Form I-9 Information for Employers Hiring Individuals in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

The CNMI and Federal Immigration Law

On November 28, 2009, the Immigration and Nationality Act 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. CNMI employers must verify the identity and employment authorization of their new hires by completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, and are subject to the same civil fines and criminal penalties as other U.S. employers for Form I-9 violations.

CNMI Employers’ Use of Form I-9

As of November 28, 2011, CNMI employers must complete Form I-9 for all new hires and reverifications in the CNMI.* An employer does not need to complete Form I-9 for an employee who was hired for employment in the CNMI before Nov. 28, 2009, and has been continuing in their employment and has had a reasonable expectation of employment with such employer at all times. However, the employer may be subject to penalties if the employer continues to employ such an employee knowing they do not have work authorization under U.S. law.

Employment Eligibility in the CNMI

To work or continue working in the CNMI, workers must obtain work authorization under U.S. law. This includes obtaining parole with an Employment Authorization Document, CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) status, or any other federal basis for temporary work authorization.

CNMI-Only Transitional Workers

The CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) visa classification allows employers in the CNMI to apply for temporary permission to employ foreign (nonimmigrant) workers who are otherwise ineligible to work under other nonimmigrant worker categories.

Employers must file a petition with USCIS to legally hire a nonimmigrant as a CW-1 worker. If a potential employee is in the CNMI, he or she can begin working once USCIS approves that nonimmigrant worker’s Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, provided the petition approved a change or grant of status and the employer completes Form I-9. If a potential employee is outside the CNMI or ineligible to change their status while in the CNMI, the petition will be sent to a U.S. Consulate nearest the potential employee’s residence so that the potential employee can then apply for a nonimmigrant visa.

CW-1 status is normally valid for one year but the employer may request an extension of status by filing Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker. An employee is also authorized to continue working for the same employer for up to 240 days beyond the authorized period specified on Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, if the employer timely files a request for extension of stay on Form I-129CW. The employer should enter “240-Day Ext” and the date the employer submitted Form I-129 CW to USCIS in Section 2 of Form I-9. To show that the employer filed the extension of stay request on the employee’s behalf, the employer should retain the following documents with the employee’s existing Form I-9:

  • A copy of the new Form I-129CW
  • Proof of payment for filing a new Form I-129CW
  • Evidence that the employer mailed the new Form I-129CW to USCIS

After submitting Form I-129CW, the employer will receive a notice from USCIS acknowledging that the application is pending, which the employer should retain with the employee’s Form I-9.

The employer must reverify the employee’s employment authorization in Section 3 once a decision is received on the application for extension of stay or by the end of the 240-day period, whichever comes first.

Under certain circumstances a CW-1 worker may begin working for a new employer pending approval of the new employer’s Form I-129CW petition.

*Note: Between November 28, 2009 and November 28, 2011 a special version of the Form I-9, the Form I-9 CNMI, was in use in the CNMI. With the phase-out of work authorization based on prior CNMI law as of November 28, 2011, the Form I-9 CNMI cannot be used. CNMI employers must use the standard Form I-9.

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