Beginning April 30, 2018, until October 31, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) California Service Center (CSC) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Blaine, Washington, port of entry (POE) will implement a joint agency pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 nonimmigrant status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
This pilot is designed to facilitate the adjudication and admission process of Canadians traveling to the U.S. as L-1 nonimmigrants. Ultimately, the goal is to increase consistency in adjudication of L-1 petitions and facilitate the adjudication and admission process of Canadians traveling to the United States as L-1 nonimmigrants.
What is the L-1 Nonimmigrant Status?
The L-1 is a temporary visa, valid for three months to five years, based on a reciprocity schedule. With extensions, the maximum stay for Executives and Managers is seven years. The maximum for Employees with specialized knowledge is five years.
There are two types of L-1 Visas:
- L-1A for Executives and Managers, valid up to 7 years. This visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This also enables a foreign company to create a new office in the United States by sending an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.
- L-1B for Workers with specialized knowledge, valid up to 5 years. This visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests, from one of its foreign offices to one of its U.S. offices. Through this visa, a foreign company that wants to establish an office in the U.S. may send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help create one.
L-1 Visa for Canadians
Under existing law, a Canadian citizen may apply for admission as an L-1 nonimmigrant by filing the petition with an immigration officer at a Class A port of entry (POE) or pre-clearance airport; or by filing the petition with USCIS. If the petitioner chooses to file its petition with USCIS and USCIS approves the application, the applicant may then apply for admission to the United States in L-1 status at a Class A POE or pre-clearance airport. The Pilot Program is expected to facilitate the adjudication and admission process of Canadians traveling to the U.S. as L-1 nonimmigrants.
What is the Pilot Program?
The Form I-129/I-129S Pilot Program for Canadian L-1 Nonimmigrants allows Canadian citizens to request that USCIS remotely adjudicate their petitioning employer’s Form I-129 or I-129S prior to their arrival or when they arrive at the Blaine POE.
To participate in this pilot program, petitioners must file their petition with the CSC, which will receive fees, issue a Form I-797C receipt notice, and adjudicate the application. If USCIS needs additional evidence, CSC will send a request for evidence (RFE) to the petitioner.
The Canadian citizen then does not need to wait for USCIS to adjudicate the form before going to the Blaine POE to apply for admission into the United States. At the Blaine POE, they can request that USCIS remotely adjudicate their application. However, this may cause delays. The Pilot Program is only available at the Blaine POE at this time.
Is this program mandatory?
No. You may choose not to file under the pilot program. The applicant can still use existing procedures by filing at a CBP port-of-entry or by submitting the application to USCIS. However, during the pilot program, CBP will not adjudicate these forms at the Blaine POE. Instead, it will adjudicate them at the nearest Class A port-of-entry at Point Roberts, Washington; Sumas, Washington, or at the Vancouver Airport Pre-clearance location.
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