The Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. aims to finish the CNMI prevailing wage survey this mid-May.
The result of the survey will be used as the basis of the U.S. Department of Labor in issuing temporary labor certification to local employers petitioning foreign workers under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker or renewing the applications of their existing employees under the program.
Both prevailing wage survey, or PWS, and temporary labor certification, or TLC, are requirements when hiring foreign workers in the CNMI, as outlined in the interim final rule that was recently released by the U.S. Labor Department.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to issue its own guidelines for the CW-1 visa program, according to USCIS public affairs officer Claire Nicholson
“As noted in the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, each agency will have a respective rule regarding temporary employment in the CNMI. In the coming months, USCIS will announce further guidance for CW-1 worker petitions,” Nicholson told Saipan Tribune.
NMBAC, together with the CNMI Commerce Department and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, have tapped the services of Hive Analytics and DataTalks to assist them in completing a PWS by sector in the CNMI, a task that would establish a CNMI-specific PWS.
If the CNMI fails to come up with its own PWS, Guam’s occupational prevailing wage will be the alternative basis, as provided under the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018. This is what the local business sector is trying to avoid as this is projected to significantly boost the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth.
The Office of Foreign Labor Certification, in the absence of a CNMI PWS, has released a standard occupational classification list of wages for CW-1 visas that’s based on Guam’s Occupational Employment Statistics’ mean wage.
The 24-page list includes hourly or annual wages for the likes of chief executives, cooks, food servers, engineers, teachers, and farmers. Shampooers, based on the OES adjusted wage, receive an hourly rate of $7.39 while an airline pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineers get an annual salary of $114,508.80.
NMBAC president Alex Sablan said the local Commerce Department, through its Central Statistics Division, will come out with announcements on the forms and the online process for a CNMI PWS. “We need everyone in the particular sectors. Everyone needs to comply with the requirements for the information.”
“There will be an online process for smaller employers. They are asking for a spreadsheet.”
Sablan said employers should send the survey forms as quickly as possible once they are done. “What we are asking for is to do all the 72 SOC codes; that’s a big group of the service industry and the hospitality industry of the Commonwealth. If we can capture all of that, we can get this done by mid-May [and] people can start utilizing them by mid-May.
“But until everybody actually submits and we get a good cross-section of the business community and the workers in that community, we cannot submit and cannot complete the process. So, any businesses that delay the process, will delay our process to getting this [PWS] done sooner rather than later.”
USCIS is set to begin accepting applications for CW-1 petitions starting April 4, 2019.