OFWs in Marianas stand to lose jobs, face deportation over new visa rule

At least 7,500 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Northern Marianas are in danger of losing their jobs and being deported because of a new visa ruling by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay.

“A final ruling of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in September 7 states that foreign workers in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) must find an employer who will petition them for Commonwealth-Only Worker Classification (CW) Visa. Failing to do so, our OFWs can stay only until November 27, 2011 or face deportation,” the Vice President wrote Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in a letter dated September 16.

Binay, the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, wrote Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz last week asking her to appeal to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas to postpone the implementation of the CW Visa ruling to allow the 7,500 OFWs in the Northern Mariana Islands to have “more time to seek gainful and legal employment status.”

Latest reports from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affaris (DFA) state that there are approximately 7,500 OFWs in the CNMI, of which 3,500 have no legal work or residency status.

Binay also told Baldoz that “hundreds of nurses and caregivers legally working in the CNMI may find themselves nearing unemployment and deportation as well” if the CW Visa implementation is not extended.

“The new CW ruling places on our 950 caregivers in CNMI the burden to find employment in formal business entities such as manpower agencies, and not in households or informal employment arrangements,” he said.

However, the Vice President said that there is a bill pending in U.S. congress that seeks to grant CW resident status to limited groups in the CNMI, including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

“The passage of this bill would be of great help to our Filipinos who are unable to find employment in the CNMI, but are married to U.S. citizens residing there,” he said.

The bill was filed by Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan, the CNMI’s first non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.#