ON FIX TO CW-1 CAP CRISIS:
USCIS receives unprecedented increase in CW-1 petitions early this year
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is seriously considering options pertaining to the CW-1 transitional visa cap crisis in the CNMI, according to USCIS associate counsel Ami Shah.
Shah disclosed that right now they are taking into account the situation here in the CNMI
“We are definitely aware of the situation,” Shah said, referring to the CW-1 cap crisis.
The associate counsel, however, stated that she can’t give specific answers to the questions if USCIS has any quick fix to the CW-1 crisis, what alternatives they consider, and when the CNMI expect a concrete update on the situation.
“The only thing I can tell you is that we are seriously considering options here. It is in our radar,” Shah said during the USCIS team’s presentation yesterday before the Society for Human Resource Management NMI Chapter at the Pacific Islands Club’s Charley’s.
USCIS district director David Gulick led the USCIS team in discussing the CW-1 transitional visa and the H-1B, H2-A, and B visas.
In response to a question from the audience during the discussions, Shah agreed she can’t discuss right now details on alternatives.
Gulick quickly intervened and stated that as soon as they can, rest assure that the people will hear from them.
“If we do come out with something, you will hear…” Gulick said, without elaborating on it.
Before the start of the presentation, Gulick emphasized that they are not going to discuss individual cases or case specific information.
USCIS Service Operations Center program manager Michelle Westra discussed about the CW-1 program. She disclosed that early this year, they received an unprecedented increase in CW-1 petitions.
Westra said they decided to create a CW cap webpage that provides information on the individual cap.
She said Fiscal Year 2017 is not added yet in the webpage, but that it will be added.
Westra encouraged everyone to really visit this website.
USCIS maintains a similar website for H-2B visa, that is updated frequently.
Similar to H-2B visa website, Westra said the CW cap webpage will be updated on a regular basis and it will have information for Fiscal Year 2017.
Westra stressed that CW-1 petitioners have the option to file up to six months in advance of the employment start date.
“If you file more than six months in advance, your petition will be rejected, which means that everything will be mailed back to you, including the fees,” she said.
However, Westra said, they cannot stress enough the importance of planning ahead and taking advantage of this particular regulation which allows the employer to file up to six months in advance.
Westra also urged everyone to take a look at very important information in the approval notice once a CW-1 petition is approved.
Westra said the information is extremely important especially now.
“This is a part in the middle of the approval notice that has a lot of language. I highly encourage every single employer to read this information on every single approval notice that you receive,” she said.
Westra said it provides additional instruction should there be anything that is needed for a specific approval.
“Specifically, if your CW-1 petition is approved, but we are requiring the beneficiary to depart the CNMI and enter through the consulate, that information will be found on this approval notice,” she pointed out.
“So I cannot stress enough the importance of reading everything that is provided to you,” Westra said.
She said employers or the workers may ignore the language in the notice because they already had it before and already approved.
“You may think again and really read the instructions that are provided in this approval notice,” Westra said.
She said the Consolidated Natural Resources Act requires, among other things, an annual reduction in the number of individuals who may be issued CW-1 visas or otherwise provided with CW-1 status each fiscal year.
“We cannot raise the cap, we can only lower it,” she said.
In addition, Westra said, USCIS is required by statute to reduce the number of CW-1 nonimmigrant workers to zero by the end of the transition period, Dec. 31, 2019.
Westra discussed, among other things, how they gauge the cap.
USCIS Service Center Operations program manager Kyle Michaelis talked about the overview, the process, and other issues regarding H-2A, H-1B, and H-2B visas.