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CW-1: CNMI-Only Transitional Worker

The CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW) visa classification allows employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to apply for temporary permission to employ foreign (nonimmigrant) workers who are otherwise ineligible to work under other nonimmigrant worker categories. The CW classification provides a method for transition from the former CNMI foreign worker permit system to the U.S. immigration system. For more information about CW status, please see our CW Questions and Answers.

 

The CW nonimmigrant classification is commonly referred to as:

  • CW-1: A CNMI-Only transitional worker 
  • CW-2: Dependent of a CNMI-Only transitional worker

General Eligibility Requirements

Employers

To qualify for workers with CW visa status, employers must:

  • Be engaged in legitimate business**
  • Consider all available U.S. workers for the position
  • Offer terms and conditions of employment consistent with the nature of the employer’s business in the CNMI
  • File the necessary forms to hire transitional workers
  • Comply with all federal and CNMI requirements relating to employment: examples include nondiscrimination, occupational safety, and minimum wage requirements
  • Pay reasonable transportation costs of the individual to the individual’s last place of foreign residence if the individual is involuntarily dismissed from employment for any reason before the end of the period of authorized admission

**A legitimate business is defined as a real, active, and operating commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking which produces services or goods for profit, or is a governmental, charitable, or other validly recognized nonprofit entity. The business must meet the legal requirements for doing business in the CNMI. A business will not be considered legitimate if it engages directly or indirectly in prostitution, human trafficking, or any other activity that is illegal under Federal or CNMI law.

Workers

A foreign worker may be classified a CW-1 nonimmigrant during the transition period if he or she:

  • Is ineligible for any other employment-based nonimmigrant status under U.S. immigration law
  • Will enter or stay in the CNMI to work in an occupational category designated as needing alien workers to supplement the resident workforce
  • Is the beneficiary of a petition filed by a legitimate employer who is doing business in the CNMI
  • Is not present in the United States, other than the CNMI
  • Is lawfully present in the CNMI if present in the CNMI
  • Is otherwise admissible to the United States or is granted any necessary waiver of a ground of inadmissibility

Application Process: CW-1 and CW-2 Status

Employers

If youThen you mustAnd
Are petitioning for one or more workers who are lawfully present in the CNMI with a federal nonimmigrant status (e.g., F-1 or H-1B)Submit a Form I-129CW with the $325 application fee You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 fee per beneficiary.  
Are petitioning for one or more workers who are lawfully present in the CNMI with a CNMI permit OR have parole authority granted by USCIS or CBPSubmit a Form I-129CW with the $325 application fee You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 fee per beneficiary. Either you or the worker must also submit an $85 biometrics fee if you are requesting a Grant of Status in the CNMI.  
Are petitioning for one or more workers who are requesting consular processing abroadSubmit a Form I-129CW with the $325 application fee 

You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 fee per beneficiary.

Do not submit a biometrics fee. A biometrics fee may be required by the Department of State when the worker applies for his or her visa abroad.

Are requesting an extension of CW status for a nonimmigrant workerSubmit a Form I-129CW with the $325 application fee You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 fee per worker.

Workers

Foreign worker who has been living and working lawfully in the CNMI

  • To obtain CW status your employer must submit all of the following documentation:
  • A Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker with the application fee
  • A mandatory $150 education fee
  • Supporting evidence certifying that the information provided about you, your employer and the job position is accurate and meets eligibility criteria

If you are lawfully present in the CNMI with a CNMI permit or parole authorized by USCIS or CBP, the employer must also include the biometrics fee with the petition if you are requesting a grant of CW-1 status in the CNMI rather than overseas. 

  • In most situations where a direct grant of status in the CNMI is requested, after the employer files the Form I-129CW, USCIS will contact your employer advising that you must go to the USCIS Application Support Center in TSL Plaza in Saipan to have your fingerprints and photograph taken. This will enable DHS to conduct the required security checks.
  • If your Form I-129CW is approved, USCIS will mail an approval notice to your employer who should give you a copy of the document. The approval notice will indicate whether you have been granted CW-1 status in the CNMI (as evidenced by an attached Arrival-Departure Record Form I-94) or whether you may proceed to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to seek visa processing of your CW-1 visa.

