interview with San Nicolas last Tuesday, he told Saipan Tribune that H-2B visa holders are included in the maximum 70-percent threshold of foreign national workers for a business, as mandated in CNMI local law.

He noted that CNMI regulations refer to “foreign national workers” and that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services consider H-2B visa holders as non-immigrant aliens, therefore H-2B visas are included in the foreign national worker count of 70 percent.

“USCIS issues the CW-1 and H-2B visa permits. If they are classified as foreign national worker, then our regulations require that workforce participation shall include foreign national workers and other non-immigrant aliens,” San Nicolas told Saipan Tribune.

In a statement yesterday, IPI reiterated a well-above-minimum percentage of local workers at 48 percent. The company attributed the increase in H-2B visa workers to the ongoing construction of its casino in Garapan.

“Due to the ongoing Garapan construction project, the number of construction workers under temporary H2B category at IPI has increased. However, as reported at the most recent CCC meeting, IPI’s U.S. workers of permanent operations presents 48 percent and foreign workers presents 52 percent, which excludes its temporary H2B construction workers for the Garapan construction project,” the statement added.

San Nicolas noted that he was not approached by IPI for consultation on the subject. as of Tuesday afternoon.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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