CW-1: CNMI-Only Transitional Worker

What Is A CNMI-Only Transitional Worker?

The CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) visa classification allows employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to apply for 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 Program is schedule to end on Dec. 31, 2019.

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


The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA), Public Law 110-229, was signed into law on May 8, 2008. Title VII of this law amended Pub. L. 94-241, the Act approving the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States. Title VII extended most provisions of the INA and other U.S. immigration laws to the CNMI for the first time. On June 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor published a notice in the Federal Register extending the CW program to December 31, 2019.

General Eligibility Requirements


To qualify for workers with CW status, employers must:

  • Be engaged in legitimate business

    • 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.

  • 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 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 CMI 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 U.S., other than the CNMI

  • Is lawfully present in the CNMI if present in the CNMI

  • Is otherwise admissible to the U.S. 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.


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 you 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 U.S., with certain limited exceptions.


If you are interested in receiving a free consultation regarding a CW Status or CW Visa please feel free to fill out the contact form.

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