United States: USCIS Releases New Details about Pilot Program for Canadian L-1 Applicants at Blaine, WA

USCIS has provided further updates on its pilot program for Canadians seeking L-1 admission at Blaine, Washington, clarifying that the program will be optional and will run for six months.

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Apr 05, 2018
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The situation

USCIS has issued additional guidance regarding the duration and processes of its pilot program for Canadians seeking L-1 admission at the Blaine, Washington port of entry (POE).

  • Duration: Though the duration of the pilot program was not initially disclosed, USCIS has now indicated that the it will run for six months, from April 30, 2018 to Oct. 31, 2018.
  • Processes: The new guidance emphasizes that participation in the pilot program is optional and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue to accept L-1 border petitions in Blaine. However, USCIS also states that these petitions will not be adjudicated in Blaine, and instead will be processed by a nearby Class A POE. It is unclear what the adjudication process in this scenario will look like or how long it will take. 

As an alternative, Canadians may choose to process their border petitions by going directly to a nearby POE, such as Point Roberts, Washington or Sumas, Washington; or to pre-clearance at the Vancouver, Washington airport. 

Participating in the pilot program

Canadian L-1 intracompany transferees who wish to participate in the pilot program must file their petition with USCIS’s California Service Center (CSC) before seeking entry through Blaine.  The petition should include a cover sheet annotated with “Canadian L.”  The CSC has indicated that it will process these petitions expeditiously. Once an approval notice is issued, the Canadian beneficiary may use it at any northern border port of entry to request admission. The agency strongly advises applicants to wait for the USCIS approval notice before applying for admission at the border. Though USCIS indicated that applicants could bring the filing receipt to the border when requesting entry, applicants will likely experience a delay in admission as CBP must first contact USCIS to verify whether the case has been approved, before acting on the request for admission. 

Note that the above process applies to both Canadians seeking L-1 admission based on an employer’s previously approved blanket petition as well as those seeking L-1 admission based on an individual petition.

Looking ahead

USCIS states that at the conclusion of the six-month pilot program it will accept stakeholders’ feedback about the program’s effectiveness and whether it should be extended to other points of entry or immigration classifications. Because current regulations explicitly permit Canadian citizens to seek L-1 admission at Class A ports of entry and at airport pre-clearance, regulatory changes may be necessary to expand or permanently implement the program. Fragomen is closely monitoring the implementation of the L-1 pilot program and will provide additional updates as they are issued.  

This alert is for informational purpose only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.

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