U.S. Immigration 'Seriously Considering' Changes To Foreign Worker Visas

Administration has asked the federal gov for a 10-year program extension and an increase in the cap

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 27, 2016) – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not make a big announcement during a meeting with local employers on Tuesday regarding the CW issue, but its officials said they are “seriously considering options.”

The NMI chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management invited USCIS Honolulu District Office Director David Gulick to a meeting at the Pacific Islands Club-Charley’s Cabaret regarding CW and other immigration issues.

With Gulick were USCIS Honolulu district community relations officer Kamana Mathur, associate counsel Ami Shah, Kyle Michaelis of the service center operations and Michelle Westra who specializes in the CW program.

Westra explained the CW program and discussed the process when applying for a CW1 permit while Michaelis briefed employers on H-1 and H-2 visas.

Gulick noted that most of the questions first raised in 2011 during the discussions on the CW rules and regulations are still being asked today.

He urged everyone to go to the USCIS website which has a section on the CW program.

“I want to reemphasize that you need not be afraid [of visiting the USCIS website]. We have tried to put all that information in language that you, as an ordinary employer, can understand.”

When asked if USCIS has an administrative quick-fix so that the 1,300 CW’s affected by the cap will no longer need to “exit” the CNMI, Shah said: “Right now, we are taking into account the situation here on island. We are definitely aware of the situation. I can’t give you the answer…. We just don’t have the time and all that. The only thing I can tell you is we are seriously considering options here.”

Gulick said as soon as they have the details on what USCIS is doing about the issue, “rest assured you will hear about it.”

Westra said earlier this year “we received an unprecedented increase in CW petitions” so they created a CW webpage to provide information about the CW cap.

She urged everyone to visit the USCIS website and type “CW cap” on “Search Our Site.”

McDonald’s Saipan manager Joe Ayuyu Jr. said the meeting with USCIS officials was useful because it gave them some ideas on how to deal with their workforce needs.

“We will find different options for our employees because we don’t want them stranded. But the impact will be really big on Saipan. That is why this meeting is crucial for every business and that is why we are here,” he said.

SHRM-NMI chapter president Josephine Mesta said the meeting with the USCIS officials was “a great refresher” course for employers.

“But I think people are still trying to find answers to some of their questions,” she added.

Keith Murdoch, vice president and co-owner of Rigel Corp., which provides services to tourism-related businesses on island, said applying for H visas “would create problems for us — they may not be the ideal fit.”

He said China is their main source of employees, but the Asian country is not on the list of H-2B eligible nations.

Citing the need to protect the recovering local economy that will allow the CNMI government to pay its many obligations to the local people, the Torres administration has asked the federal government for a 10-year extension of the CW program, which s currently set to end in Dec. 2019, and an increase in the CW cap from the current 12,999 to 18,000. U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho, for his part, has introduced enabling legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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