Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said yesterday that he has received word from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service that the agency will not give more time for filing applications for CW-1 workers as fiscal year 2020 ends today, Oct. 1.
This confirms an earlier statement by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce in its newsletter where it expressed belief that USCIS will likely not grant an extension for employers to file I-129 petitions for aliens to work under the Commonwealth-Only Transitional (CW-1) visa.
The Chamber said that, as of Tuesday morning, they have not received news of a USCIS extension to file I-29 petitions and a confirmation of an approved prevailing wage survey.
The Chamber said they also have not received responses to their letter to Sablan and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres asking for their support in requesting U.S. Labor to prioritize processing Temporary Labor Certifications and asking USCIS to grant an extension for I-129 similar to that of other recently announced visas.
The Chamber, however, stated that they are aware that both Sablan’s and Torres’ office have inquired and followed up with the respective departments but neither USCIS nor U.S. Labor have responded to their inquiries.
The Chamber said if an individual employer is unable to file their CW-1 petitions on time, USCIS has advised that the employer may be able to request an individual extension, if the delay is caused by an extraordinary circumstance beyond their control, such as reasons that may be caused by COVID-19.
The Chamber said U.S. Labor has been pushing out some of the TLCs that were submitted in August, so the turnaround has been a bit faster than it was last month.
In his statement yesterday, Sablan said he had had requested the extension for employers to submit CW applications in light of disruptions caused by the coronavirus and the late submission of a prevailing wage survey by the Commonwealth government. But the Trump administration said no, he said yesterday.
“I wish the governor and his [Washington, D.C.] lobbyist could have influenced the Trump administration decision,” Sablan said.
Last year, Sablan did successfully convince USCIS to provide extra time for employers to submit CW applications. Sablan’s U.S. Workforce Act was just coming into effect, which requires the U.S. Labor Department to certify no U.S. worker is available for a job before an employer may petition for a CW worker. Both employers and U.S. Labor needed extra time to process this new legal requirement.
The U.S. Workforce Act also protects U.S. workers’ wages by specifying CW workers have to be paid at least the prevailing wage. The Commonwealth government had prevailing wage rates for 84 occupations approved by May last year. This year the Commonwealth did not complete submission of its prevailing wage survey to U.S. Labor until Sept. 10, delaying the application process.
Sablan said the congressional office cannot provide legal advice to employers or workers. On a case-by- case basis, however, the congressional office can make sure constituents have access to all pertinent information that may help them decide their next steps now that the Trump administration has closed the door on a blanket extension.
A reliable source has said, though, that the U.S. Department of Labor has already approved the CNMI’s prevailing wage survey results but this could not be independently verified as of press time and there has been no official word about this yet. (Ferdie de la Torre)