The Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018 is currently at the possession of U.S President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said he was assured that the President will sign the bill into law no later than July 24, 2018.
In a communication from the White House to Torres Friday, he was informed that the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, or U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-UT) and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-Saipan) H.R. 5956, has already been presented to the U.S. President.
“[The White House] informed us that the President will sign the bill, but to be patient as it may take until July 24 because of a backlog of bills the President needs to sign,” said Torres in a statement issued over the weekend. “They assured me that they know how important it is for our economy and our people will do everything they can to move it quickly,” he continued.
H.R. 5956 is seeks to override the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ CNMI-Only Transitional Worker petition cap of 4,999 for fiscal year 2019, which starts Oct. 1, 2018. H.R. 5956 sets the CW slot cap to 13,000.
The legislation also continues the bar on claims of asylum in the CNMI, which allows for the parole authority of the CNMI for Chinese tourists, which Sablan previously stated was about 45 percent of all arrivals to the NMI. The CNMI economy revolves around the tourism industry.
The legislation further provides for better status for CW visa holders who have been continuously employed in the CNMI since fiscal year 2015 by allowing their employers to apply for a CW-1 visa that is valid for three years, while also extending the transitional period to 2029, effectively extending the CW program and several other transitional programs by an additional 10 years.
In a statement to Saipan Tribune, Sablan said he is equally interested in what happens after the enactment of the bill.
Sablan noted that he plans to meet with USCIS next week after he said Washington office staff have already discussed with USCIS officials about the re-opening of the application window for fiscal year 2019 CW permits. Fiscal year 2019 CW permits were previously selected through a lottery due to the low number of slots.
“We wrote the [USCIS] to reverse that bad decision and raise the number of permits for 2019 to 13,000—back where it was in 2016,” he said.
With the seemingly imminent passage of the CW bill, Sablan said he wishes to assure local business and workers who were unable to renew for 2019 because of the cuts can “immediately apply for the extra 8,001 CW permits” that comes with the passage of H.R. 5956.
In Torres’ statement over the weekend, he said that the White House is working with the Department of Homeland Security USCIS to “get the new law implemented as quickly as possible.”
Torres also promised updates on the progress of the bill.