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Lawmakers say updated ‘touchback’ rule good for NMI

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THE announcement that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has updated its “touchback” requirement is “good news” for the CNMI,  Reps. Ralph N. Yumul and  Luis John Castro said.

USCIS on Tuesday stated that it is modifying its policy in implementing the requirement that aliens leave the United States for at least 30 days after two renewals of their CNMI-Only Transitional Worker visa classification.

“Effective immediately, USCIS will only consider CW-1 petitions approved on or after June 18, 2020, when we apply the requirement that certain CW-1 nonimmigrant workers depart the CNMI for a period of at least 30 continuous days,” USCIS stated.

“For example, any alien approved on or after June 18, 2020, for a one-year CW-1 validity period beginning Oct. 1, 2020, will be eligible for two more consecutive petition validity periods after the first period of validity expires on Sept. 30, 2021. Previously, USCIS counted all consecutive petition validity periods, even those approved prior to June 18, 2020, when determining which CW-1 nonimmigrant workers are subject to the temporary departure requirement.”

During the miscellaneous portion of the House session on Wednesday, Yumul said this is “great news for a lot of small businesses here in the CNMI. Contract workers will not have to depart this October. They... are able to process [their papers] and remain in the CNMI for an additional two years.”

He added, "It brings a sense of security for a lot of businesses that can plan now for the next two years. I applaud the people at USCIS for allowing that, and [for] seeing how the pandemic has affected us and may affect our employees here in the CNMI."

He also thanked U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan for the role he played in persuading USCIS to reconsider its original “touchback” requirement.

The chairman of the House Standing Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, Rep. Luis John Castro, also commended the USCIS decision.

"I know that this is a very significant step…. We worked together with Congressman Kilili's office in regards to addressing this matter," he said.

"We did send correspondence in regards to this matter, and thankfully we got a decision…that can help us at this stage of the game. I hope that with continued collaboration, we can continue to see improvements in this process, not just for those that it affects, but for the Commonwealth as a whole."

USCIS said it is making this change in response to stakeholder feedback and disruptions caused by the coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic.

“Although DHS stated in the [Interim Final Rule] that the Workforce Act is ‘best read’ to include pre-enactment renewals, DHS also believes this is not the only permissible reading of the Workforce Act or the interim final rule. Through this announcement, DHS will implement the temporary departure requirement in a manner that best protects the interests of CW-1 employers and workers who may be affected by potential travel disruptions and delays beyond their control. This change also minimizes the likely negative impact on other U.S. businesses and prevents further damage to the CNMI economy,” USCIS stated.

 

 

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