Marianas Variety

Saturday, April 19, 2014-11:33:29P.M.

Last updateFri, 18 Apr 2014 12am





Business community asks feds to allow CW permit holders to continue working while awaiting renewals

THE Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Society of Human Resources-CNMI are asking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to allow original CW-1 permit holders applying for renewal permits to continue working for their respective employers, or at a minimum, prioritize the processing of renewal applications ahead of the pending initial applications.

Douglas Brennan
In a letter dated Dec. 20, 2012 to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, chamber president Douglas Brennan, HANMI president Nick Nishikawa and SHRM-CNMI chairwoman Deborah Camacho expressed concern over the “imminent consequences” affecting employees and employers during the implementation of the CNMI-only CW-1 transitional period permit program.

USCIS District Director David Gulick earlier informed the local business community that CW-1 permit holders applying for renewal would not be allowed to continue working if their original employment permits had already expired.

Gulick urged employers to submit renewal applications 90 days before the original permits expire, but he did not say what the consequences would be if the renewals are not approved before the initial CW-1 permits expired.

“All our associations, the businesses and hotels they represent and the employees are extremely concerned about the imminent hardship that will occur when the original visas begin to expire without the corresponding renewal approvals, forcing employees to stop working and severely impacting their lives; and to the businesses that provide their jobs, services and essential economic benefit to the commonwealth,” the letter stated.

It noted that over 2,500 of the 12,247 filings for CW-1 employments permits remain pending with USCIS while renewal applications are being submitted for those CW-1 permit holders nearing their expiration dates.

At the end of 2011, during the initial CW-1 permit application process, an extension for those applying was granted so as to allow those employers and employees utilizing the CW-1 permit transitional period program to avoid suffering economic hardship.

“USCIS simply could not process in the period of time originally determined by USCIS to be adequate processing time. Our associations believe this will be occurring again, but this time with the consequence that employees will be forced to stop working,” the letter stated.

Although the business community is aware that CW-1 non-immigrants may not work except during the validity of the petition, it was not informed by USCIS that a 90-day advance filing of CW-1 permit applications would be required.

But the letter added, “[w]e realize that a 90-day advance filing is wise, and would ask that USCIS allow those that have applied during that period be allowed to continue to work during any period where the application has not been granted for those in the renewal process.”

According to the letter, the CNMI-only transitional period CW-1 permit process is just as new to the CNMI’s employers and employees as it is to USCIS.

“We have seen evidence of USCIS granting exceptions to existing regulation protocol as a result of the unique situation with respect to the large non-immigrant employee population in the CNMI,” the letter said, adding that the federalization law’s intent is “to minimize, to the greatest extent practicable, potential adverse economic and fiscal effects of phasing-out the commonwealth’s nonresident contract worker program and to maximize the commonwealth’s potential for future economic and business growth.”

The letter added, “We respectfully request consideration for all our businesses, our hard-working employees and the CNMI by allowing us this request to allow those affected by expired CW-1 permits to be allowed to continue to be employed until their renewal applications are granted.”

Chamber executive director Richard A. Pierce in an email said they will also send a copy of the letter to U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.