One of the ways to live legally in the United States of America is through employment. However, acquiring a CW-1 CNMI-only Transitional Worker visa is complicated. It is because you should offer labor certification. The experienced lawyers at California Immigration Attorney could help you navigate and realize the best possible outcome throughout the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services process.

CW-1 CNMI-only Transitional Worker Visas

A CNMI-only Transitional Worker (CW-1) visa permits companies in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island to seek consent to employ foreigners who do not qualify to get employment in other U.S nonimmigrant worker groups.

In other words, CW-1 provides legal United States temporary immigration status (nonimmigrant status) to qualified alien workers who:

  • Perform specific, legal labor or services for a company in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island, and
  • Do not qualify for other forms of employment-based nonimmigrant status under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

CW classification includes:

  • CW-1, and
  • CW-2 — A dependent of the CW-1.

The General Qualification Requirements

To qualify as an employer, you must:

  • Consider every available United States employee for the job position.
  • Adhere to all CNMI and federal requirements about employment, including occupational safety, minimum wage, and nondiscrimination requirements.
  • Work in a legitimate business, including participating in the E-Verify programs
  • Adhere to semiannual reporting requirements by bringing Form I-129CWR in time
  • Pay transportation expenses if the foreigner is involuntarily fired from their employment before the authorized admission period ends.

A legitimate business is a real, active, and operating entrepreneurial or commercial undertaking that produces goods or services for profit. It can also be a governmental, charitable nonprofit organization. The business should satisfy the legal requirements for doing business in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island. An enterprise is not legitimate if it engages in human trafficking, prostitution, and an illegal activity under the CNMI or federal law, regardless of whether directly or not.

You qualify as a worker if you:

  • Are not eligible for any nonimmigrant status employment per the immigration laws
  • Are not in the U.S apart from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island
  • Are legally in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island if in the CNMI
  • Will stay or enter in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island and work in the occupational category chosen as a requiring alien worker to complement the resident workforce.
  • Aren't inadmissible to the U.S
  • Are a beneficiary of the visa petition brought by an employer working in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island

Typically, an extraction and construction industry cannot hire the CW-1 visa holder unless the foreigner is a permanent employee granted status or admitted as a nonimmigrant during every fiscal year between 2015 to 2018.

An Overview of the Application Process

Since numerous questions arise over the qualification requirements and the visa application process, the USCIS is clear about the application process in different scenarios.

Below is the application process of employers:

If you're petitioning workers legally in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island with nonimmigrant status, you should submit I-129CW with three hundred and twenty-five dollars as the application fee. You shouldn't pay a biometric price. However, you should submit CNMI education funding fees (two hundred dollars per alien) and fraud prevention and detection charges of fifty dollars per petition.

If your petition was approved for at least six months, you should bring I-129CW to verify every foreigner's payment and employment according to the petition’s terms. You should bring I-129CWR for every approved I-129CW. The foreigners in the approved I-129CW should be in the I-129CWR regardless of whether they are working with you or not.

Assume you are not in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island or are certified for consular processing. In that case, you should apply for your admission in ten days following the beginning of your petition validity date.

To acquire CW status, you should submit the documentation below as an employer:

  • I-129CW
  • An approved TLC with proof that all aliens meet the job requirements
  • Two hundred dollars education fee for every foreigner, annually
  • Supporting evidence verifying that the details submitted about the foreigner, job position, and their employer is correct and satisfies qualification criteria

What is the length of Your Stay?

Typically, the CW status is valid for a year but could be extended for three years.

After your second renewal of the status (following 3 (three) validity periods), you should leave the CNMI/SA for thirty days before your boss's submission of another CW-1 petition on your behalf.

If you obtained a CW-1 nonimmigrant visa or admitted every year between 2015 and 2018, the status is valid for three years. You are exempted from the departure requirement.

Extension of Stay

An extension of stay petition for a worker in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island should be filed if the previous petition's validity hasn't expired. Extension of CW-1 status request might be granted for a year until the transition period ends.

If you are seeking an extension of stay, you should file the petition together with:

  • A copy of the Arrival-Departure Record
  • If you changed employers, provide the evidence needed for your new petition.
  • Proof of licensure if your occupation needs a local or Commonwealth license

Proof that:

  • You complied with the terms of the CW-1 status,
  • You qualify for CW-1 classification.
  • You are admissible to the USA.

Your qualifying family members should use Application to Change/Extend Nonimmigrant Status (I-539) to apply for their status change.

A person who should have a passport to be admitted should keep the legal document valid throughout their stay.

Termination of Your Employment

You will lose the CW nonimmigrant status if you break one of the conditions related to the status. Nonetheless, when this violation is due to termination from your employment, you have not broken your status if:

  • An employer brings the petition on your behalf, or
  • You obtain another employment within thirty days from your termination date.

