U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services : The following Federal Register Notice is now available:

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Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker Numerical Limitation for Fiscal Year 2016 Pages 63911 – 63912

Action: Notification of numerical limitation

Date: October 22, 2015

FR Doc No: 2015-26963

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 204 (Thursday, October 22, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 63911-63912]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-26963]

[[Page 63911]]



8 CFR Part 214

[CIS No. 2565-15; DHS Docket No. USCIS-2012-0010]
RIN 1615-ZB43

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only 
Transitional Worker Numerical Limitation for Fiscal Year 2016

AGENCY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS.

ACTION: Notification of numerical limitation.


SUMMARY: The Secretary of Homeland Security announces that the annual 
fiscal year numerical limitation for the Commonwealth of the Northern 
Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) nonimmigrant 
classification for fiscal year (FY) 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015-Sept. 30, 2016) 
is set at 12,999. This document announces the mandated annual reduction 
of the CW-1 numerical limitation and provides the public with 
additional information regarding the new CW-1 numerical limit. This 
docuemnt ensures that CNMI employers and employees have sufficient 
information regarding the maximum number of foreign workers who may be 
granted CW-1 transitional worker status during FY 2016.

DATES: Effective Date: October 22, 2015.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paola Rodriguez Hale, Adjudications 
Officer (Policy), Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and 
Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts 
Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20529-2060. Contact telephone (202) 272-


I. Background

    Title VII of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA) 
extended U.S. immigration law to the CNMI and provided CNMI-specific 
provisions affecting foreign workers. See Pub. L. 110-229, 122 Stat. 
754, 853-854. The CNRA provided for a ``transition period'' to phase-
out the CNMI's nonresident contract worker program and phase-in the 
U.S. federal immigration system in a manner that minimizes adverse 
economic and fiscal effects and maximizes the CNMI's potential for 
future economic and business growth. See sections 701(b) and 702(a) of 
the CNRA.
    The CNRA authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to 
create a nonimmigrant classification that would ensure adequate 
employment in the CNMI during the transition period. See section 702(a) 
of the CNRA; 48 U.S.C. 1806(d). DHS published a final rule on September 
7, 2011, amending the regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(w) to implement a 
temporary, CNMI-only transitional worker nonimmigrant classification 
(CW classification, which includes CW-1 for principal workers and CW-2 
for spouses and minor children). See Commonwealth of the Northern 
Mariana Islands Transitional Worker Classification, 76 FR 55502 (Sept. 
7, 2011).
    The CNRA mandates an annual reduction in the allocation of the 
number of permits issued per year and the total elimination of the CW 
nonimmigrant classification by December 31, 2019. See section 702(d)(2) 
of the CNRA, as amended by the Consolidated And Further Continuing 
Appropriations Act, 2015, Pub. L. 113-235, Sec.  10, 128 Stat. 2130, 
2134 (Dec. 16, 2014); 48 U.S.C. 1806(d)(2). At the outset of the 
transitional worker program, DHS set the CW-1 numerical limitation for 
FY 2011 at 22,417 and for FY 2012 at 22,416. DHS announced these annual 
numerical limitations in DHS regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(w)(1)(viii)(A) 
and (B).
    DHS subsequently opted to publish any future annual numerical 
limitations by Federal Register notice. See 8 CFR 214.2(w)(1)(viii)(C). 
Instead of developing a numerical limit reduction plan, DHS determined 
that it would instead assess the CNMI's workforce needs on a yearly 
basis during the transition period. Id. This approach to the allocation 
system ensured that CNMI employers had an adequate supply of workers to 
better facilitate a smooth transition into the federal immigration 
system. It also provided DHS with the flexibility to adjust to the 
future needs of the CNMI economy and to assess the total foreign 
workforce needs based on the number of requests for transitional worker 
nonimmigrant classification received following implementation of the 
CW-1 program.
    DHS followed this same rationale for the FY 2013 and FY 2014 fiscal 
year numerical limitations. After assessing all workforce needs, 
including the opportunity for economic growth, DHS set the CW-1 
numerical limitation at 15,000 and 14,000 respectively for FY 2013 and 
FY 2014. See CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Numerical Limitation for 
Fiscal Year 2013, 77 FR 71287 (Nov. 30, 2012) and CNMI-Only 
Transitional Worker Numerical Limitation for Fiscal Year 2014, 78 FR 
58867 (Sept. 25, 2013). The FY 2013 and FY 2014 numerical limitations 
were based on the actual demonstrated need for foreign workers within 
the CNMI during FY 2012. See 77 FR 71287, 78 FR 58867.
    The CNRA directed that the U.S. Secretary of Labor determine 
whether an extension of the CW program for an additional period of up 
to 5 years is necessary to ensure that an adequate number of workers 
will be available for legitimate businesses in the CNMI, and further 
provided the Secretary of Labor with the authority to provide for such 
an extension through notice in the Federal Register. See 48 U.S.C. 
1806(d)(5). On June 3, 2014, the Secretary of Labor extended the CW 
program for an additional 5 years, through December 31, 2019. See 
Secretary of Labor Extends the Transition Period of the Commonwealth of 
the Northern Mariana Islands-Only Transitional Worker Program, 79 FR 
31988 (June 3, 2014).
    The FY 2015 numerical limitation was based on a number of factors, 
     The Department of Labor's extension of the CW program;
     The CNMI's labor market needs; and
     The CNRA's mandate to annually reduce the number of 
transitional workers until the end of the extended transitional worker 
program. See CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Numerical Limitation for 
Fiscal Year 2015, 79 FR 58241 (Sept. 29, 2014).
    Since the Secretary of Labor significantly extended the CW program 
at least until December 31, 2019, DHS decided to preserve the status 
quo, or current conditions, rather than aggressively reduce CW-1 
numbers for FY 2015. DHS therefore reduced the numerical limitation 
nominally by one, resulting in an FY 2015 limit of 13,999. See id.
    On December 16, 2014, Congress amended the CNRA to extend the 
transition period until December 31, 2019. See Consolidated and Further 
Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, Public Law 113-235, Sec.  10, 
128 Stat. 2130, 2134 (amending 48 U.S.C. 1806(d)). Congress also 
eliminated the Secretary of Labor's authority to provide for future 
extensions of the CW-1 program, requiring the CW-1 program to end (or 
sunset) on December 31, 2019. See id.

