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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:

  1. Petitioning company mails the petition to USCIS directly;
  2. USCIS will issue a receipt notice to the company;
  3. USCIS will adjudicate the application quickly (aiming for one to three days);
  4. Once adjudicated (approval or Request for Evidence ), USCIS will notify the petitioning company. It is still unclear at this point if notice will come by email or by mail;
  5. Petitioning company can then notify applicant of approval;
  6. Applicant may then apply for admission to the U.S. with evidence of their L-1 approval. CBP may not re-adjudicate the petition, but may ask general questions, such as, “What are your job duties?”

It is unclear at this time how and in what time frame RFE responses will be adjudicated. We do know that petitioning companies will still have the standard 87 allotted days to respond to an RFE. The government noted that this pilot program will hopefully result in less unnecessary RFE’s.
The pilot program is currently set to run for six months. USCIS has hand-picked a group of five individuals with specific skills who are standing by and ready to begin adjudicating these applications. The agencies hope that by dedicating a specific team to these adjudications, backlogs can be avoided and processing times will be rapid.
Berardi Immigration Law will continue to monitor this pilot program closely and will alert our clients of updates as soon as they break. Be sure to check our blog frequently for the latest immigration news!