USCIS Clarifies CW-1 Visa Guidance

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United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued additional guidance for employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in their applications for temporary permission to employ nonimmigrant workers who can’t otherwise work under other nonimmigrant categories Following the agency’s May 20 announcement that it had received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the cap of 12,999 workers, USCIS continues to accept petitions under certain circumstances.

Through a June 7 release,  USCIS lays out guidelines for CW-1 Extension of Stay petitions, essentially separating those petitions that are subject to the cap and those that aren’t included in the count toward the cap. All CW-1 workers are counted toward the cap, according to the release, unless the worker has already been counted toward the cap in the same fiscal year. 1

The U.S. government fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30. This means CW-status workers who began employment on or after Oct. 1, 2015 are included in the count for fiscal year 2016.

“If CW-1 workers were already counted toward the CW-1 cap for FY 2016,” according to the release, “then their employer can file a petition to change employers or extend CW-1 status in FY 2016, even though the FY 2016 CW-1 cap was reached on May 5, 2016.”

USCIS also encourages all CW-1 workers and employees to review the Working in the U.S. pages for a list of all available classifications for temporary and permanent workers. Links on the page provide a general description of each classification, eligibility criteria, and other filing requirements.

In addition, USCIS is already accepting CW-1 petitions that request an employment start date on or after Oct. 1, 2016. These are counted toward the Fiscal Year 2017 CW-1 cap. The agency encourages CW-1 employers to file these petitions up to six months in advance of the proposed employment start date. USCIS rejects petitions filed more than six months in advance of proposed start dates.

The CW classification provides a transitional method going from the former CNMI foreign worker permit system to the U.S. immigration system. For more information about CW status, please see is available on the USCIS CW Questions and Answers page.

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