The CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW) visa classification allows employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to apply for temporary permission to employ foreign (nonimmigrant) workers 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.

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 for workers with CW visa status, employers must:

  • Be engaged in legitimate business**
  • Consider all available U.S. workers for the position
  • Offer terms and conditions of employment consistent with the nature of the employer’s business in the CNMI
  • File the necessary forms to hire transitional workers
  • Comply with all federal and CNMI requirements relating to employment: examples include nondiscrimination, occupational safety, and minimum wage requirements
  • Pay reasonable transportation costs of the individual to the individual’s last place of foreign residence if the individual is involuntarily dismissed from employment for any reason before the end of the period of authorized admission

**A legitimate business is defined as a real, active, and operating commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking which produces services or goods for profit, or is a governmental, charitable, or other validly recognized nonprofit entity. The business must meet the legal requirements for doing business in the CNMI. A business will not be considered legitimate if it engages directly or indirectly in prostitution, human trafficking, or any other activity that is illegal under Federal or CNMI law.

Workers

A foreign worker may be classified a CW-1 nonimmigrant during the transition period 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
  • Is otherwise admissible to the United States or is granted any necessary waiver of a ground of inadmissibility

Length of Stay

CW status is valid for one year. You must re-register for CW status or obtain another INA nonimmigrant or immigrant classification to lawfully stay in the CNMI.

Termination of Employment

A foreign worker 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 worker will not be considered to have violated his or her status if:

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

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

Travel

Once you obtain the approval of your CW petition, you may leave the CNMI but must have the appropriate visa to re-enter the CNMI. When your CW petition is approved, you will be given an Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, as evidence that you have been granted CW status. The Form I-94 alone will not be valid to re-enter the CNMI. You will need to obtain a CW visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before returning to the CNMI in order to apply for readmission.

NOTE: As a CW status holder you cannot travel in any other part of the United States, except for nationals of the Philippines who may travel between the Philippines and the CNMI through the Guam airport