There has been an increasing number of reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is refusing to process subsequent, or renewal, L-1 visa petitions presented by Canadian nationals at ports of entry (POEs) along the Canadian border. CBP is reportedly telling individuals who are seeking renewals based on an existing L-1 blanket or an individual petition that they must present an approved Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to be readmitted to the United States.
Despite long-established practice to the contrary, and without notice of the policy shift, CBP now appears to be taking the view that a request for a subsequent L-1 visa petition amounts to a request for an “extension,” which, according to immigration regulations, falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of USCIS. Because this viewpoint appears to distort the benefit that is actually being sought by the Canadian L-1 visa applicants, there does not seem to be a legal basis for CBP refusing to process the petitions at POEs.
Initial reports limited the refusals to POEs near Calgary and its surrounding land POEs, but in recent weeks, the list has grown to include other POEs and preclearance locations, including the following:
|Calgary International Airport
|Edmonton International Airport
|Montreal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
|Ottawa/Macdonald–Cartier International Airport
|Point Roberts, WA
|Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport
|Vancouver International Airport
|Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
Petitioning employers and Canadian L-1 visa applicants may want to take precautions before the applicants travel to a land POE or preclearance airport to request an L-1 visa renewal.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the policy changes and will post updates on our immigration blog as additional information becomes available.