Getting a Visa Under the CW Category

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Through the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW) visa category, employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are permitted to apply for temporary permission to employ foreign national workers who otherwise do not qualify for work under other non immigrant worker classifications. The CW category is commonly referred to as CW-1, A CNMI-Only transitional worker and CW-2, Dependent of a CNMI-Only transitional worker.

Eligibility Requirements for Employers

To be eligible under this classification, the employer should be running a legitimate business and take into consideration all available US workers for the position offered. The employer has to provide terms and conditions of employment that is consistent with the nature of the employer’s business in the CNMI. In addition to these requirements, the employer has to file the appropriate forms to hire transitional workers and meet all federal and CNMI requirements relating to employment. The employer should be able to pay transportation costs of the foreign national to his/her last place of foreign residence if he/she is dismissed from the job before the end of the permitted period.

Eligibility requirements for Employees

A foreign national worker may be categorized as CW-1 non immigrant during the transition period if he/she does not qualify for any other employment-based non immigrant status, per US laws. The prospective employee has to agree to enter or be in the CNMI to work in an position that needs alien workers to add to the resident workforce. The foreign national worker should be the beneficiary of a petition filed by a US employer who is doing business in the CNMI. The worker should also not be present in the US, other than the CNMI and should be lawfully present in the CNMI. In addition, the worker should be admissible to the US or granted any waiver of a ground of inadmissibility.

To get CW status, the US employer has to submit Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Non immigrant Transitional Worker with the appropriate submission fee. In addition to this, a $150 education fee has to be paid and all supporting proof for the information provided about the worker, the employer and the job position is correct and fulfill the eligibility criteria. If you are present in the CNMI with a CNMI permit that was authorized by the USCIS or CBP, note that the employer should pay the biometrics fee with the petition if the request is for granting CW-1 status in the CNMI rather than abroad.


Dependents in the CNMI who wish to get CW-2 status are allowed to file a Form I-539 simultaneously with the Form I-129CW for the CW-1 principal, after the CW-1 petition is filed by the employer. The dependents should be lawfully present in the CNMI while filing their I-539s to qualify for a grant of CW-2 status in the CNMI. It simply means that the dependents may need to file the I-539 before the I-129CW is granted to retain eligibility for CW-2. Note that CW-2 category does not give authorization to work.

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