‘TLC processing should be closer to the CNMI’
The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors is currently looking into the possibility of bringing the processing of temporary labor certifications closer to the CNMI because the recent delays in TLC processing have resulted in delays in acquiring CW-1 visas.
GCEA members Alex Sablan, who shared last Wednesday the current status of foreign worker, or CW-1, visa processing with members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said that employers have lately voiced frustrations about delays in acquiring TLCs, which, in turn, has significantly delayed the CW-1 process. Temporary labor certifications, or TLCs, are one of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ requirements for employers filing petitions for CW-1 visas.
Due to this delay, Sablan said the council is currently looking at the possibility of having the CNMI Department of Labor work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Labor in processing these TLCs and giving the CNMI governor the authority to sign off on them so that local employers are able to timely file their CW-1 petitions.
“We feel like there are arbitrary and capricious denials at the TLC level—greater than have been previously [and] it’s delaying the overall process. So like Guam, we’d like to have the ability to have the secretary of Labor work in concert with U.S. Department of Labor to certify these requirements for U.S. citizen workers first, finding that there is none. Once employers have done everything required under federal law and they can’t find a U.S. [eligible] worker, move the process forward to the signing-off phase with the governor approving the TLCs, as the governor of Guam has been doing,” he said.
Sablan explained that the current process takes place in Chicago and those who process TLCs may not grasp how important CW-1 visa workers are to the CNMI workforce, causing a delay in the processing of TLCs.
“Right now we have to get our [TLCs] processed through Chicago. With U.S. Labor Chicago processing our TLC, they are very far removed, not really understanding what the conditions are on the ground and reasons for why we need particular workforce vocations,” Sablan said.
When asked if he believes the CNMI DOL is capable of processing TLCs here, he said they could, with the proper training. “I believe they can get trained appropriately and again, they’d be working in concert with U.S. Labor. Even Guam works in concert with U.S. Labor in this process. I believe we have the ability here in the CNMI,” he said.
When asked what is currently being done to make this happen, Sablan said the council has already been in dialogue with Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) in regards to legislation that would allow the CNMI to work with USDOL to process its CW-1 TLCs.
“Congressman Kilili has opened his office to listen to the issue related to this issue. He was very aware of it. We’re going to work with him and other members of Congress in the Natural Resources Committee for the House of Representatives to find the proper legislation that again strikes a balance between a U.S. citizen workforce and CW workforce,” he said.
Sablan shared these status updates during the Saipan Chamber of Commerce’s monthly general membership meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.