Foreign national worker living abroad and seeking employment in the CNMI

  • Your employer must submit all of the following documentation:
  • A Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker with the application fee
  • A mandatory $150 education fee
  • Supporting evidence certifying that the information provided about you, your employer and the job position is accurate and meets eligibility criteria.
  • If the petition is approved, USCIS will mail an approval notice to your employer showing that the petition for CW-1 classification has been approved. Your employer will need to send you the original approval notice at your address abroad. 
  • After you receive the approval notice you will need to make an appointment for a nonimmigrant visa interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy nearest you.

Beneficiaries with Dependents

Dependents in the CNMI seeking a grant of CW-2 status may file a Form I-539 concurrently with the employer’s I-129CW petition for the CW-1 principal, once the CW-1 petition is submitted by the employer.  While dependents may wait until the CW-1 petition is granted, they MUST be lawfully present in the CNMI at the time of filing their I-539s in order to be eligible for a grant of CW-2 status in the CNMI. This means your dependents may need to file the I-539 before the I-129CW is granted in order to retain eligibility for CW-2 status. CW-2 status does not authorize employment.

IfAndThen
You obtain CW-1 status, either by admission to the CNMI with a CW-1 visa or after receiving an approval notice with attached I-94Your dependents (spouse and children under the age of 18) are lawfully present in the CNMI 

They may file:

  • An Application to Change or Extend Status, Form I-539
  • The filing fee
  • The biometric services fee
  • Documentation of your admission to the CNMI in the CW-1 classification
If the Form I-539 is approved, USCIS will send your beneficiaries an approval notice with an I-94 as evidence of the approved Form I-539.
You obtain CW-1 status, either by admission to the CNMI with a CW-1 visa or after receiving an approval notice with attached I-94Your dependents (spouse and children under the age of 18)  are abroadThey may apply for a CW-2 visa. The U.S. Department of State has separate application and fee requirements for visa applications.
You are requesting consular processing of your CW-1 status at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroadYour dependents (spouse and children under the age of 18) are abroadThey may also apply for CW-2 visas at the same time. The U.S. Department of State has separate application and fee requirements for visa applications.

Length of Stay

CW status is valid for one year. You must re-register for CW status or obtain another INA nonimmigrant or immigrant classification to lawfully stay in the CNMI.

Termination of Employment

A foreign worker with CW nonimmigrant status will lose that status if he or she violates any of the terms or conditions that are associated with that CW status.  However, when the violation is solely caused by termination from employment, the worker will not be considered to have violated his or her status if:

  • the worker obtains new employment within 30 days from the date of termination and
  • an employer files a petition on his or her behalf

If new employment is found, the new employer must file a petition for the foreign worker before the end of this 30-day period in order for him or her to remain lawfully present in the CNMI. The foreign worker may only begin work with the new employer after that employer files the petition.

If a new petition is not filed within 30 days, the foreign worker must leave the CNMI and that worker will be considered to be out of status effective on the date of termination of CW-1 employment. Any petition filed for that worker after the 30-day period will require an approved petition and a CW visa issued at a consulate outside the CNMI before the foreign worker can return and start new employment in the CNMI.

Travel

Once you obtain the approval of your CW petition, you may leave the CNMI but must have the appropriate visa to re-enter the CNMI. When your CW petition is approved, you will be given an Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, as evidence that you have been granted CW status. The Form I-94 alone will not be valid to re-enter the CNMI. You will need to obtain a CW visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before returning to the CNMI in order to apply for readmission.

CW Status vs. CW Visa

StatusUSCIS grants CW status for foreign nationals who are already in CNMI, however we do not issue visas. Although someone has an approved I-129CW petition that confers the CW status, if they travel outside of the CNMI they will require a visa to apply for readmission to the CNMI and retain their CW status.
Visa

Before traveling to the U.S., a citizen of a foreign country must generally obtain a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you will need is based on the purpose of your travel.

The U.S. Department of State has separate application and fee requirements for visa applications. For more information on traveling outside of the CNMI, please visit the Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov.

 

NOTE: As a CW status holder you cannot travel in any other part of the United States, except for nationals of the Philippines who may travel between the Philippines and the CNMI through the Guam airport.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/02/2014