Beginning at the end of April, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) begin implementation of a 6-month joint agency pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 nonimmigrant status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The pilot is scheduled to run from April 30 through to October 31, according to an agency release.
The pilot, designed to facilitate processes of adjudication and admission of Canadians traveling to the United States as L-1 nonimmigrants, goes into effect through the USCIS California Service Center (CSC) and the Blaine, Washington office of CBP.
During the 6-month trial, CBP and USCIS expect to determine the program’s efficiencies and shortcomings and to develop operational improvements. The agencies also seek to garner stakeholder feedback over the duration of the pilot.
Regulations permit employers to file an L petition on behalf of a Canadian citizen along with the Canadian citizen’s application for admission into the United States. Petitioners opting to participate in the pilot program are required to:
- Submit Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker as well as supporting evidence to CSC prior to the Canadian citizen’s request for nonimmigrant L-1 admission to the United STates through the Blaine port of entry
- Annotate a cover sheet with “Canadian L” to ensure quick identification of the Form I-129 and also for subsequent correspondence, such as a request for evidence (RFE)
For those who participate in the pilot, USCIS receives fees, issues a Form I-797C receipt notice and adjudicate the Form I-129. In cases where additional evidence is required, USCIS will send a RFE to the petitioner.
The final determination as to whether a Canadian L-1 applicant is admissible to the United States remains in the hands of CBP officials. Individual applicants seeking an immediate determination of admissibility bring a copy of the petition approval notice for the Form I-129 when seeking admission to the United States at the Blaine POE.
USCIS advises to expect delays in cases where the petitioner sends the applicant to the Blaine POE prior to an agency decision on the Form I-129. In these cases, applicants bring a copy of the Form I-129 petition receipt notice and await adjudication on the form.
Petitioners who don’t file Form I-129 in advance with USCIS file with CBP at the Blaine POE, with adjudication during the pilot at the nearest Class A POE. Applications can go through any designated Class A CBP POE that’s optimized for processing Canadian citizen L-1 petitions. “Accordingly, petitioners can still choose to have CBP adjudicate their petitions at the time an applicant appears at any CBP-designated Class A POE or pre-clearance airport (PC). The three optimized stations nearest to Blaine are Class A POEs Point Roberts, Washington, and Sumas, Washington, and the Vancouver, Washington, PC.”
Petitioners choosing not to participate in the pilot program continue filing the L-1 petition on behalf of a Canadian citizen with CBP at the Blaine POE. In these cases, CBP will accept the petition, but will adjudicate it at the next Class A POE.
CBP and USCIS encourage petitioners participating in the pilot program to file their L-1 nonimmigrant petitions with the USCIS as far in advance as possible. Stakeholders offer feedback on the trial program at USCIS-IGAOutreach@uscis.dhs.gov. With the program’s completion, USCIS will filter through stakeholder comments before determining whether to extend the program concept to other POEs.