U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s 1,030 H-2B visa applications for fiscal year 2020-2021, according to Eric Poon, IPI assistant vice president of construction.
In its update on its construction progress for Imperial Palace Saipan in Garapan, as presented during the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s regular monthly meeting yesterday, Poon said IPI is expecting to have more H2B workers arriving Saipan this March.
Poon said currently they have 368 H2B workers and 112 local manpower, or for a total of 480 workers.
In addition, IPI has 15 management staff.
He said the H2B workers are composed of 119 Taiwanese; three Thais; 118 Mongolians; 30 Australians; and 98 Turkish.
Poon said during last month’s meeting with CCC, he reported that the U.S. Embassy was kind of slowing down in processing H2B visa applications, but that recently they received some signs it’s picking up again.
“It’s a good positive sign,” said Poon, adding that more H2B workers are expected to join for the project.
He said they need over 1,000 H2B workers as the 480 total workers are not enough to meet the deadline to complete the project.
“But we are doing our best,” he said.
Construction of the resort hotel and 14 villas are already completed. Construction of levels 3 and 13 for the tower hotel is in progress and is forecast to be completed by June 30, 2020.
Construction of Level 2 VIP gaming and Level 14 sky level, which started in January 2019, is forecast to be completed on Sept. 30, 2020.
Construction of Beach Club, which started in January 2019, is forecast to be completed on Dec. 31, 2020.
In response to CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero’s inquiry, Poon said he has not heard anything regarding the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on hiring people from off-island to work on their project.
He said for the hotel tower, people looking at the building alone might see that it’s still unfinished.
However, Poon said, photos in his report showed that there’s a lot of progress going on inside the building.
“We’re working on the amenities to meet the deadline,” said Poon citing works in progress at the Cantonese Restaurant and Crystal Bar.
“Everything is moving along. It’s a long process. There’s a lot of details, we need time, we need skilled workers to complete the construction,” he said.
Poon said although construction of the 14 VIP villas are completed and ready, the decision to open it is for hotel operations.
Poon said for the hotel tower, in progress are installations of the building façade cladding, water proofing, external glazing, guestroom interior wall partition, and for conduit/trunking piping.
He said at the Podium building, interior fit-out works, decorative ceiling installation, and kitchen interior fit-out works are in progress at Cantonese Restaurant and Crystal Bar.
He said interior decoration wall installation is completed at the restaurant and bar.
Deleon Guerrero in an interview said currently IPI is awaiting some 600 H2B workers to come in to assist in making sure that they complete the project as expected based on the license agreement.
“Right now they only have 480 working down at the site. They would need more 1,000 workers to be able to finish,” Deleon Guerrero said.
He said IPI does the recruitment of H2B workers from Taiwan and Thailand.
Deleon Guerrero said based on current restrictions due to coronavirus, if any of these workers travel from China shown in their passports, chances are they will be rejected or quarantined for 14 or more days.
He said the virus does affect quite a lot of IPI’s gaming operations because of the obvious closures of inbound traffic.