Should you change employers, your new boss should bring a petition within thirty days for you to remain legally in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island. You will only start working with another company after the boss brings your petition.

If the petition isn't filed within the thirty-day window, you should leave the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island. You are no longer a CW-1 visa holder once terminated from your employment. A petition brought after the thirty days will need the CW visa and the approved petition at a U.S consulate out of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island before you could go back to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island and begin new employment.

Return Transportation

The petitioning employer is accountable for the reasonable cost of return for a worker dismissed before the authorized employment period ends.

How to File Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker Effectively

Generally, you bring the form and the applicable supplement to categorize a person as a CNMI-only transitional worker. To get the status, your employer should be legally in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island or coming to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island with a CW-1 Visa. The foreigner can't be in the USA apart from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island.

It would be best if you answered questions by typing or printing in black ink. If your answer to a question is none, indicate "None." Answer the answer isn't applicable with "N/A." If you require more space to answer a question, go to Part 8 and then indicate the question number to which your answer refers.

Moreover, you should file the petition together with the necessary initial evidence. It should be signed and brought with the required fees.

Classification Supplement

Your employer should bring a supplement simultaneously with I-129CW and the reasonable fees on your behalf.

CW Classification Supplement needs the employer's attestation alongside necessary documentation. The employer should complete, date, and sign an Employer Attestation. It confirms that the information is correct and accurate. It certifies:

  • Eligible United States employees aren't available to occupy the position.
  • The company is a legal business.
  • You satisfy the position's qualifications.
  • You are legally in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island.
  • The job position isn't seasonal or temporary employment, and your employer does not think it is to meet the requirements for another nonimmigrant worker classification.

The job positions are within the following occupations:

  • Service occupations
  • Professional, management, or technical occupations
  • Processing
  • Benchwork
  • Structural work
  • Machine trade
  • Fisheries, forestry, and agricultural
  • Miscellaneous occupations

Accommodation for Persons Living with Disabilities

Classification Supplement has a section that requests for disability accommodation. The USCIS provides persons living with disabilities with equal access to facilities, activities, and programs as persons without disabilities.

The accommodation varies depending mainly on your disability and entails modification to procedures or practices which permit you to engage in the immigration process. For instance, if:

  • You cannot use your hands, you can take the test orally instead of in writing.
  • You have a hearing-impairment, you could be provided a sign-language interpreter.
  • You cannot go to the USCIS designated location for your interview, you can be visited at your hospital or home.

If you think the USCIS should accommodate your disability, check "Yes" and describe your disability's nature. Additionally, indicate the form of accommodation you're requesting. If you want a sign-language interpreter, make sure you type the language.

Should the person require more space, they should go to Part 8.

Where to File Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker

Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker isn't submitted electronically. Instead, it is brought to the California Service Center.

Failing to adhere to the instructions could cause the petition or application to be denied, delayed, or rejected.

CW-1 Visa Cap

A cap restricts the number of people who can be given CW-1 nonimmigrant visas or offered the status in a given fiscal year. Typically, a year starts in October and ends in September. One I-129CW might include at least one foreigner, and the caps apply to the number of foreigners rather than the total number of visa petitions. Every alien is subject to a visa cap unless added to the limit in that fiscal year. It includes a long-term employee who qualifies for their stay longer than a year and is counted towards the cap yearly.

Please note the CW-1 cap doesn't apply to CW-2 dependents. Typically, the I-129CW petitions below are subject to the cap:

  • Extension of stay petition
  • New employment petition

Cap Through FY 2030

In July 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Workforce Act that prolonged the nonimmigrant visa program in question to December 2019. It also established the limit for the rest fiscal years (ending in 2029). The aim was to encourage the transition of the territory in the United States immigration system and to bolster American employees' recruitment in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island.

Highlighted below are the caps for every fiscal year throughout the program:

  • FY 2019— Thirteen thousand
  • The fiscal year 2020— Twelve thousand and five hundred plus three thousand under Disaster Recovery Act the act
  • The fiscal year 2021— Twelve thousand plus three thousand under the act
  • The fiscal year 2022— Eleven thousand and five hundred plus three thousand under Disaster Recovery Act
  • The fiscal year 2023— Eleven thousand
  • The fiscal year 2024— Ten thousand
  • The fiscal year 2025— Nine thousand
  • The fiscal year 2026— Eight thousand
  • The fiscal year 2027— Seven thousand
  • The fiscal year 2028— Six thousand
  • The fiscal year 2029— Five thousand
  • FY 2030— One thousand

Cap Reservations

In May 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued the interim final rule that implements the Workforce Act's provision from June 2020. The interim final rule made numerous revisions to CW-1 classifications. It included proving the cap reservation for given occupational categories every FY as endorsed by the CNMI governor.

