On March 26, 2018, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) and Citizenship & Immigration Services (“CIS” or “USCIS”) held a joint stakeholder teleconference to announce the new pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 non-immigrant status.
The L status is used by U.S.-based companies to transfer certain employees from their foreign entity where they have been working for at least one (1) year. Additionally, L status is often used by small foreign companies to transfer certain personnel to the U.S. to establish a U.S.-based operation.
Due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), Canadians enjoy the privilege of applying for L-1 status at a U.S. port of entry (“POE”), which means their case is adjudicated in a matter of hours, sometimes even minutes, before boarding a plane or driving to work at their U.S. destination.
The pilot program will instead require Canadian citizens to submit their L-1 package to USCIS for adjudication in advance of seeking entry in L status through the Blane, Washington POE in order for CBP to focus on enforcement efforts. Under the pilot program, the L-1 packages are to be adjudicated in 15 days or less so that the beneficiary will quickly know the decision on the petition before they travel.
Although mandatory enforcement of the pilot program will only be applicable to the Blane POE, CBP and USCIS are encouraging all companies to utilize the pilot program process regardless of the POE through which their beneficiary-employee will travel.
The pilot program will launch on April 30, 2018 and will run for six (6) months.