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Instructions for Employers Petitioning for Transitional Workers in the CNMI

If you are an employer in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) you are probably wondering if the CNMI-only transitional worker or CW status is something that will work for you and your foreign employees.

The step by step information on this webpage will help you:

  • Determine if you, as the employer, are eligible to hire a foreign worker
  • Determine if your employee qualifies for transitional worker status
  • Understand the process for how to hire a foreign worker or keep a foreign worker whose CNMI umbrella permit is expiring

Step 1: Determine if you are eligible to hire a foreign worker

Are you eligible to hire a foreign worker under the Transitional Worker status?

To qualify to hire workers with CW status, you as the employer, must:

  • Be engaged in a legitimate business. This means:
    • You must produce services or goods for profit, or be a governmental, charitable or other validly recognized nonprofit organization, and
    • Your business must also meet requirements for doing business in the CNMI
  • Demonstrate that you have considered available U.S. workers for the position
  • Offer terms and conditions of employment consistent with the nature of your business
  • Submit the necessary forms to hire transitional workers
  • Comply with all federal and CNMI requirements relating to employment, including occupational safety and minimum wage requirements
  • Pay the reasonable transportation costs for the worker to return to his or her last place of foreign residence if that worker is involuntarily dismissed from employment before the end of the authorized period

Step 2: Determine if the foreign worker qualifies for CW Status

If you are eligible to hire a transitional worker, is the foreign worker qualified for CW status? 

To qualify for CW status, the foreign worker you want to hire must:

  • Not be eligible for any other employment-based nonimmigrant status under U.S. immigration law, such as H-1B status
  • Be lawfully present in the CNMI, or be outside the United States
  • Be admissible to the United States or be able to get a waiver of a ground of inadmissibility. This means that the worker does not have something that, by law, would keep him or her from being eligible, such as a criminal conviction within the grounds of inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law.

Step 3: File forms

If you are eligible to hire a foreign worker and the foreign worker you want to hire is eligible to be considered for the CW status, then you need to submit the necessary forms to USCIS.

  1. For one or more workers you must fill out a Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker. This form can be downloaded from www.uscis.gov/forms or you can get a form at the USCIS office in Saipan. You can find filing tips at www.uscis.gov/cw.

  2. After completing the form, assemble supporting evidence showing that you, your business, the foreign worker and the job position meet the eligibility criteria.

  3. Write two checks made out to the “Department of Homeland Security.” Write one check for $325 for the Form I-129CW and the other for a “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 fee per beneficiary (worker).

  4. Once you complete everything, send the entire package to the USCIS California Service Center. Please note: Application will NOT be accepted before Oct. 7, 2011.

    Regular Mail

    Express Mail/Courrier

    USCIS California Service Center
    ATTN:  CW-1
    P.O. Box 10698
    Laguna Niguel, CA  92607-1098

    USCIS California Service Center
    ATTN:  CW-1
    24000 Avila Road
    2nd Floor, Room 2312
    Laguna Niguel, CA  92607-1098

Grant of Status

A foreign worker who is lawfully present in the CNMI may be eligible for a ‘Grant of Status’ and get CW status directly in the CNMI without having to obtain a U.S. visa abroad first. If you are petitioning for a foreign worker and also requesting a Grant of Status, include an $85 biometrics processing fee in the I-129CW application package. Information about Grant of Status criteria is found at www.uscis.gov/cnmi. When you request a grant of status in the CNMI, USCIS will advise you where the foreign worker must go for fingerprints and photograph for DHS to conduct the required security checks.

If petitioning for foreign workers who are requesting consular processing abroad or already have a nonimmigrant status (F-1, H-1B, etc.) you do not need to submit a biometrics fee with the application.

Step 4: USCIS contacts employer

If your Form I-129CW is approved, USCIS will mail an approval notice to you showing that the CW-1 classification has been approved. You should get the notice in 60 days. If you haven’t received any correspondence from USCIS after 60 days, contact a USCIS customer service representative by calling 1-800-375- 5283 or make an InfoPass appointment at www.uscis.gov to see an officer in our Saipan Office.

Foreign worker in the CNMI

If your approved foreign worker is in the CNMI, provide the worker with the original approval notice document, which includes the worker’s Arrival-Departure Record Form I-94. The worker will need this Form I-94 to indicate that he or she received approval for the Grant of Status.

Foreign worker abroad

If your approved foreign worker is abroad, send the original approval notice to the worker’s address abroad. The approval notice will indicate that he or she needs to make an appointment for a nonimmigrant visa interview at the U.S. Consulate/ Embassy nearest to them for processing of a CW-1 visa application.

Step 5: Extending CW status

CW status is valid for one year. You must file a new petition for CW status on behalf of your employee or the employee must obtain another Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) nonimmigrant or immigrant classification to lawfully stay in the CNMI after that.

For more information about transitional worker status, please visit our website at www.uscis.gov/cw

Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/21/2011