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CW-1: CNMI-Only Transitional Worker

The CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) visa classification allows employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to apply for permission to employ aliens 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, employers must:

  • Obtain an approved temporary labor certification (TLC) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and consider all available U.S. workers for the position;
  • Be engaged in a legitimate business, including participation in the E-Verify program, as defined at 8 CFR 214.2(w)(1)(vii);
  • Offer terms and conditions of employment consistent with the nature of the employer’s business in the CNMI;
  • Comply with all federal and CNMI requirements relating to employment. Examples include: nondiscrimination, occupational safety, and minimum wage requirements;
  • Pay reasonable transportation costs if the alien is involuntarily dismissed from employment for any reason before the end of the period of authorized admission; and
  • Comply with the semiannual reporting requirement by timely filing Form I-129CWR, Semiannual Report for CW-1 Employers.

Workers

An alien may be classified as a CW-1 nonimmigrant during the transition period, beginning on Nov. 28, 2009 and ending on Dec. 31, 2029, subject to the CW-1 cap, 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; and
  • Is admissible to the United States or is granted any necessary waiver of a ground of inadmissibility.

Generally, an alien classified as a CW-1 nonimmigrant may not be employed in a construction and extraction occupation, unless the alien is a long-term worker who was admitted or otherwise granted status as a CW-1 during each fiscal year from 2015 through 2018 (Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2018).

The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 established the CNMI Disaster Recovery Workforce Act (Disaster Recovery Act), Pub. L. 116-94, Title IX. The Disaster Recovery Act increases the CW-1 cap by 3,000 for fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022 for construction and extraction occupations for certain aliens performing service or labor directly connected to, or associated with recovery from a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency, or for preparation for a future disaster or emergency. Prospective employers may petition under the Disaster Recovery Act for CW-1 construction workers who are nationals of a country designated as eligible to participate in the H-2B visa program during calendar year 2018, as identified in the 2018 Federal Register notice (PDF), if the alien:

  • Will be performing service or labor under a contract or subcontract for construction, repairs, renovations or facility services directly connected to, or associated with recovery from a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. section 5122)); or
  • Will be performing service or labor under a contract or subcontract for construction, repairs, renovations or facility services directly connected to preparation for a future disaster or emergency.

The general prohibition against CW-1 construction workers and its exception for long-term workers, continue to apply for CW-1 petitions that are not eligible under the Disaster Recovery Act. For more information, see our USCIS Accepting Petitions Under the CNMI Disaster Recovery Workforce Act page.

Application Process: CW-1 and CW-2 Status

For complete details, please review the form instructions.

Employers

If you Then you must submit a Form I-129CW with the correct fee  and
Are petitioning for one or more aliens who are lawfully present in the CNMI with a federal nonimmigrant status (for example, F-1) You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $200 per alien, as well as a “fraud prevention and detection fee” of $50 per petition. Do not submit a biometrics fee. 
Are petitioning for one or more aliens who have parole granted by USCIS or CBP You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $200 per alien, as well as a “fraud prevention and detection fee” of $50 per petition. Either you or the alien must also submit an $85 biometrics fee if you are requesting a Grant of Status in the CNMI.  

Are petitioning for one or more aliens who are requesting consular processing abroad

You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $200 per alien, as well as a “fraud prevention and detection fee” of $50 per petition.

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 an alien You must submit a mandatory “CNMI education funding fee” of $200 per alien, as well as a “fraud prevention and detection fee” of $50 per petition. Do not submit a biometrics fee. 

If the employer is petitioning for an alien eligible for renewable periods of stay of up to three years, the “CNMI education funding fee” of $200 per alien must also be submitted for each additional year or partial year of requested employment. For example, petitioners requesting CW-1 workers for more than two years, but up to three years, must pay a CNMI education fee of $600 per alien.

If the employer petitioned for the CW-1 worker and the petition has been approved for a validity period of six months or more, the employer must file Form I-129CWR, Semiannual Report for CW-1 Employers, to certify the continued employment and payment of each alien under the terms and conditions of the approved petition. The employer must file Form I-129CWR per approved Form I-129CW, and all aliens included on the approved Form I-129CW must be included on Form I-129CWR, even if they no longer work for the petitioning employer.  

