Breaking News: Certain Ports of Entry No Longer Allowing L-1 Renewal Applications for Canadian Citizens

Berardi Immigration Law has recently learned that certain ports of entry along the Canadian border are now refusing to process petitions for renewal L-1 applications that are presented by Canadians pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This new policy affects both individual and blanket L petitions.  Initial reports indicated that this was a problem only at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) locations near Calgary. However, it has since expanded throughout several ports of entry and preclearance locations including Toronto Pearson International Airport (preclearance), Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, Montréal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (preclearance), Edmonton, Seattle, Pembina, Warroad, Pt. Roberts, Sumas, and more. Over the weekend, we have been informed that the Peace Bridge located in Buffalo, New York is now also enforcing this policy. This impacts all ports of entry under the Buffalo jurisdiction, including the Rainbow Bridge, Queenston/Lewiston Bridge, and Thousand Islands Bridge and all ports of entry on the northern New York/Canadian border. All L-1 renewal petitions for Canadians must now be submitted directly to USCIS for adjudication. The ports of entry that are refusing to process these petitions are relying on a section of the regulations (8 CFR §214.2(l)(15)(i)), which state that petition extensions […]
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USCIS Issues Crucial Clarifications to L-1 Requirements

In accordance with President Trump’s Buy American Hire American Executive Order, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is reviewing employment-based immigration programs in an effort to eliminate fraud and ensure adjudications are consistent. As a part of this effort, USCIS recently published clarifications for the L-1 nonimmigrant classification foreign employment requirement. An L-1 visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from an affiliated foreign office to an office in the U.S. Additionally, this classification allows a foreign company to send an executive or manager to the U.S. to establish an affiliated U.S. office. In addition to executives or managers, the L-1 category is applicable for employees with specialized knowledge. One requirement of the L-1 category is that a qualifying organization employs a principal L-1 beneficiary abroad for at least one continuous year out of the three years preceding petition filing.  In order to meet the one-year of continuous employment requirement, an L-1 beneficiary must first be physically outside of the U.S. during the required one continuous year of employment. There is a narrow exception for brief trips to the U.S. for business or pleasure. These trips will not count as interruptions to the continuous year; however, […]
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USCIS and CBP Extend Pilot Program for Canadian L-1 Nonimmigrants

Earlier this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) California Service Center (CSC) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Blaine, Washington, port of entry (POE) announced a new pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 nonimmigrant status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The program was designed to evaluate how long USCIS needs to adjudicate these petitions and whether USCIS can support CBP through remote adjudications. The ultimate goal of this program is to increase consistency in adjudication of L-1 petitions and facilitate the adjudication and admission process of Canadians traveling to the United States as L-1 nonimmigrants.  This program allows, but does not require, Canadian citizens to request that USCIS remotely adjudicate their petitioning employer’s Form I-129 or I-129S prior to their arrival or when they arrive at the Blaine POE. In order to participate in this program, petitioners must file Form I-129 or I-129S as well as supporting evidence and documents with the CSC. Next, USCIS will receive fees, issue a receipt notice, and adjudicate the Form I-129 or I-129S. If additional evidence is necessary, USCIS will issue a request of evidence (RFE) to the petitioner.  Originally, the pilot program was only set to […]
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USCIS and CBP to Launch Pilot Program for L-1 Canadian Nonimmigrants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in conjunction with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that beginning April 30, 2018, it will roll out a pilot program that will eliminate “on the spot” border L-1 NAFTA adjudications at the Blaine, Washington port of entry. Instead, the government will replace these instant border adjudications with a petition that must first be mailed in to USCIS for adjudication. The government hopes to rapidly turn these approvals around in one to three days with no premium processing fee, which is currently an additional $1,225 and guarantees a response within 15 calendar days. The pilot program will begin in Blaine, Washington and will only apply to the L-1 category. However, if the program runs smoothly, the government plans to expand the program to the rest of the Northern border and may expand to other categories. In a recent call with stakeholders, both USCIS and CBP stated that USCIS should be adjudicating L-1 and TN applications for simple organization reasons and so that CBP can focus on admissibility issues. Both agencies noted the process will likely process as follows: Petitioning company mails the petition to USCIS directly; USCIS will issue a receipt notice to […]
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Nuances of the L-1 Category: Employment Abroad and Limit on Status

L-1 work authorization is available to individuals who have worked on a full-time, continuous basis for at least one year of the last three years preceding the filing of the petition.  The beneficiary must have been employed with a foreign corporation with a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate in the U.S.  The individual must hold an executive or managerial position (L-1A), or work in a specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B).  Qualifying Employment Abroad The requirement that the beneficiary has “continuous employment abroad for a one full-time year within the last three years preceding the filing of the petition” raises many intricate issues. Employment calls for an actual employer-employee relationship as typically understood by an employer’s legal, payroll and tax obligations.  Occasionally, however, independent contractors may qualify for L-1 status if it can be proven that the contractor was exclusively working for an affiliated company, and that he/she was, in fact, in a managerial/executive position or possesses specialized knowledge.  This requires a very complex analysis and thorough documentation. Continuous suggests that any interruption of employment breaking the legal employer/employee relationship before a full year of employment has been completed would re-start the period of eligibility. One (full-time) year essentially means a 365-day […]
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