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DHS Announces CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Limit


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 limit for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Workers (CW-1) is 15,000. The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA) requires an annual reduction of the number of CW-1s, the nonimmigrant category for these transitional workers.

USCIS noted in a related announcement that under the CNRA, the CNMI became part of the United States for purposes of immigration law on November 28, 2009. The CNRA included a transition period to eventually phase out the CNMI’s nonresident worker program and transition to the U.S. federal immigration system. The CW-1 transitional worker program allows foreign nationals who are ineligible for any existing employment-based nonimmigrant category under the Immigration and Nationality Act to work in the CNMI during the transition period. An annual reduction in the total number of CW-1s granted each year will lead to the elimination of the CW nonimmigrant classification by the end of the transition period, USCIS noted. The CW program will end on December 31, 2014, unless it is extended by the Secretary of Labor.

For FY 2012, the numerical limitation for CW-1s was set at 22,416, during which employers in the CNMI filed Form I-129CW petitions for more than 12,000 transitional workers. DHS said it has set the CW-1 limit for FY 2013 at 15,000 “to meet the CNMI’s existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth, while reducing the numerical limitation as required by the CNRA.” Petitions requesting a work start date in FY 2013 (between October 1, 2012, and September 30, 2013) will be counted toward the 15,000 limit.

This does not affect the status of current CW-1 workers unless their employer files for an extension of their current authorized period of stay or they seek to change CW-1 employers. The numerical limitation only applies to CW-1 principals and does not directly affect the status of a person currently holding CW-2 status as the spouse or minor child of a CW-1 nonimmigrant. However, CW-2 nonimmigrants may be indirectly affected because their status depends upon that of the principal CW-1.

See also, Federal Register notice (PDF).

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