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L1 Visa System Becomes More Difficult: Canadian Execs Are Collateral Damage

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on September 18, 2018

Obtaining an L1 visa is more difficult than it’s ever been and Canadians execs are serving as collateral damage. For the next several months, the USCIS is temporarily ending a perk that allowed Canadians to have their visa processed on-the-spot under NAFTA. Canadians have for decades received preferential treatment when it comes to visas. Under the Trump administration, applications made for L1 visa extensions for professionals with specialized knowledge have come under greater scrutiny, escalating to the same level used to assess new applications.

Managers and executives seeking intra-company transfers will no longer be able to have their visas processed instantly. Ahead of time at a U.S. service center, employees must now file an L1 visa petition and send their documentation to be scrutinized. A new pilot scheme introduced by the USCIS on April 30, 2018, will reportedly favor advance planning over border adjudication for Canadians traveling to the US as L1 nonimmigrants. US employers will have the option of filing a Form I-129 petition in addition to providing evidence for Canadians seeking to enter the US as L1 managers or executives.

Anxiety Spikes among Companies That Use This Visa Category

Responsibility for adjudication will be shifted from Customs and Border Protection to the USCIS. The USCIS asserts that this plot was designed to increase consistency across this visa category. But experts in this field argue that this move is just another way of making immigration more restrictive as a part of the efforts to affirm President Donald Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order. The U.S. is moving to tighten its borders and this includes cracking down on visa programs for the highly skilled and banning entry from several nations.

While the goal is to crack down on individuals alleging to have “specialized knowledge,” immigration practitioners said that Canadian managers and executives who use the L-1 program could end up as collateral damage. Sometimes companies are in urgent need of workers and the on-the-spot adjudication facilitates this.

The L-1 Visa program is used heavily by the U.S. tech industry but the USCIS has been quietly chipping away at the program through a series of memos. On January 2018, the USCIS changed the criteria for intra-company L1 visa petitions to require additional requirements in cases involving proxy votes. Employers must now show that the American company and the foreign company are in a qualifying relationship.