USCIS announces interim final rule for NMI workforce law

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Thursday announced the publication of the interim final rule or IFR implementing the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, which was signed by President Donald Trump almost two years ago.

Asked for comment, Velma Palacios, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said in an email: “The chamber has only just received the unpublished interim [final] rule, and is currently evaluating how [our] previous comments have been implemented in the ruling.”

In a statement, USCIS said the purpose of the rule is to “protect U.S. workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Islands and ensure that U.S. workers will not be displaced or be a competitive disadvantage for employment.”

USCIS said the provisions of the newly published IFR include:

  • Requiring CW-1 employers to enroll and remain in good standing with the E-Verify program.
  • Requiring a CW-1 petition to be filed with an approved temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Establishing minimum wage requirements for a CW employer.
  • Establishing procedures for revoking an employer’s CW-1 petition.
  • Incorporating the definition of a legitimate business, as set forth in the Workforce Act.

Under the interim final rule, long-term CWs may be granted an extension for a period of up to three years. They can also be allowed to work in construction and will be exempted from the departure requirement before another CW application is filed.

In addition, CWs from the Philippines will be allowed to travel to the CNMI via Guam.    

“This guidance is important for our businesses and employers, while also ensuring we protect our U.S. workers here in the Marianas,” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said in a statement. “We continue to work with our federal partners for an efficient implementation of this public law to protect businesses and their employees moving forward.”

For her part, CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente said: “While the CNMI Department of Labor works with our federal counterparts as it relates to the CNMI workforce, the department has no jurisdiction to create federal rules, enforce federal requirements, or adjudicate violations of federal law. However, as always, our department is available to assist, where possible. We encourage the community to review the IFR and submit comments, as identified on the first and second pages of the IFR.”

The IFR is available online and can be downloaded from the website. The public may submit comments and related materials to USCIS on or before July 13, 2020.

The IFR will go into effect on June 18, 2020.


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