Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials at the Canadian border have reportedly denied Canadian citizen’s applications to renew L-1 petitions. At the Canadian border, CBP has refused to adjudicate anything other than initial L-1 petition or applications for commuter L class visas for Canadian citizens with visa exemptions under NAFTA. The sudden change in adjudicating policies at Canadian ports of entry effects both individual L-1 petitions and blanket L-1 petitions.
Previous CBP guidelines for L-1 Intracompany Transferee Petitions for Canadian Citizens under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) stated that L-1 petitions with proper documentation would be considered for adjudication at the Canadian border. Though not guaranteed, Canadian citizens could easily apply for L-1 visa permissions at any designated port of entry. This streamlined the visa process, allowing businesses to operate seamlessly across the border. By slowing the L-1 processes significantly, sometimes by several months, the changes could have severe effects on business operations between the United States and Canada.
In the past month, the CBP began to require Canadian citizens who previously obtained an L-1 visa to acquire L-1 visa petition for a new period through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service prior to entry into the US. To obtain this, employers of L-1 beneficiaries must request to extend their employee’s L-1 status directly through USCIS and receive an I-797 approval notice. The new process will deny L-1 applicants the opportunity to have an in-person audience with immigration officials as most employers will have to file petition via mail. Additionally, L-1 visa beneficiaries could be forced to wait months to receive final determination from USCIS, a stark contrast from same-day process facilitated through CBP. While this policy is significant in its effect on business in the United States, particularly large technical companies in California, there has been no formal policy announced out of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the CBP. We will continue to monitor announcements from CBP and DHS for more information on this sudden change to adjudication policies.