Additional 350 Visas Allowed for CNMI Workers

Signing the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act, H.R. 339 on Aug. 22, President Trump revised the visa classification for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Transitional Workers through the CW-1 visa. The legislation adds 350 CW-1 visas to the fiscal year (FY) 2017 CW-1 visa cap, raising the total number of visas available for issue from 12,998 to 13,348.

In addition to raising available visa numbers, the mandatory CNI education fee, which is required by all CW-1 employers, has increased from $150 to $200 for each CW-1 worker per year. The price hike is effective for petitions received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials after August 22. USCIS will return any petition filed with an incorrect or insufficient payment. Petitions received prior to August 22 include the lower $150 fee.

Within the classification element, “construction and extraction occupations” generally is no longer available to workers. The exception to this comes from those who’ve maintained continuous CW-1 status for the same employer dating back to before Oct. 1, 2015.USCIS applies this new limitation to CW petitions pending with the agency as of August 22 onward.

Of the additional visas, 60 of them are earmarked for “healthcare practitioners and technical occupations and 10 of them are designated for “plant and system operators.” Both work categories adhere to the defined terms as spelled out in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Standard Occupation Classification system.

The CW-1 classification allows employers within CNMI to apply for permission to employ foreign nonimmigrant workers in cases where those workers are otherwise ineligible to work under other categories of nonimmigrant workers. The additional visas created under the legislation are currently available– “immediately and exclusively,” according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) release— to existing CW-1 workers applying to extend their status in cases where the petition validity period expires this year between August 23 and September 30.