USCIS lottery for CW permits

FY 2019 CW cap met within 10 days

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received an enough number of CW petitions for fiscal year 2019 and would be using a lottery system for the approval of permits.

In an announcement early yesterday morning, USCIS said that the application period for CW permits for fiscal year 2019 will officially closed on Friday, April 13, 2018, mainland time.

The announcement also added that since USCIS has received more than the allowed number of CW permit applications for this fiscal year, which is 4,999, the federal agency would be using a lottery system to determine which permits would be approved. Permits received after Friday would be “rejected and will not be considered for this lottery.”

“USCIS will randomly select petitions received between April 2, 2018, and April 13, 2018. If USCIS receives your petition after April 13, it will be rejected and will not be considered for this lottery,” the announcement said.

In a previous statement to Saipan Tribune, a USCIS representative said the lottery system is utilized in order to provide the “fairest opportunity to request workers, particularly with the possibility of mail delays from the CNMI.”

USCIS gave notice 10 business days prior to determining the usage of the lottery; however, the cap was met after only six business days from its opening application date of April 2, 2018.

While both Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind MP) and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres made efforts to obtain a reprieve from the 4,999 CW limit for fiscal year 2019, this was ignored by USCIS.

“Despite the best efforts of myself and other Marianas leaders to convince the Trump administration to hold off on cutting the number of CW permits in half, they are moving ahead,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

“Nothing in the law requires this harmful action. And with the possibility of the U.S. Workforce Act passing soon and raising the number of permits back to the 2017 level, cutting the CW number in half is premature and unnecessary,” he added, referring to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) S. 2325, or the U.S. Workforce Act, a bill that seeks to reset the CW cap for fiscal year 2019 to 13,000; provide additional validity to long-time CW workers; and extend the CNMI transitional period, along with programs under it such as the CW program and the E-2C investor program, to fiscal year 2029. Sablan simultaneously introduced H.R. 4869 at the U.S. House on Jan. 19, 2018.

“We continue to remain hopeful that the bill we have in Congress…is passed swiftly to address the long-term concerns facing our economy and community,” said Torres in a separate statement.

“Progress has been made through the governor’s discussions with Sen. Murkowski and leaders on the hill to ensure that we have a bill that recognizes our concerns as a community and that local measures have been implemented to safeguard against bad actors in our economy,” he added.

Torres previously lauded USCIS for using the lottery system in order to assure fairness in selecting CW permits to approve by eliminating the first-come, first-serve system of previous fiscal years.

“We’re pleased with the work for a long-term solution to this issue, but remain cognizant of the need to address individual concerns because those permits are more than just numbers. Those are families and friends who call these islands home, and this administration will advocate for that,” said Torres, adding that the CNMI “needs more workers for our economy to maintain its viability.”

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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