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DHS Sets FY 2016 Limit for CNMI-Only Transitional Workers


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on October 22, 2015, that it will allow up to 12,999 nonimmigrants in fiscal year (FY) 2016 for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) program.

Under the CW-1 program, employers in the CNMI can apply for temporary permission to employ foreign nationals who are ineligible for any existing employment-based nonimmigrant category under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The CW program is in effect until December 31, 2019. DHS said it reduced the FY 2016 CW-1 limit by 1,000 “to meet the CNMI’s existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth, while meeting a regulatory requirement to reduce the numerical limit each year.”

The announcement does not affect the status of current CW-1 workers unless their employer files for an extension of their current authorized period of stay. Approved petitions with an employment start date between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016, will generally count toward the 12,999 limit, DHS said. The numerical limit applies only to CW-1 principals. It does not directly affect anyone currently holding CW-2 status, which is for spouses and minor children of CW-1 nonimmigrants. However, CW-2 nonimmigrants may be indirectly affected because their status depends upon that of the principal CW-1, USCIS noted.

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