May 5, 2014
Press Release From Labor on Extension of CNMI Guest Worker Program
WASHINGTON (U.S. Department of Labor) — In 2008, Congress passed the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, which applies the immigration laws of the United States to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
To minimize potential adverse economic effects, the CNRA provides for a five-year transitional worker program, known as the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker, or CW-1, program, which ends on Dec. 31, 2014. However, the CNRA authorizes the secretary of Labor to extend this transition period for up to five years based on the labor needs of the CNMI to ensure that an adequate number of workers are available for legitimate businesses.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez on Tuesday made the determination to extend the CW-1 program until Dec. 31, 2019, based on his consideration of a series of eight factors stipulated by the CNRA.
The department reviewed and considered workforce studies that examined the economic impact of alien workers on the CNMI economy and labor market. A review of the workforce studies found that the majority of the CNMI’s current labor supply is provided by foreign workers. The studies unanimously concluded that restrictions on the foreign labor supply will exacerbate the CNMI’s current economic problems and restrain economic growth.
Based on CNMI Department of Finance tax data for 2002-2012 and the 2010 Island Areas Census, U.S. Labor concluded that there are an insufficient number of U.S. workers in the CNMI to fill all of the jobs held by foreign workers. The total number of unemployed U.S. workers in the CNMI in 2010 amounted to only about 20 percent of the 14,958 foreign workers. Even if all the U.S. workers in the labor force were employed, more than 11,000 jobs would still need to be filled by foreign workers.
U.S. Labor also conducted a series of meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, and CNMI elected officials, including the governor, during which the participants examined the statutory criteria to assess whether U.S. Labor should extend the transition period. None of the participants in those consultations registered objections to the grant of an extension for up to five years to ensure that an adequate number of workers are available for legitimate businesses in the CNMI.
Following Tuesday’s determination, U.S. Labor will continue to monitor and assess the labor needs of the CNMI, in particular any good faith efforts to locate, educate, train or otherwise prepare U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and unemployed foreign workers already in the commonwealth to assume jobs in legitimate businesses
CNMI employers have a continuing obligation to ensure and protect workers’ rights by adhering to and complying with applicable federal civil rights, labor and workplace safety laws.
For more information on the secretary of Labor’s determination, visit the Federal Register Notice of the transition period extension at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/03/2014-12607/secretary-of-labor-extends-the-transition-period-of-the-commonwealth-of-the-northern-mariana. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provided extensions of status and grants of new CW-1 status only until Dec. 31, 2014, the previous sunset date of the program. If the petition is otherwise eligible, USCIS will resume approving CW-1 status in increments of up to one year.
Press Release from USCIS on Extension of CNMI Guest Worker Program:
(USCIS) ─ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is providing guidance relative to the U.S. Department of Labor’s announcement extending the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands-Only Transitional Worker or CW-1 program for five years.
The extension, published in the Federal Register, extends the CW-1 program until Dec. 31, 2019. This extension will allow CNMI businesses to continue to hire CW-1 workers to meet their current and future need for foreign workers.
USCIS provided extensions of status and grants of new CW-1 status only until Dec. 31, 2014, the previous sunset date of the program. If an unadjudicated petition is otherwise eligible and the petitioner requested a full year, USCIS will resume approving CW-1 status in periods of up to one year. There are no changes to the application process or fees for the CW program. Employers must still file Form I-129CW. The timetable for petitioning remains the same — employers may file Form I-129CW up to six months in advance. USCIS encourages employers to file as soon as possible within that time frame to prevent gaps in employment authorization.
Spouses and minor children of CW-1 workers can obtain CW-2 derivative status. DOL’s CW-1 extension also permits USCIS to grant spouses and minor children CW-2 status for the same duration as the principal CW-1 petitioner whose status is extending beyond, or was granted after, Dec. 31, 2014.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security determines the annual numerical limitation on CW-1 workers, as required by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. DHS set the CW-1 limit for fiscal year 2014 at 14,000 to meet the CNMI’s existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth. With the Department of Labor’s extension of the CW-1 program, DHS will reassess the CNMI’s labor market needs and opportunity for growth in order to determine and announce the FY 2015 numerical limitation for CW-1 workers.
Under the CW-1 program, employers in the CNMI can apply for temporary permission to employ foreign nationals who are ineligible for any existing employment-based nonimmigrant category under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The CW-1 program was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2014, at the end of the transition period established by the CNRA.
For more information and announcements about the CW-1 program, visit www.uscis.gov/cw.