The L1 visa pilot program is underway and despite its intentions, could cause problems for employers and Canadians seeking to temporarily enter the United States. It is expected that it will become mandatory for Canadian citizens to apply for L1 intracompany transfer petitions and await adjudication by USCIS before applying for admission to the United States at a port-of-entry. This could prevent immediate admission for Canadian L1 visa holders who currently apply in person at ports-of-entry.
Voluntary Participation in L-1 Visa Pilot Program
The joint L1 visa pilot program between USCIS and CBP began on April 30, 2018, and is in effect until October 31, 2018. The 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 is currently in force at CBP port-of-entry in Blaine, Washington on a voluntary basis. Canadians still have the convenience of making an on-the-spot L1 application at all other ports-of-entry.
Under the pilot program, participants are required to first file their I-129 or I-129S petitions with the California USCIS Service Center. They must then respond to any correspondence received from the Center, which may include Requests for Evidence. Once the I-129 has been submitted, the applicant does not need to wait for the USCIS to approve his or her request. The applicant can then apply for admission at the Blaine port-of-entry where CBP will request a remote adjudication of the I-129 by the USCIS.
Increased Scrutiny Expected
While the selling point for the new L1 visa program is expediency, it will also bring more scrutiny. Currently, applicants are able to make their case to the CBP officer adjudicating their application. The new program will leave the adjudication process relying solely on the Officer’s interpretation of the adjudicated petition and supporting evidence. The ultimate decision on whether to grant entry still remains with CBP regardless if USCIS approves the application.
Applicants could find themselves dealing with more legal red tape. It is expected that applicants and their L1 visa attorneys will need to deal with longer adjudication periods and confusion regarding the interpretation of immigration laws and policies between the CBP and the USCIS. The possibility of United States withdrawing from NAFTA is expected to further complicate L1 visa applications. What is expected to help the process, could actually make the L1 visa process worse?