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Fiscal Year 2015 Limit Set for CNMI-Only Transitional Workers

DHS will allow 13,999 CW-1 nonimmigrants for FY 2015

WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow up to 13,999 nonimmigrants for fiscal year (FY) 2015 for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) program. DHS published the notice in today’s Federal Register.

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 Dec. 31, 2019. DHS set the CW-1 limit for FY 2015 at 13,999 – a reduction of one from the FY 2014 limit of 14,000 – 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.

Today’s 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 in FY 2015 (between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015) will count towards the 13,999 limit. The numerical limit applies only to CW-1 principals. 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.

For more information and announcements about immigration benefits in the CNMI, please visit our CNMI Web page at www.uscis.gov/cnmi.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

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Deferred Enforced Departure Extended for Eligible Liberians in U.S.

USCIS Automatically Extends Validity of Employment Authorization Documents

WASHINGTON - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced it will automatically extend Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for Liberian nationals covered under Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Current DED Liberia EADs that have an expiration date of Sept. 30, 2014, will now be valid through March 30, 2015.This automatic extension of EADs follows President Obama’s announcement today of his decision to extend DED through September 30, 2016, for qualified Liberians and those individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Liberia. The six-month automatic extension of existing EADs allows eligible Liberian nationals to continue working in the United States while they file their applications. The extension also gives USCIS time to process and issue the new EADs.

Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberian nationals was scheduled to end on Sept. 30, 2014. However, President Obama determined that there are compelling foreign policy reasons to extend DED for eligible Liberian nationals currently living in the United States under the existing grant of DED.

Certain individuals are ineligible for DED, including:

  • Individuals who did not have Temporary Protected Status on Sept. 30, 2007, and are therefore not covered under current DED;
  • certain criminals;
  • people subject to the mandatory bars to Temporary Protected Status; and
  • those whose removal is in the interest of the United States.

USCIS will publish a notice in the Federal Register with information regarding the extension of EADs for eligible Liberian nationals, and instructions on how they may obtain employment authorization for the remainder of the DED extension.

For additional information, please visit the DED Granted Country - Liberia Web page on the USCIS website. Liberian nationals or their employers may also contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

For more information about USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

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H-1B and H-2B Cap Exemption for Guam and the CNMI Ends December 31, 2014

The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA), Public Law 110-229, included a provision that exempted H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrant workers performing labor or services in the CNMI and Guam from the Congressionally-mandated H-1B and H-2B annual numerical limitations (the “cap”) from November 28, 2009 to December 31, 2014.  After December 31, 2014, H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrant workers performing labor or services in the CNMI and Guam will no longer be exempt from the H-1B and H-2B annual cap. All H-1B or H-2B petitions for workers in Guam or the CNMI received on or after January 1, 2015, or (if received before that date) with employment start dates on or after January 1, 2015, will be subject to the annual H-1B or H-2B cap unless otherwise exempt.

Filing a H cap-exempt petition

Employers in the CNMI and Guam may still file a cap-exempt petition if:

  • They file a new or extension H-1B or H-2B nonimmigrant worker petition by December 31, 2014, and do so according to the filing instructions for Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
  • The employment start date for the worker’s labor or services is on or before December 31, 2014.
  • They file the petition requesting an extension of the worker’s status before the worker’s current approved status expires.

H-1B visas

All H-1B petitions received after December 31, 2014, will be subject to the H-1B cap unless otherwise exempt.

H-1B caps

  • Regular annual cap: 65,000 H-1B visas are available each fiscal year (FY) (October 1 – September 30).
  • U.S. Master’s Exemption cap: An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are available each year for workers with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

Exemptions from the H-1B cap

  • Under the normal H-1B process, H-1B extension petitions are exempt from the annual cap. But this is only if the initial H-1B was previously subject to the regular annual cap and the beneficiary was already counted against an annual H-1B cap, or if another cap exemption applies.

H-1Bs granted in the CNMI and Guam under the exemption were never previously counted against the cap because they were exempt based on the statute. That is why the petitions have to be receipted by December 31 or earlier in order to continue to benefit from the expiring cap exemption.

  • New H-1B petitions are exempt from the cap if the beneficiary will be employed at a nonprofit institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, or at a nonprofit or governmental research organization.  

When to file H-1B petitions

  • Cap-exempt petitions: Employers in the CNMI and Guam do not need to wait until the original petition and the worker’s status are about to expire. As long as the employment start date requested on the petition is on or before December 31, 2014, employers may file a cap-exempt extension petition on or before December 31, 2014, even if the worker’s current H-1B status will be valid for more than 6 months from that filing date.

If USCIS approves the extension, USCIS may grant the new H-1B petition for up to 3 years from the new requested start date, not from the date the current H-1B status expires. For example, if a person’s current H-1B status expires on August 1, 2015, and the employer files a cap-exempt petition requesting a December 31, 2014 start date, the approved petition’s expiration date may be as late as December 31, 2017.

  • Petitions subject to the cap: The FY 2015 H-1B cap has been reached. Therefore, USCIS will reject all cap-subject petitions for a new or extended H-1B nonimmigrant worker that it receives after December 31, 2014.

USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions that are subject to the FY 2016 cap on April 1, 2015. If a Form I-129 petition for the H-1B classification is approved, then the earliest the H-1B worker may begin to work in Guam or the CNMI would be October 1, 2015.

For general information about the H-1B classification and information about the H-1B cap, please see the H-1B Specialty Occupations and H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Cap Season Web pages.

H-2B visas

All H-2B petitions received after December 31, 2014, will be subject to the Congressionally-mandated cap.

H-2B caps

  • 66,000 H-2B visas are available each fiscal year and are allocated as follows:
    • October 1 to March 31:  33,000 visas are available.
    • April 1 to September 30:  33,000 visas are available, along with any unused visas from the first half of the fiscal year.
  • There is no "carry over" of unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year to the next.

When to file H-2B petitions

USCIS anticipates that FY 2015 H-2B visas will still be available for petitioners filing on or after January 1, 2015, but this is subject to demand.

For general information about the H-2B classification and the H-2B cap, please see the Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants and Countries Whose Nationals are Eligible for H-2A and H-2B Participation Web pages.

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