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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 3, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---Alien workers who have to go back to their countries as the three-year-limit law takes effect will be given a grace period to leave the Northern Marianas, acting Labor and Immigration Secretary Antonio P. Sablan said.

Sablan said they will not require alien workers to leave immediately after the expiration of their contracts since other labor laws, particularly the Hiring Moratorium Act, must also be considered.

"If your contract expires, we don't expect you to leave tomorrow. That's not the law. The law says we either give 45 days or 15 days, depending on the situation," he said.

Practically all major industries in the Northern Marianas are against the new three-year-limit law for alien workers. They worry about its possible adverse effect to their businesses and the economy. The tourism and garment industries are especially dependent on workers brought in from outside the country.

Under the moratorium law, an alien worker whose contract was not renewed has a maximum of 45 days to legally stay. Those who will receive a 30-day advance notice on non-renewal of their employment contracts will be granted a 15-day grace period.

Sablan said the department will continue to monitor all renewal applications they receive each day to determine whether the workers have been in the Northern Marianas for three years.

"We have to go back to our files and see how long every non-resident worker has been here. . . .We cannot afford anything that will grant you more than three years," he said.

"The three-year-limit law does not necessarily negate all other laws. It will be taken in the whole context, not by itself. The only thing about the stay limit is this: We cannot execute a contract that's going to grant a person to work here beyond three years," he added.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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