The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) have announced a joint pilot program whereby Canadian L-1 applications made at the Blaine, Washington ports of entry will no longer be adjudicated directly by CBP. Instead, petitions will be sent to USCIS, and applicants will wait for approval of their L-1 petitions before heading to the border to apply for admission into the US. The pilot program is scheduled to begin on April 30, 2018 at the Blaine, Washington ports of entry.
Currently, Canadian citizens applying for L-1 status at the Blaine, Washington ports of entry present their application packets for adjudication by CBP. A CBP Officer reviews the packet on the spot and typically either admits the applicant in L-1 status or provides a Notice of Deficiency of L-1 Petition, which often requires that the applicant return with an updated packet. Under the newly announced pilot program, Canadian citizens applying for L-1 status at the Blaine, Washington ports of entry will first need to have their L-1 petitions sent to USCIS and await approval, prior to presenting themselves for admission to the US. The new process is expected to have a Receipt Notice issued on the same day, and a decision (or Request for Evidence) issued within 2-3 business days. Once the case is approved, the applicant can present their Approval Notice to be admitted in L-1 status. To facilitate the process, USCIS is expected to have a dedicated email address, similar to the current premium processing email, that will provide case updates, including notice of receipt, notice of a Request for Evidence, and notice of approval. It is expected that even with an email confirmation of approval, applicants can present themselves at the port of entry for admission in L-1 status. It may also be possible, although not encouraged by USCIS, for applicants to present themselves at the port of entry upon the issuance of the Receipt Notice and request that their applications be adjudicated immediately.
The pilot program has been developed to: (1) increase efficiencies in L-1 processing; (2) enhance consistency within adjudications; and (3) allow for CBP to focus on its inspection work. If the pilot is successful, the program will be expanded to additional ports of entry, and may also be extended to other classifications, such as TN (Treaty National under NAFTA), so long as legally permissible.
Only Canadian citizens applying for L-1 status through the Blaine, Washington ports of entry will be impacted at this time. Canadians who do not wish to be part of the pilot program may use other ports of entry when making their L-1 applications. While rollout of the program across the entire northern border is ultimately contemplated, the pilot program will be initially focused on the Blaine, Washington ports of entry. The pilot program is expected to last six months.
PwC Law continues to monitor these matters and will be sure to update you as changes occur.
For more information on this Pilot Program, or any other immigration matters, please contact a member of our team at
PwC Law LLP.