Still no movement on CW-1 issue


There remains no movement on the CW-1 issue even as the Sept. 30 deadline creeps closer. With only 17 days left before the work permits of the CNMI’s foreign workers expire, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres assured that his office continues to work with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on the matter. Without intervention, that would mean about 13,000 of the CNMI’s foreign workers would have to leave.

Torres noted, though, that in his communication with USCIS to ask for an extension on the Sept. 30, 2019, deadline for the CW-1 renewals, his office has discovered that several companies started their renewal process late.

“We are hopeful, but again cognizant, that there is a deadline of Sept. 30, 2019. We continue to work with USCIS and there is no official report coming out yet, but we are also finding out that a lot of the companies have turned in their applications late as well, so we are going through some of those numbers now. …We will continue to work with them,” he noted in an interview last Sept. 10.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) told Saipan Tribune that he is also working with federal agencies on the issue.

“The issue of our workers exiting [on] Sept. 30 or so, the cost to our economy and the cost to businesses are all well known to federal agencies,” he said.

Come Sept. 30, 2019, it is believed that majority of foreign workers in the CNMI, which consist of a large chunk of the CNMI workforce, is slated to leave the CNMI if they have yet to secure a renewed work permit, called a CW-1 visa.

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce recently told Saipan Tribune that they are hopeful for a reprieve or deferred action that would allow foreign employees to remain in the CNMI once fiscal year 2020 starts on Oct. 1, 2019.

They also sent a letter to Sablan last Aug. 26, 2019, requesting for immediate action, as well as some recommendations for amending U.S. Public Law 115-218, the law that extended the CW program for 10 years.

CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview that she concurred with the contents of the letter.

In a letter dated Aug. 17, 2019, an informal group of over 200 CW workers met with the governor to request for a reprieve from the Sept. 30, 2019, deadline. The letter incorporated a request for reprieve and even deferred action for those who are struggling to comply with U.S. Department of Labor requirements in securing a CW petition renewal.

The new requirements are reportedly the cause in the delay in CW-1 renewal applications. However, according to a statement from the delegate’s office, it noted that the sheer number of applicants, which coincided with the processing period for H-1B visas, caused the bottleneck.

His office noted that during his meeting with U.S. DOL and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials, they confirmed the average processing time of 41 days for a temporary labor certification—including the 21 days needed for job vacancy announcement postings.

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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