An L-1 visa (intra-company transfer) allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. It has a couple of categories (L-1A and L-1B) and two types of procedures: Regular L-1 which is applied for each individual and approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and a Blanket L-1 available to employers that meet the criteria). Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com stated that, "The documentation requirements for an L1-visa are quite considerable. Quite possibly no other country in the world requires so much documentation for a work visa."
And as of last November, it had been noted that access to the L-1 visa was getting more difficult under the current administration, especially with the end of NAFTA which had provided an on-the-spot processing perk. Companies were seeing increased processing times across all ports-of-entry and began preparing themselves for a greater number of denials.
Until recently, L-1s could be processed and extended very easily by going in-person to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Canada at a port of entry or at an airport with preflight inspection. According to this article below, CBP adjudicates these petitions same day, efficiently facilitating the transfer of an employee found to be critical to the sponsoring company’s U.S. operations.
However, there is now a new interpretation of CBP’s authority and a major change in L-1 processing. Key details from this article:
- Instead of sending employees on a quick trip to the border and back for their L-1 petition renewal, employers must now anticipate the more lengthy and involved process for petition extensions submitted to USCIS.
- Normal adjudication times are between 1.5 to 4.5 months, according to USCIS’s current estimates. Employers can expedite this by electing premium processing for an additional fee of $1,410 that guarantees adjudication in 15 calendar days.
- This faster method may increase the chance of a Request for Evidence (RFE) being issued for the case.
Companies that have been importing key talent to lead or support critical business initiatives in the U.S. should take head and consider these changes accordingly.
Until recently, Canadians working and living in the United States as L-1 intra-company transferees could extend their L-1 status relatively easily, applying in the same manner they applied for their initial L entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). However, a new interpretation of the applicable regulations adopted by CBP at all ports of entry and pre-clearance locations in Canada has abruptly ended the status quo. Employers of Canadians in the U.S. in L-1 status need to be aware of this and plan accordingly.