Labor: Don’t wait for CW regs

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Posted on Jul 04 2019

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With rules and regulations governing the implementation of Public Law 115-218 still nowhere in sight, the CNMI Department of Labor has advised companies petitioning workers under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program to stop waiting and start working on renewals.

“My tip to businesses waiting for CW regulations is, if I were them, I will not wait. I would get to work on working on renewals because it’s as if all our lives are on hold and we’re not sure after going through the process whether you’ll be approved or not approved. We don’t really know,” said Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune last Tuesday, the local Labor chief said businesses and their human resources departments should thoroughly read and review the interim final rule for P.L. 115-218.

“The IFR is 160 pages…I read it and I said to myself, ‘Boy, this is not going be easy for businesses,’” she said.

For all intents and purposes, Benavente said the processes is no walk in the park.

“For contract workers, do step 1-4 of IFR, get the prevailing wage, get temporary labor certification, advertise in our (CNMI Labor) website, and then apply for the actual working permit. But even with that process, I’m hearing from employers that there’s sometimes no responses online by the office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and other federal agencies,” said Benavente.

President Donald Trump signed P.L. 115-218, or the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, in July last year. That threw out the old rules on how the CW program will be implemented and gave U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 60 days to come out with the new law’s implementing rules and regulations.

That has not happened yet and last month, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which governs USCIS, to help the CNMI in the publication of the implementing rules and regulations.

The law extended the CW-1 program to the year 2029 and set a numerical cap for each fiscal year until then: 13,000 (FY 2019), 12,500 (2020), 12,000 (2021), 11,500 (2022), 11,000 (2023), 10,000 (2024), 9,000 (2025), 8,000 (2026), 7,000 (2027), 6,000 (2028), 5,000 (2029), and 1,000 (first quarter of fiscal year 2030).

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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