Applying for a U.S. work visa can often be a long and arduous process. However, for Canadians, certain applications may only take a matter of hours. This streamlined option is available to Canadian travelers who apply directly with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as intra-company transferees (L-1) or NAFTA professionals (TN-1). An approved application with CBP often take a few hours to process, whereas the same application filed by mail with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may take a matter of weeks or months. Further, the filing fees with CBP are significantly lower for TN applicants (Currently $56 with CBP vs. $325 or $1,550 with USCIS depending on whether applicant uses their Premium Processing service).
In January 2015, CBP designated 14 specific ports of entry as preferred posts to adjudicate first time L and TN applications filed by Canadians. Their recommendation indicates that officers at these ports have the most experience with work visas and are more likely to fairly adjudicate applications. While this does not mean that an applicant may only apply at one of these 14 ports, it is recommended by CBP to optimize the process for Canadians.
The list of 14 preferred processing stations includes the following ports of entry (4 of which are preclearance locations):
• Canadian Preclearance Locations
-Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
-Trudeau International Airport, Dorval, Quebec, Canada
-Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
-Calgary International Airport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
• Vermont Locations
-Highgate Springs Port of Entry, Highgate, Vermont
-Derby Line Port of Entry, Derby Line, Vermont
• New York Locations
-Alexandria Bay Port of Entry, Alexandria Bay, New York
-Peace Bridge Port of Entry, Buffalo, New York
-Rainbow Bridge Port of Entry, Niagara Falls, New York
-Champlain Port of Entry, Champlain, New York
• Michigan Locations
-Detroit Canada Tunnel Port of Entry, Detroit, Michigan
-Detroit Ambassador Bridge, Port of Entry, Detroit, Michigan
• Washington Location
-Blaine Peace Arch Port of Entry, Blaine, Washington
• Montana Location
-Sweetgrass Port of Entry, Sweetgrass, Montana.
Although the process of applying for a work visa with CBP has its advantages, it is not one to take lightly. Before traveling, applicants should ensure they have all of the appropriate forms and supporting documentation, as well as an idea of what to expect from their interview with the CBP officer. For further information regarding work visa applications with CBP, please contact PricewaterhouseCoopers Immigration Law LLP.