If an alien is outside of the CNMI or is approved for consular processing, the alien must apply for admission within 10 days after the beginning of the petition validity period. Otherwise, the petition approval for that alien is subject to revocation on notice.

Alien Workers

To obtain CW status the employer must submit the following documentation:

  • A Form I-129CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker, with the application fee;
  • A single, valid temporary labor certification (TLC) approved by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) with evidence showing that each alien meets the minimum job requirements, if any, stated on the TLC. USCIS will reject any CW-1 petition with an employment start date on or after Oct. 1, 2019, filed without the approved DOL TLC;
  • A mandatory $200 education fee per alien, per year;
  • A mandatory $50 fraud prevention and detection fee per petition; and
  • Supporting evidence certifying that the information provided about the alien, the employer, and the job position is accurate and meets eligibility criteria

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

  • 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 the employer advising that the alien must go to the USCIS Application Support Center in TSL Plaza in Saipan for the collection of fingerprints and to have a photograph taken. This will enable USCIS to conduct the required security checks.
  • USCIS will mail an approval notice to the employer if the Form I-129CW is approved.  The employer should give the alien a copy of the document. The approval notice will indicate whether the alien has been granted CW-1 status in the CNMI (as evidenced by an attached Form I-94 , Arrival-Departure Record) or whether the alien must proceed to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to seek visa processing of the CW-1 visa.

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 Form I-129CW petition. While dependents may wait until the CW-1 petition is granted, they MUST be lawfully present in the CNMI at the time of filing the Form I-539 in order to be eligible for a grant of CW-2 status in the CNMI. This means dependents may need to file the Form I-539 before the Form I-129CW is granted in order to retain eligibility for CW-2 status. CW-2 status does not authorize employment.

If And Then

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-94

Your dependents (spouse and children under the age of 18) are lawfully present in the CNMI

They may file:

  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status;
  • The filing fee;
  • The biometric services fee; and
  • Documentation of your admission to the CNMI in the CW-1 classification.
If the Form I-539 is approved, USCIS will send an approval notice with a Form 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 Form I‑94 Your dependents (spouse and children under the age of 18)  are abroad They 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 abroad Your dependents (spouse and children under the age of 18) are abroad They 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

In general, CW status is valid for up to one year, and may be extended for a maximum total of three years. A CW-1 alien worker, and his or her dependent(s), are admitted for the period of CW-1 petition validity, plus up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends.

After the second renewal of CW-1 status (in other words, after three consecutive petition validity periods), the alien must depart from the U.S./CNMI for 30 continuous days prior to an employer’s submission of a new CW-1 petition on behalf of the alien. 

CW status for an alien who was admitted or otherwise granted status as a CW-1 during each fiscal year from 2015 through 2018 (Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2018) is valid for up to three years. These long-term workers are exempt from the departure requirement.

A dependent’s CW-2 status expires on the same day as the principal alien’s CW-1 status and can be extended when the CW-1 status is extended.

Termination of Employment

An alien 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 alien will not be considered to have violated his or her status if:

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

If an alien will change employers, the new employer must file a petition for the alien before the end of this 30-day period in order for the alien to remain lawfully present in the CNMI. The alien 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 alien must leave the CNMI and he or she will be considered to be out of status effective on the date of termination of CW-1 employment. Any petition filed for that alien after the 30-day period will require an approved petition and a CW visa issued at a consulate outside the CNMI before the alien can return to the CNMI and start new employment.

Travel

Once the CW petition has been approved, the alien may leave the CNMI but must have the appropriate visa to re-enter the CNMI. The Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, alone is not sufficient for the alien to re-enter the CNMI. Rather, the alien must 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

Status USCIS grants CW status for aliens who are already in the CNMI; however, we do not issue visas. An alien outside of the CNMI is required to have a visa to apply for readmission to the CNMI even if the alien has an approved Form I-129CW petition that confers the CW status.

Visa

An alien outside of the CNMI is required to have a visa to apply for admission to the CNMI even if the alien has an approved Form I-129CW petition that confers the CW status.

The U.S. Department of State has a separate form and fee requirement for visa applications. For more information on applying for a visa, please visit the Department of State website.

NOTE: An alien with CW status must have another basis for traveling to any other part of the United States, with certain limited exceptions.

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