CNMI: USCIS eases exit requirements for INA visa applicants

As a result of public input during recent outreach sessions in the CNMI, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued Thursday the procedures and requirements that will now allow foreign workers applying for H-1B and other nonimmigrant classification to remain in the CNMI and continue working while awaiting a decision on their application.

Without this welcome relief from USCIS, foreign workers being petitioned for H-1B or other Immigration and Nationality Act classification by their employers need to exit the CNMI if the Form I-129 petition has not been adjudicated by Nov. 27.

Examples of nonimmigrant classifications for which an I-129 petition may be filed include H-1B specialty occupation, E-1 treaty trader, E-2 investor, L-1 intra-company transferee and R religious worker.

Douglas Brennan, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday that the largest business organization in the CNMI “gladly accepts this change in practice by USCIS.”
Brennan, general manager of Microl Corp., said many employers “were extremely concerned with having to exit their specialized personnel if their visa applications had not been processed by Nov. 28, 2011.”
“Some of our educational institutions would have had to literally remove teachers from their classrooms mid-term, so this is welcome news,” Brennan said when asked for comment on the matter.

Richard Pierce, the Chamber’s executive director, said “as USCIS administers the new system from California, where petitions are adjudicated, and Hawaii, where enforcement offices are stationed, it’s rare to see where the district director can effectuate changes from what he’s gathered here in the CNMI.”
“Makes you almost wish there was a permanent presence in the CNMI,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Only those whose Form I-129 petition for nonimmigrant worker was filed before Nov. 28, 2011, may apply for parole and an employment authorization document, or EAD.

Parole will allow the foreign worker with pending H1-B and other INA classification application to remain in the CNMI.

There is no filing fee to apply for parole in this situation.

EAD will allow them to continue working while their application is still pending.

There is a filing fee of $380 for the I-765 request for employment authorization.

If granted, parole and employment authorization document, or EAD, in these instances generally will be valid for 120 days.

Pierce also said the Chamber spent considerable time with USCIS acting deputy chief counsel Philip B. Busch discussing this oversight by USCIS.

“He reported they had not even considered the implications where enough time was not available to process H-1B applicants so as to avoid exiting current employees from the CNMI. We’re satisfied there has been a decision based upon those exchanges we had on Sept. 21st,” Pierce added.

USCIS district director David Gulick told Chamber members and guests on Wednesday about the agency’s plan to consider allowing those with pending H-1B, R-1 and L-1 applications to remain in the CNMI and continue working here.

At the time, Gulick said the procedures were still being finalized. USCIS issued the requirements and procedures on Thursday, along with a question-and-answer. Back in September during the outreach sessions, USCIS officials said those whose petitions for INA classification have yet to be adjudicated by Nov. 27 will need to exit the CNMI unless they are paroled. And even if they have parole status after Nov. 27, they could not work.

But USCIS developed an approach in response to input received from the public during USCIS outreach sessions in the last two weeks of September.

Employers and workers were concerned that businesses would have to close if the benefiting employees had to leave the CNMI to await decisions on their employer’s I-129 petitions.

“There was particular concern about a negative impact on schools and hospitals,” USCIS said.

USCIS said it also recognizes that it is important to support movement into regular employment-based nonimmigrant categories under the INA, as that is the ultimate goal of the CNMI transition to federal immigration law.

“A continuing employment provision in the CW transitional worker final rule allowed this convenience for workers who are being petitioned for CW-1, but there are no equivalent special regulatory provisions for those under INA categories,” it added.