U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced the one-year extension of a pilot program to expedite the consideration process for Canadians entering the U.S. with an L-1 visa.
The voluntary program first started on April 30, 2018 and was scheduled to run through October 31, 2018. USCIS and CBP extended the pilot for six months through April 30 of this year. On April 29, the agencies announced the current one-year extension which will end on April 30, 2020.
The pilot program is currently only being offered through the Blaine, Washington port of entry and for applicants seeking status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Blaine is a key port of entry as the city is the primary border crossing between Vancouver, Canada and Seattle, Washington.
The L-1 visa is available for U.S. employers relocating executives and managers from a foreign office to a U.S. office and for foreign companies looking to establish an office in the U.S. Employees establishing an office in the U.S. can remain in the U.S. for an initial one-year period with transferees of a U.S. employer being able to stay for three years. Extensions may be granted for a maximum stay of seven years.
Worldwide ERC® participated in past efforts spearheaded by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) on improving mobility between Canada and the U.S. as part of the Beyond the Border project. The “Known Employer,” also referred to as the “Trusted Employer” program in early discussions, was a key piece of those efforts.
In December 2013, Canadian and U.S. government officials and interested parties held meetings in Blaine, Washington and Vancouver to address this issue. David Berry of Berry, Appleman and Leiden, and then-Chair of the Worldwide ERC® Immigration Forum, participated in the meeting in Blaine as a representative of his firm, as well as Worldwide ERC® Forum Chair. The group discussed the trusted employer concept and then-Chair of the meeting and now USCIS Director Francis Cissna appeared supportive of trying a pilot program. The Blaine L-1 pilot program can therefore be directly tied to those efforts.
For more details of the pilot, please go to: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/information-employers-employees/form-i-129i-129s-pilot-program-canadian-l-1-nonimmigrants