The USCIS sets aside:

  • 200 for Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations and Healthcare Support Occupations
  • Sixty for occupational classes associated with the operation of public utility services such as mechanical engineers, trade technicians, and electrical engineers

The reserved numbers are available to qualified employers requesting the numbers for the year in the sequence of bringing petitions until exhausted. Please note unutilized kept back numbers for the occupational categories won't be accessible to employers under other categories and don't carry over to the next year.

Cap Additions

The IFR implemented a revocation procedure for a boss' petition. It comprises of revocation grounds should:

  • The company bring a withdrawal of petition or cease operations, or
  • The Department of Labor cancel the TLC that a petition is founded on

Moreover, the IFR outlines optional grounds for revoking a Notice of Intent to Revoke to integrate the ground outlined in the Workforce Act. The immigration regulatory agency will add the CW-1 limit to the following FY for all revoked petition beneficiaries.

How Petitions are Assigned to the FY Cap

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services uses your employment beginning date found in the Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker (I-129CW) to determine which year cap you'll be counted on once your petition is obtained.

Assuming your employment beginning date is between October 2020 and September 2021, you'll be subject to a cap in FY 2021.

What Happens When the Limit is Reached?

Once the cap is reached, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will issue an alert. Kindly subscribe to the USCIS alerts on its official website to receive the alerts by email. Petitions received once the limit is reached are rejected.

If the USCIS rejects the extension of stay petition, the persons listed on the petition aren't allowed to work past their prior approved petition's validity duration. You, including your CW-2 loved ones, should leave the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island within ten days following the expiring of the validity period unless you've other permission to stay under the United States immigration laws.

How to Check the Case Status

While checking your status manually with the USCIS could be overwhelming, it is essential to stay updated. The section below explains how you could check your CW-1 visa status and receive an update when changes happen.

The Department of Homeland Security has a service that you could sign up for case status updates. A social security number isn't required to subscribe to that service.

To check the case status, visit the "Case Status Online" page on the USCIS website, and follow the following instructions:

  1. Insert the thirteen-digit receipt number in the box below "enter a receipt number."
  2. Input the number correctly and make sure there aren't spaces between the letters
  3. Hit the check status button
  4. Then refresh the page and see the current update about the case.

Other ways of checking your visa status include:

  • Through mail— You can contact the appropriate United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to check the status. All processing centers have their email addresses where applications are reviewed.
  • An individual could contact the immigration agency at 1-800-375-5283 and inquire about the case status through the phone. You do not require the receipt but be ready to wait for long. Depending on the number of people making inquiries, you could wait for more than two hours.
  • In-person— You could schedule an in-person appointment. To book the meeting, visit the appointment scheduling page on the USCIS website.
  • Direct mail— A person could request their case status updates through the mail if they file their application or petition through the local USCIS office. The person should provide information like their name, date of birth, alien number, and date of filing your petition in the letter.

Handling a Request for Evidence from the USCIS

When USCIS requires more information to proceed with your visa, the agency might send you a Request for Evidence (Form I-797E). Receiving the Request for Evidence can be scary, but you should not panic. It means the immigration officer working on your application requires more details before making a decision.

If you receive an RFE, respond timely. Otherwise, the petition or application will be denied. Ensure you begin getting the requested information immediately you receive the letter.

Avoiding a Request for Evidence

While you could resolve the RFE by submitting the details timely, there are numerous methods to avoid it.

When bringing your petition, ensure you review the application guidelines and avoid the below scenarios that might trigger the RFE:

  • Absence of initial evidence— The USCIS requires written proof to support the petition. Sometimes the reason could be illegible and incorrect documents. Fortunately, you can fix that by finding the required documents and then re-submit them.
  • An unusual case— Sometimes, the Request for Evidence is issued if the situation is unique. Think from the immigration officer's perspective and give evidence to back up your application. Make sure you are clear.
  • Missing documents' translation means the documents you submitted are in a foreign language and should be translated. An experienced immigration attorney should help you. It isn't permissible for you or your loved one to translate the document; you might swap out and paraphrase essential words.

Responding to the RFE

What happens if you still receive an RFE? Typically, the RFE comes with guidelines explaining which information or documents are needed.

Before responding, analyze the initial documents you sent and track down what you should include. You might write a cover letter addressing your initial correspondence points that could accompany your supporting documents.

Your final petition should include:

  • The Request for Evidence as your first page of the response
  • Information that the Request for Evidence requested
  • Documents from the original visa application
  • Any other details that you feel might help support your visa application.

Find an Experienced California Immigration Attorney

If you are an alien hoping to work in the CNMI and your boss plans to submit immigration documents and petitions on your behalf, you might not know where to start. At the California Immigration Attorney, we recommend that you tell your employer the essence of engaging a skilled immigration attorney. It's easy for your employer to make errors that could ruin the chances of your visa approval. Contact us today at 424-789-8809 to book your initial consultation.