25 Apr 2018

US Senate passes CNMI worker extension bill

2:10 pm on 25 April 2018

The US Senate has passed a bill that will extend the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW) programme for another 10 years and reset its worker cap to 13,000 visas.

CNMI delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan and Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski.

CNMI delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan and Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski. Photo: Flickr / Gregorio Kilili Sablan

The US Workforce Act also contains significant new protections for US workers from unfair competition from cheap foreign labour and it protects local Marianas businesses with long-established relationships with CW employees from competition for permits from outside businesses.

Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski authored the bill and it now goes to the US House of Representatives, where CNMI delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan has a parallel bill awaiting action.

Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corportation chair Alex Sablan thanked Murkowski for the bill's passage and said he hoped that House Natural Resources Committee chair Rob Bishop would move the bill quickly in the House, like he promised to Northern Marianas Governor Ralph Torres in an earlier meeting.

In a statement, Mr Torres welcomed the bill's passage and praised Ms Murkowski and her staff "for their leadership, friendship and hard work".

The Senate's action was also a reflection of the hard work put in by everyone in the community who expressed concern and worked collaboratively with the administration, Mr Torres said.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has set the CW cap for fiscal year 2019 at 4,999 and announced earlier this month it had received applications more than the allotted quota.

USCIS said it would conduct a lottery to determine the successful applicants.

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