Starting on April 30th to October 31st, 2018 USCIS will implement a pilot program to evaluate the adjudication of L-1 visa petitions for Canadian applicants. The 6-month program aims to test the cooperation between the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices in regards to the processing of L-1 petitions.
The joint program will allow U.S companies to petition for the Canadian employee to USCIS through submitting Form I-129 and the Canadian citizen can then immediately go to the port of entry (POE) to apply for admission into the U.S. At the POE, they can request immediate remote adjudication of their L-1 petition.
The previous process took longer and this new program aims to shorten the time that Canadian L-1 visa applicants have their petitions processed. The Canadian L-1 visa applicants could apply for admission into the U.S immediately on the day that the Form I-129 petition was filed or wait until the petition was processed and then apply for the L-1 visa.
The joint pilot program of USCIS and CBP is currently only available at the Blaine Port of Entry (POE), which goes through Washington State. USCIS will test the effectiveness of the program during those 6 months and then conduct a study to evaluate it. The study will be in the form of surveys and interviews and applicants can send feedback to USCIS’s email USCIS-IGAOutreach@uscis.dhs.gov.
If the feedback is generally positive, the pilot program could be expanded. USCIS can then decide to introduce this form of L-1 petition processing in other POEs across the U.S and Canadian border and not only in the Blaine POE.
To participate in this program, employers can start by filing Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker or Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and the rest of the supporting documents to the California Service Center. The documents must contain the fees so that USCIS can start processing. They will issue a Form I-797, Notice of Receipt and adjudicate the petition.
Additionally, the Forms I-129 or I-129S and the supporting documents must have a cover sheet which clearly states “Canadian L”. This is done so that USCIS officials can immediately identify the relevant petitions and adjudicate them as their turn comes.
The Canadian applicant can then immediate show up at the Blaine POE and ask for remote adjudication and admission into the country. As USCIS processes the application, it is planned that the process will be much faster and efficient.
However, petitioners are not obligated to file their Forms I-129 or I-129S through the pilot program. Any petitioner can file as they have previously done through USCIS without any penalties. The USCIS and CBP urge all petitioners though, whether they are applying through the pilot program or not, to file their L-1 petitions as far in advance as possible.
The L-1 visa is a U.S nonimmigrant visa which allows employees to transfer and work in the U.S in executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge positions for the U.S branch of the same company that they were working for in a foreign country. Even though the rules of this visa require proof of returning home, the L-1 visa is still a dual intent visa. This means that those who hold it can become eligible to file for a Legal Permanent Residence (LPR) or Green Card if they meet the requirements.