What We’re Watching: Pilot Program for Canadians

Update:  During a March 26 teleconference, USCIS and CBP officials announced a new pilot program that, as of April 30th, 2018, will transfer L-1 visa Point of Entry (POE) adjudications for the Blaine, Washington POE from CBP to USCIS.

EIG Analysis:  Canadian nationals and U.S. companies have benefited greatly from the on-the-spot adjudication of L-1 petitions at POEs. Although USCIS has promised “super-fast” processing times for Form I-129 L-1 petitions filed with USCIS under the pilot program, this additional step will increase the overall processing times and start dates for both the petitioning employer and employee.

Background: Under current procedures, Canadian nationals can have their L-1 individual or blanket petition adjudicated by CBP officers at POEs. No advanced application has been necessary.

Pilot Program Procedures: Under this program, petitioning companies will be required to apply for L-1 pre-approval with USICS. Such petitions will be adjudicated by a special team within the California Service Center. According to USCIS, this special team will try to review these petitions “super fast…faster than premium processing.”  If approved, the employer will receive an email notification directing the applicant to the POE in Blaine for entry.

Possible Expansion: As of the announcement, only the Blaine, Washington POE will be affected by the new L pilot program. All other Canadian land crossings and POEs, including Sumas and Lynden in Northwest Washington, Niagara Falls (Rainbow Bridge) in New York, and airport preclearance inspection locations, will continue to allow for CBP adjudicated petitions. However, if considered a success, USCIS is expected to expand the program to all ports of entry.