Sunday, April 10, 2011

USCIS: Regs our priority

IT’S an agency priority.

This was the message relayed to Variety by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services regarding the regulations for the CNMI-only nonimmigrant transitional worker program.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier said that USCIS, which is under DHS, would announce the regulations in the first quarter of the year, which ended on March 31.

“Implementing the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which extended most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act and other federal immigration laws to the CNMI for the first time, is an agency priority for USCIS,” said William Wright, deputy press secretary, USCIS in an email to Variety.

He said, “We are committed to carrying out implementation in ways that respect the unique situation of the CNMI and its diverse population, while remaining consistent with our statutory directive to administer federal immigration law fully and fairly.”

On Saipan, nonresident employees and their employers have expressed frustration over the non-release of the regulations claiming that the delay has been putting their future on hold.

Earlier, Los Angeles-based USCIS public affairs officer Mariana Gitomer told Variety: “We don’t speculate when DHS will issue the final regulations. We can only know by checking the Unified Agenda published by the Office of Management and Budget.”

She and Wright assured that “we will keep the public informed about any new developments on the regulations which are currently listed in the Unified Agenda.”

Permanent residents

In other news, DHS has issued its annual report on legal permanent residents, more commonly referred to as “green card” recipients, in the United States.

Based on the report, 1,042,625 persons became green card holders in 2010 with 54 percent already living in the United States when granted lawful permanent residence.

Of the 1.04 million new green card holders, 139,000 came from Mexico; 70,000, China; 69,162, India; 58,173, the Philippines; 53,870, Dominican Republic; 33,573, Cuba; 30,632, Vietnam; 22,582, Haiti; 22,227, South Korea; and 19,855, Iraq. The others came from Jamaica, El Salvador, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru, Iran, Nigeria, Canada and other countries.

Moreover, the top three U.S. states where these new permanent residents live were California, New York, and Florida.

Of the total recipients of green cards for 2010, 54.7 percent were women and 37.5 percent were men.

Variety learned that the breakdown in nationalities or places of origin didn’t include the Northern Marianas.

Based on the figures provided by USCIS’ Gitomer, there were 540 persons who obtained legal permanent resident status in the CNMI in 2010. This was a huge increase from 2009 with 304 individuals granted LPR status.

The same report stated there were 1,826 green card holders from the CNMI since 2001: 113 in 2001; 138 in 2002; 53 in 2003; 69 in 2004; 79 in 2005; 224 in 2006; 134 in 2007; 172 in 2008; 304 in 2009; and 540 in 2010.

H-1B petitions

The USCIS has announced that it is still accepting H-1B nonimmigrant petitions.

Eligible to file for the H-1B program are foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise: scientists, engineers and computer programmers, among others. They must be paid salary levels that are way higher than what are now paid in the CNMI.

USCIS will provide regular updates on the processing of FY 2012 H-1B petitions, among other updates, at USCIS’s website,

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