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FY 2014 Limit Set for CNMI-Only Transitional Workers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a limit of 14,000 nonimmigrants for fiscal year (FY) 2014 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. The CW program is in effect until December 31, 2014. Before that date, the CNMI's nonresident worker program is being transitioned to the U.S. federal immigration system. This transition period was established by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA), which extended, for the first time, most provisions of U.S. immigration law to the CNMI.

The annual CNRA-required reduction in CW-1 workers will eliminate the CW nonimmigrant classification by the end of the transition period. DHS set the CW-1 limit for FY 2014 at 14,000 to meet the CNMI's existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth, while meeting a CNRA requirement to reduce the numerical limit each year. The CW program will end on December 31, 2014, unless it is extended by the DOL.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said this announcement does not affect the status of current CW-1 workers unless their employers file for extensions of their current authorized periods of stay or they seek to change CW-1 employers. Approved petitions that request a work-start date in FY 2014 (between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014) will count toward the 14,000 limit. The numerical limit applies only to CW-1 principals, USCIS noted. It does not directly affect persons 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.

A numerical limit of 15,000 CW-1s was set for FY 2013. As of August 13, 2013, employers in the CNMI filed petitions for at least 7,323 transitional workers.

USCIS ANNOUNCEMENT

DHS FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE

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