II. Maximum Number of CW-1 Nonimmigrant Workers for Fiscal Year 2016

    The CNRA requires an annual reduction in the number of transitional

[[Page 63912]]

workers but does not mandate a specific reduction. See 48 U.S.C. 
1806(d)(2). In addition, DHS regulations provide that the numerical 
limitation for any fiscal year will be less than the number established 
for the previous fiscal year, and that it will be reasonably calculated 
to reduce the number of CW-1 nonimmigrant workers to zero by the end of 
the program. 8 CFR 214.2(w)(1)(viii)(C). DHS may adjust the numerical 
limitation at any time by publishing a notice in the Federal Register, 
but may only reduce the figure. See 8 CFR 214.2(w)(1)(viii)(D).
    To comply with these requirements, meet the CNMI's labor market's 
needs, provide opportunity for growth, and preserve access to foreign 
labor, DHS has set the numerical limitation for FY 2016 at 12,999. DHS 
arrived at this figure by taking the number of CW-1 nonimmigrant 
workers needed based on the FY 2015 limitation of 13,999, and then 
moderately reducing it by 1,000 or approximately 7.2 percent. The new 
number will accommodate continued economic growth within the CNMI that 
might result in a need for additional CW-1 nonimmigrant workers during 
FY 2016. Therefore, CNMI businesses can continue to hire CW-1 workers 
to meet their current and future need for foreign workers.
    In setting this new numerical limitation for FY 2016, DHS 
considered its effect in conjunction with the published media reports 
indicating that the CNMI economy continues to grow \1\ and that any 
reduction in the number of CW-1 workers available will have to account 
for new investments and the expansion of existing businesses in order 
to support such economic growth.\2\

