From April 30, 2018 to October 31, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) California Service Center (CSC) are conducting a joint pilot program that affects the processing of L-1 intracompany nonimmigrant visa petitions for Canadian citizens at the port of entry (POE) in Blaine, Washington. L-1 petitioners and Canadian beneficiaries who choose to participate in this pilot program must now submit their cases with the CSC in advance of a beneficiary’s arrival at the POE.
Prior to the pilot program, Canadians wishing to apply for L-1 nonimmigrant status at the Blaine POE were permitted to apply directly with CBP at the border. This system often afforded applicants the potential for immediate processing and admission to the United States. However, on occasion it could also result in waiting times or even denials for some applicants. USCIS has stated that the intent of the pilot program is to “facilitate the adjudication and admission process of Canadians traveling to the U.S. as L-1 nonimmigrants.” While there is no premium processing surcharge for the service, the pre-adjudication procedure required by the pilot program could result in the issuance of a request for evidence that would result in additional delays.
Participants in the Pilot Program
USCIS provided the following guidance for those who choose to participate in the pilot program:
- USCIS will adjudicate the Form I-129, but CBP will continue to make final determinations on admissibility for Canadian applicants who present themselves at the Blaine POE.
- USCIS encourages employers to file L-1 petitions with the agency as far in advance of travel as possible to allow sufficient time for adjudication.
- Applicants must bring a copy of the Form I-129 approval notice with them to the Blaine POE in order to receive admission to the United States without additional delay.
- Applicants who go to the Blaine POE while the Form I-129 is still being adjudicated are advised by USCIS to bring a copy of the receipt notice for the L-1 petition, and may be subject to delays at the border while the agency completes its remote adjudication of the case.
Applicants Who Choose Not to Participate in the Pilot Program
- Employers who prefer not to participate in the pilot program may continue to file L-1 petitions on behalf of Canadian citizens with CBP at the Blaine POE, but CBP will adjudicate the petitions at the next Class A POE rather than at Blaine.
- Canadian applicants may also still apply at other POEs during the pilot program under the regular process.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments on this issue and report on updates as they occur.