USCIS Introduces Pilot Program to Limit NAFTA L-1 Adjudication at Border
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) June 13, 2018 – The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a memo on April 17, 2018 announcing the implementation of a pilot program “to facilitate the adjudication and admission process of Canadians traveling to the U.S. as L-1 nonimmigrants” under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The joint six-month pilot program between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the USCIS California Service Center (CSC) favors advance planning over on-the-spot NAFTA L-1 border adjudications. The program began on April 30, 2018 and is currently in effect only at the Blaine CBP port of entry (POE) in Washington. Prior to the pilot’s implementation, L-1 petitions would undergo same-day processing and be reviewed in real-time at the border. Immediate admission into the country would be granted at the POE.
“The Pilot Program recently announced by USCIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will require pre-adjudication of L-1 petitions by USCIS before a Canadian L-1 can apply for and be admitted in L-1 status,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “Why one asks is this limitation necessary? Have there been documented instances of fraud in the NAFTA L-1 border adjudication process? If not, what is the point of frustrating business admissions of multinational workers needed in the United States. If so, where is any USCIS discussion, or evidence justifying this restriction? Or is this part of a ‘there is fraud under every rock’ reason to restrict employment based nonimmigrant immigration at the expense of U.S. and Canadian businesses.”
The program directs a petitioning U.S. Employer to submit its petition and supporting evidence for Canadian citizens seeking entry into the United States as L-1 nonimmigrants via the Blaine POE. USCIS will process NAFTA L-1 petitions for Blaine through October 31, 2018. CBP will proceed with making final decisions on whether an L-1 applicant can enter the United States once USCIS issues an approval notice. Current USCIS processing reports show the CSC taking about 3 months to adjudicate an L-1 petition, which adds a significant delay for a Canadian L-1 applicant.
USCIS noted in its announcement that petitioners who do not wish to participate in the program may continue to file L-1 petitions at the Blaine POE. CBP will accept applications that are not pre-filed with USCIS, but they will be adjudicated at the closest Class A POE for the pilot’s duration. Upon its completion, USCIS will evaluate the program and decide whether to implement it across other POEs.