23 May 2016
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa - firstname.lastname@example.org - Variety News Staff
SAYING that the numerical limit or the “cap” of 12,999 CW-1 workers has already been reached for fiscal year 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will reject CW-1 petitions received after May 5, 2016 and those that request an employment start date before Oct. 1, 2016.
This includes CW-1 petitions for extensions of stay subject to the CW-1 cap. The filing fees will be returned with any rejected CW-1 petition, USCIS said in a media release.
“If an extension petition is rejected, then the beneficiaries listed on that petition are not permitted to work beyond the validity period of the previously approved petition,” USCIS added.
“Therefore, affected beneficiaries, including any CW-2 derivative family members of a CW-1 nonimmigrant, must depart the CNMI within 10 days after the CW-1 validity period has expired, unless they have some other authorization to remain under U.S. immigration law.”
Several private-sector employers are expected to be significantly affected by the USCIS announcement.
In a statement on Sunday, the Torres administration said:
“With increased economic development in the CNMI it was expected that our labor needs would outpace the availability of foreign workers under the CW program this year. Since the beginning of this administration we have placed an emphasis on businesses pursuing U.S.-eligible workers as much as possible because the end of the transition period is only a few short years away, and CW caps are required to decrease every year. Seeing the CNMI reach the CW-1 cap this year will result in two major things, one is that businesses with unmet labor needs will have to strengthen their pursuit of U.S.-eligible workers and through that effort we are able to better present to federal officials in Washington, D.C. that we do not have the available labor force to continue our economic development without a foreign-worker program. Labor is a critical component to our economy. It is possible that through greater emphasis on training and hiring of U.S.-eligible workers the larger CNMI economy can weather the brunt of this year’s labor limitations, but the fact remains we need more workers for tomorrow’s economy then presently available in the CNMI today. This is an issue that we will have to address full on alongside [U.S.] Congressman [Gregorio Kilili Camacho] Sablan, our business partners and the Legislature.”
CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero said reaching the cap was expected to happen because of the recovering economy.
“We are only nine months into the current fiscal year’s allocation…. What this means is that the current allocation is indicative of the CNMI’s need for more workers for the numerous projects that are ongoing or about to begin in addition to the need for more workers to supplement with emphasis not to supplant status-qualified participants for operations once the projects are completed,” Deleon Guerrero said in an email to Variety.
“I am…hopeful that CNMI businesses in operation for many years are not caught by the current cap, and they can stay open. I also hope for a remedy for the remainder of the fiscal year should those businesses be caught in the current fiscal year’s cap. One of the remedies is to see if those that are currently under the CW-1 permit may qualify under the H-visa category for construction workers…leaving the CW-1 allocation only to those that could not otherwise qualify under any other worker-visa category. The CNMI is currently exempted from the H-visa cap which makes it prudent to approve workers under this category if they are qualified rather than CW-1.”
However, H-visas are costlier and more restrictive, and there is no guarantee that applications will be approved.