U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are turning away some Canadian workers at the border.
Without notice, CBP abandoned a decades-long policy of allowing Canadians to apply for L-1 visa renewals directly at U.S. ports of entry. And now, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) reports that CBP officials at some points of entry are turning away Canadians returning to the U.S. with “intermittent” or “commuter” L-1 visas as well.
If you or an employee has been denied entry, reach out to the Alcorn Immigration Law team. We can help you determine the best way forward.
Currently, CBP will only review only new L-1 applications submitted by Canadians at the border. All renewal applications must now be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It appears that Canadians holding “intermittent” L-1 visas must also now apply to USCIS for readmission.
L-1 visas enable multinational companies to transfer executives, managers, and specialized knowledge employees to work in the U.S. The L-1 visa is initially good for three years. L-1 visa holders can get two-year extensions up to a total stay of seven years.
Employees who reside in Canada and commute to the U.S. to work part-time qualify for indefinite L-1 renewals. These indefinite renewals are also known as “intermittent” or “commuter” L-1s. If the total time an employee spends in the U.S. each year is less than six months, L status can be extended indefinitely.
Previously, Canadians employed by multinational companies could apply for admission into the U.S. under L-1 status directly at U.S. ports of entry without first obtaining approval from USCIS. CBP officers would review both initial L-1 applications and renewals submitted by Canadians at the border, as well as readmit Canadians on intermittent L-1s.
However, in late December, AILA began receiving reports that CBP officers were refusing to decide Blanket L and individual L-1 petitions for readmission. Companies that frequently file L-1 petitions are eligible for a Blanket L petition, which covers all of a company’s employees.
In early May, AILA began receiving reports that CBP officials were turning away Canadians with “intermittent” or “commuter” L-1 visas. CBP officials told them that they must apply to USCIS for readmission.
What to Do?
Employers seeking to extend L-1 visas for any employees should file for extensions far ahead of the visa expiration date. Additionally, they should allow two to five months for extensions to be processed by a USCIS Service Center.
Meanwhile, visa holders need to be as prepared as possible when entering the U.S. Canadian employees planning to submit an initial L-1 application or apply for TN visa at a U.S. port of entry should also prepare for potential delays.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees CBP and USCIS, recently announced a plan to temporarily transfer about 750 CBP officers from the Canadian to the Mexican border. That would slow the 400,000 people and more than $1.6 billion in goods crossing the U.S.-Canada border every day through more than 120 points of entry. On its website, CBP offers estimated wait times online for each U.S. port of entry.
Furthermore, employers and visa holders should stay informed about policy changes impacting visas and travel—and be prepared. Consult the Alcorn Blog Page for the latest on immigration news and developments or reach out to us directly.