Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is hoping U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would address the concerns they raised in past meetings, now that President Donald J. Trump has signed the NMI Workforce Act into law.
That includes the CNMI’s healthcare sector, after all 111 nurses at the Commonwealth Health Center failed to be included in the visa lottery done by USCIS before the workforce act became law.
Early this year, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. also appealed to USCIS to prioritize the CNMI’s healthcare workers in order to not disrupt the services they provide.
Torres said USCIS has yet to release its official guidelines in implementing the new law. “Not yet in details but our Washington [D.C.] office is working hard with them everyday. What we have done is we put in our concerns based on our past experiences.”
“Hopefully, USCIS would incorporate those concerns with the new regulations that will come up,” Torres said.
He pointed out that USCIS knows the difficulties the CNMI has been experiencing. “They also know some of the…difficulties that we’ve been getting. I hope that would come out in more details, because every situation is different.”
“And as much as they [USCIS] wanted to incorporate all of our concerns, they were not able to. But as long as we can address the majority of the concerns, then that is the route that we are going to go by.”
In a separate interview last week, Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente said the administration is hoping USCIS would include the department in the processing and approval of CW-1 visa petitions for renewals.
She said the new law, right now, is in the process of being finalized by USCIS. Labor expects USCIS to release the guidelines—where some changes are also expected—in the next three weeks.
Aside from extending the CW-1 program to 2029, the new law also set a new numerical limit being reduced by 500 from fiscal years 2020 to 2023 and 1,000 from fiscal years 2024 to 2029; there would only be 1,000 slots for foreign workers in the first quarter of fiscal year 2030.