    \1\ See Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa, CNMI Sustaining Economic 
Growth Momentum, Marianas Variety, June 30, 2015, available at 
    \2\ See Raquel C. Bagnol, Labor Chief Says CW Allocation Needs 
to be Revisited, Marianas Variety, June 17, 2015, available at 

    For the aforementioned reasons, DHS recognizes that any numerical 
limitation must account for the fact that the CNMI economy continues to 
be based on a workforce composed primarily of foreign workers. 
Therefore, any new fiscal year numerical limit should allow for 
economic growth until the end of the transitional worker program, which 
is now December 31, 2019. DHS must reduce the annual numerical 
limitation as statutorily mandated, but also should ensure that there 
are enough CW-1 workers for future fiscal years until the end of the 
    As noted previously, Congress has mandated that the transition 
period end on December 31, 2019, without the possibility of an 
administrative extension of the CW program. See 48 U.S.C. 1806(a), (d). 
Given this firm sunset date and the CNRA's requirement to reduce the 
number of transitional workers to zero by the end of the transition 
period, DHS believes that a prudent approach to the numerical limit for 
the next fiscal year is to institute a meaningful but moderate 
reduction in the numerical limitation. As such, DHS believes that a 
reduction of 1,000 is appropriate for FY 2016. This new baseline 
preserves access to foreign labor within the CNMI and provides a 
cushion for demand growth, yet provides a meaningful reduction that 
aids DHS in the implementation of the mandated cap reductions to zero 
over the transition period. Accordingly, DHS is reducing the number of 
transitional workers from the current fiscal year numerical limitation 
of 13,999, and establishing the maximum number of persons who may be 
granted CW-1 nonimmigrant status in FY 2016 at 12,999.
    The FY 2016 numerical limitation for CW-1 nonimmigrant workers will 
be in effect beginning on October 1, 2015. DHS still retains the 
ability to adjust the numerical limitation for a fiscal year or other 
period, in its discretion, at any time by notice in the Federal 
Register. See 8 CFR 214.2(w)(1)(viii)(C) and (D). Consistent with the 
rules applicable to other nonimmigrant worker visa classifications, if 
the numerical limitation for the fiscal year is not reached, the unused 
numbers do not carry over to the next fiscal year. See 8 CFR 
    Generally, each CW-1 nonimmigrant worker with an approved 
employment start date that falls within FY 2016 \3\ will be counted 
against the new numerical limitation of 12,999. Counting each CW-1 
nonimmigrant worker in this manner will help ensure that U.S. 
Citizenship and Immigration Services does not approve requests for more 
than 12,999 CW-1 nonimmigrant workers.

    \3\ FY 2016 refers to the period between October 1, 2015, and 
September 30, 2016.

    This document does not affect the current immigration status of 
foreign workers who have CW-1 nonimmigrant status. Foreign workers, 
however, will be affected by this document when their CNMI employers 
     For an extension of their CW-1 nonimmigrant 
classification, or
     A change of status from another nonimmigrant status to 
that of CW-1 nonimmigrant status.
    This document does not affect the status of any individual 
currently holding CW-2 nonimmigrant status as the spouse or minor child 
of a CW-1 nonimmigrant worker. This document also does not directly 
affect the ability of any individual to extend or otherwise obtain CW-2 
status, as the numerical limitation applies to CW-1 principals only. 
This document, however, may indirectly affect individuals seeking CW-2 
status since their status depends on the CW-1 principal's ability to 
obtain or retain CW-1 status.

Jeh Charles Johnson,
[FR Doc. 2015-26963 Filed 10-21-15; 8:45 am]

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


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