The “multi-step process” being required of employers when applying work permits for their foreign employees is provoking fears that it may hamper their ability to retain these employees and that they may eventually lose them.
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce raised this, and other related concerns in a statement Thursday, saying that employers are concerned with the processing timeline of CW applications for fiscal year 2020, that some members have reached out to them because of delays in receiving their CW approvals in time.
“Employers are fearful they will not be able to submit their completed CW renewal application by Sept. 30, 2019, due to the delays in receiving the wage determination, Temporary Labor Certification [also known as TLCs], and the other processes needed for approval. [The Chamber has] not learned of a single employer who has completed the USDOL side of CW renewals. One employer who submitted 20 TLCs…only received one TLC. This took one month. Another submitted 40 and received one, another [submitted] 80 and received one,” a statement from the Chamber to the Saipan Tribune noted.
With the passing of the CNMI Workforce Act of 2018, there are now two different U.S. federal agencies that have to process the filing for CW-1 visas: the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“For USDOL, businesses first need USDOL to approve their applicants’ wage determination, which employers have reported is taking more than three weeks to receive. After you get the wage determination, a Temporary Labor Certification [or TLC] has to be issued from the USDOL. Businesses are telling us getting the TLC is taking about three to four weeks,” the statement noted.
“We have only heard of a handful of companies that have received a TLC back, and they are only receiving TLCs for very few of their applications submitted. Some companies are at this step and have been waiting more than three weeks to a month for this TLC,” the statement added.
The employer can post the vacancy for 21 days only after the TLC is received before initiating the hiring process and before being able to submit the renewal application of the CW petition.
This process is only for the USDOL side.
Saipan Tribune sought to clarify whether employees who are still undergoing the USDOL processes can be afforded the 240-day extension. However, according to the Chamber, the extension only kicks in once the USCIS is in possession of the CW petition and has yet to decide on the application.
“Only after USDOL’s process is complete can employers file for the USCIS 240-day extension. Businesses are worried they will not complete this process with multiple steps for approval by Sept. 30, 2019,” the Chamber noted.
“This would mean the employee would have to leave the island. This makes it difficult for the employers to plan their operations and challenging for employees to make arrangements to leave island with their families with such short notice,” the Chamber added.
CNMI employers who want to hire a foreign worker has to first secure a CW-1 permit for that worker.