In the United States, a determined number of work visas are issued annually with the defined conditions for eligible applicants. The CW-1 visa is one of them, which is a temporary work permit for workers employed in the CNMI  or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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US CW Visa

What is the CW visa?

Employers of the CNMI can apply for the non-immigrant CW-1 visa to hire foreign workers who do not match other categories of work visas. CW is a temporary work permit like E visa Employees who receive this visa with this aim are termed, CNMI-only transitional workers. Annually, 12,999 workers can enter the United States under this visa.

The classification of this visa is:

  • CW-1: This is dedicated to CNMI-Only transitional workers
  • CW-2: This is defined for dependents of CNMI-Only transitional workers. The dependents who are eligible to apply for a CW-2 visa include a spouse and children under the age of 18.

What are the CW-1 visa requirements?

The requirements of CW-1 visa for employers:

  • The employer’s job must be legal. The legal business must be real, active, and operational to produce services and goods. A business will not be considered lawful if it involves prostitution, human trafficking, or any other activity that is banned under Federal or CNMI law.
  • Before applying for this visa, the employer must evaluate all available workers in the United States.
  • He/she must provide terms of hiring compatible with the type of business in the CNMI.
  • The required forms to employ transitional workers must be registered.
  • The employer must fulfill all labor laws, such as:
    • occupational safety,
    • minimum wage,
    • and non-discrimination.
  • If necessary, the transportation cost of workers to the last place of residence must be paid by the employer.

The requirements of CW-1 visa for workers:

  • The terms of these workers must not be in accordance with the terms defined in other employment visas.
  • Workers are recruited to provide the resident workforce. So they have to stay in the CNMI and work in the specified job class.
  • A legal employer who has a business in the CNMI must apply on behalf of the worker.
  • The worker is only allowed to be in the CNMI.

How to apply for the CW visa?

The application process for a CW-1 visa is divided into two categories according to the place of residence of the worker:

  • One or more workers who legally live and work in the CNMI with a federal status such as F-1 or H-1B:

The employer must tender a Form I-129CW (Petition for a CNMI-Only Non-Immigrant Transitional Worker) along with additional documents indicating that the provided information about the worker, employer, and job position is correct and meets the required standards.

In the second step, the fingerprint and photograph of the worker are taken to be conducted for the necessary security checks. If Form I-129CW is approved, USCIS will send an approval notification to the employer, who must provide you with a copy of the document. This document will demonstrate whether you have been conferred CW-1 status in the CNMI ( I-94 Arrival and Departure card are also attached) or whether you may move to a US embassy or consulate abroad to inquire about visa processing for the CW-1 visa.

If the employers intend to hire one or more workers who have parole authority granted by USCIS or CBP, they must submit a Form I-129CW.

  • A foreign worker who lives abroad and seeks employment in the CNMI:

The employer must tender a Form I-129CW (Petition for a CNMI-Only Non-Immigrant Transitional Worker) along with additional documents indicating that the provided information about the worker, employer, and job position is correct and meets required standards.

If Form I-129CW is approved, USCIS will send an approval notification to the employer. The employer must send the original approval notification to the worker’s address abroad. In the third step, the worker will need to schedule an appointment for a nonimmigrant visa interview at the nearest US consulate or embassy.

If you get CW-1 status, either by a CW-1 visa or receiving an attached I-94, and your dependents are legally present in the CNMI, then they may file:

  • Filling out Form I-539 ( dependents in the CNMI seeking to get CW-2 status may register a Form I-539 concurrently with the CW-1 petition sent via the employer. While dependents may wait until the CW-1 request is issued, they should be legally present at the time of filing their appeal to be qualified for a CW-2 status in the CNMI. It means the dependents may need to register the I-539 before the I-129CW is given to preserve acceptability for CW-2 status. CW-2 status does not allow employment).
  • Pay the application fee (the filing fee and the biometric services fee)
  • Document of the admission to the CNMI in the CW-1 classification

If Form I-539 is approved, USCIS will give the approval notification along with an I-94 as evidence of the approved Form I-539. If you obtain CW-1 status, either by a CW-1 visa or receiving an attached I-94, your dependents abroad may apply for a CW-2 visa at a US consulate. If you are requesting processing of your CW-1 status at the US embassy, your dependents overseas may also apply for CW-2 visas at the same time.

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How much does it cost to issue the CW visa?

The employer must pay $200 as a “CNMI education funding fee” per beneficiary. The biometric services fee is $85, which is funded by the worker or employer.

How long can you stay with the CW visa?

The length of stay under the CW-1 visa is one year.  To lawfully stay in the CNMI, the worker must re-register for CW status.

Can the holder of the CW visa change his/her employer or employment?

As long as the legal process is followed, the worker is allowed to change his employer. An unlawful change of employment to a new employer will result in the loss of the validity of  CW-1 status. The prospective employer must register a petition of new CW-1 status for the worker, as well as an extension for the validity period of the new appeal. To extend the status of the CW, the employer must submit Form I-129CW.

Even if the worker does not change his/her employer, any changes in the conditions of the employment are a reason to file a new petition to maintain the validity of the CW-1 status.

Foreign workers who have CW nonimmigrant status will lose it if they break any of the terms which are defined in CW status. However, if the violation is only made by termination from employment, the worker will not be regarded to have violated the status if:

  • The worker finds a new job in 30 days from the date of termination, and
  • An employer registers a petition on behalf of the worker

If a new job is found, the new employer must submit a request before the end of this 30-day period to maintain legal residence in the CNMI. After petitioning the file by a new employer, the foreign worker can begin work. If a petition is filed after 30 days, the request must first be approved; then, a CW-1 visa must be issued at a consulate outside the CNMI. After that, the worker can return to the CNMI and start a new job.

Can workers who are allowed to work in the CNMI by CW-1 visa travel outside of it?

An approved I-129CW petition means having the CW status. If a worker travels outside of the CNMI, he/she will need to apply for a CW visa to re-enter the CNMI and preserve the CW status.

Let’s sum up …

CW is a temporary work permit like a TN visa. In this article, an overview of the CW visa as a nonimmigrant visa is provided. On the Visa Library website, you can learn about other US visas as well as ways to immigrate to other countries. In case you have some experience, please write it down in the comment section. Your comments let the readers choose better and avoid mistakes. Conveying your experiences in comments is a great help for applicants.

Last Updated on June 8, 2020


Is there an annual quota for the CW visa?

Yes, every year, only 12,999 people can receive it. 

Can I work with the CW visa for the long term?

No, it is for the short term. 

Can I work in every type of job?

No, the job must be legal, and the business should be real, active, and operational to produce services and goods. 

How long is the CW visa valid for?

It’s valid for one year.

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