Form I-9 Guidance for Employers Hiring Individuals in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
CNMI and Federal Immigration Law
On November 28, 2009, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other federal immigration laws took effect in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), as provided by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. All U.S. employers, including CNMI employers, under U.S. immigration law are now required to verify the identity and employment authorization of their new hires by completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification with the March 8, 2013, revision date found at http://www.uscis.gov/I-9Central. This requirement applies whether or not the employee is a U.S. citizen. Employers are subject to the same penalties as other U.S. employers for Form I-9 violations.
CNMI Employers Use of Standard Form I-9
As of November 28, 2011, CNMI employers must use the standard Form I-9 used throughout the United States for all new hires and reverifications in the CNMI. The Form I-9 CNMI cannot be used after that date.
Umbrella Permits and Other CNMI-issued Documents
An umbrella permit is the common name for several types of transitional conditional permits issued by the CNMI Department of Labor or the CNMI Department of Commerce. All umbrella permits, CNMI permanent resident cards, or other evidence of work authorization issued by the CNMI government expired on November 27, 2011.
Employment Eligibility in the CNMI
To work or continue working in the CNMI, workers must obtain work authorization under U.S. law. This includes parole with an Employment Authorization Document, CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker (CW-1) status, or other federal basis for work authorization.
Reverifying an Employees’ Work Authorization
Employers must reverify employees’ work authorization if umbrella permits or other CNMI-issued work authorization documents were used for employment authorization purposes. To reverify and update the employee’s work authorization, the employer should write the employee’s name in Section 1 on Form I-9 and complete Section 3. The employer does not need to complete the remainder of Section 1 or Section 2. To complete Section 3, the employee must present a document that shows current employment authorization. To comply, the employee must present any document from List A or List C of Form I-9, including an unrestricted Social Security card. Social Security cards with restrictions are not accepted as evidence of work authorization. The employer should attach the updated Form I-9 to the employee’s old Form I-9 CNMI, and retain both forms as directed in Part 3 of the Handbook for Employers (M-274).
There is one exception to this reverification requirement. An employer who filed an initial Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker, on or before November 28, 2011, is not required to reverify an employee’s work authorization until USCIS issues a decision on the petition.
Employees Hired Before November 28, 2009
An employer does not need to complete a Form I-9 for an employee who was hired for employment in the CNMI before November 28, 2009. However, employers may be subject to penalties if they know that such an employee does not have work authorization under U.S. law.
CNMI-Only Transitional Workers
If an employer filed an initial Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker (Form I-129CW) on or before November 28, 2011, for a current employee who was lawfully present in the CNMI to obtain CNMI-only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker (CW) status, the employer may continue to employ the worker until USCIS makes a decision on the application.
If the employer previously completed Form I-9 CNMI with this employee, the employer should make a note in the margin of the previously completed form that it has filed a Form I-129CW petition on the employee’s behalf. When USCIS makes a favorable decision on the petition, and the employee is granted CW status, the employer should reverify the employee’s work authorization by completing Section 3 of the standard Form I-9, as described above. In that case, the employee will receive a Form I-94 indicating CW status, which, along with the foreign passport, constitutes evidence of work authorization (see item no. 5 in List A of Form I-9). The employer should attach the newly completed standard Form I-9 to the employee’s Form I-9 CNMI and retain both forms as directed in Part 3 of the Handbook for Employers (M-274).
If USCIS denies the Form I-129CW then the individual’s work authorization ceases at that time, and the employer cannot continue to employ the worker after receiving the denial notice.
Extending CW status
CW status is valid for one year. Employers must file a new petition for CW status on behalf of an employee or the employee must obtain another INA nonimmigrant or immigrant classification to lawfully stay in the CNMI beyond one year. Employers cannot file an extension request for an employee in CW status more than six months in advance of the expiration date of the employee’s current status, but are encouraged to file as soon as possible within that time frame to prevent gaps in employment authorization.
When an employee’s employment authorization or employment authorization documentation expires, the employer must reverify that the employee is still authorized to work, using section 3 of the Form I-9. If the employer previously completed Section 3, or if the version of the form the employer used for a previous verification is no longer valid, the employer must complete Section 3 of a new Form I-9 using the most current version and attach it to the previously completed Form I-9.
If USCIS denies the Form I-129CW extension petition, and the employee’s initial CW-1 validity period has ended, the employee is not authorized to work. There is no grace period. The notice of denial will provide additional instructions. Individuals without a valid status must leave the CNMI.
For Form I-9 questions, download the M-274, Handbook for Employers.