On March 9, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin accepting CW1 petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2018 cap on April 3, 2017 [link]. The CW1 category is for employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who are seeking to employ foreign workers who would be otherwise ineligible to work under the other nonimmigrant work visa categories. The USCIS noted that it has not yet set the CW1 cap for FY-2018. However, the CW1 cap for FY-2018 is required to be less than the FY-2017 cap, which is currently set at 12,998. For reference, CW1 cap for FY-2016 was set at 12,999 [link].
The USCIS explains that for the FY-2018 cap, a CW1 extension petition may request a start date for October 1, 2017, even if the CW1 worker's current status will not expire by October 1, 2017. The USCIS encourages employers to file a CW1 petition up to 6 months in advance of the proposed employment start date, and “as early as possible within that timeframe.” The USCIS will reject any CW1 petitions that are filed more than 6 months in advance.
The USCIS reminds employers to submit all required documentation. This includes evidence that the employer posted a job vacancy announcement on the Department of Labor (DOL) website.
The USCIS also issued a remember that as of December 23, 2016, the new filing fee for a CW1 petition is $460 [see article]. Furthermore, a CW1 petitioning employer “must also pay the required education fee for each requested CW1 worker.” As of February 21, 2017, the current annual education funding fee per CW1 beneficiary is $150 [link]. Any Forms I-129CW, Petition for CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker filed without the requisite fees will be rejected and returned.
Employers must submit the Form I-129CW that has an edition date of 12/23/16. The Form I-129CW and all other forms may be downloaded from the USCIS website.
Petitioners for CW1 workers should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance throughout the filing process.