U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to release new guidelines for the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program regulations, 11 days before the new fiscal year.
Come Sept. 30, 2019, this would mark the second year of processing CW-1 petitions based on previous regulations. Some aspects of the CW-1 visa were improved through Public Law 115-218, or the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018 in July of that year.
“USCIS does not have any new guidance on the CW-1 program at this time,” an agency representative told Saipan Tribune in a statement yesterday. “As previously announced, all CW-1 filings for fiscal year 2020 must include an approved temporary labor certification [TLC] from the U.S. Department of Labor.”
Besides the TLC requirement for CW-1 petitions, employers should continue to follow current USCIS regulations.
P.L. 115-218 ultimately extended the CW-1 program for an additional 10 years. Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) co-sponsored the bill, which was championed by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT).
The legislation also allowed long-term workers to apply for a three-year CW permit; however, with no USCIS regulations governing this, CNMI employers remain in the dark about how to apply for this.
The lack of clarity on the legislation also left several employers reluctant in filing their CW-1 renewal petitions, since there were new regulatory requirements such as the prevailing wage determination and the TLC processing. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview that his office is already looking at the numbers of employers who reportedly started the CW renewal process late.
According to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, a mass exit of over half of the CNMI’s total workforce would result in economic devastation since U.S.-eligible co-workers would also lose their jobs if businesses shutdown.