Introduction: Presenting an L1 Petition to CBP in Conjunction With an Application for Admission
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows for a citizen of Canada to present a completed L1 visa petition to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in lieu of having the petition filed in advance with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center. This allows the petition to be adjudicated in conjunction with an application for admission. A Canadian citizen who is admitted in L1 status through this procedure will be admitted without having to obtain an L1 visa. However, although citizens of Canada may seek L status at a port of entry, there is nothing precluding the petitioner from filing the petition through a USCIS Service Center in order to seek an L1 visa for the beneficiary.
General Rules and Procedures
The regulations for citizens of Canada seeking L1 or L2 status at the border are found in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(l)(17)(i)-(v).
The applicable petitions are the:
- Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker [for an L visa]
- Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L
Canadian citizens may present an L1 petition to CBP in conjunction with an application for admission regardless of whether the petition is for an L1A or L1B intracompany transferee. It is important to remember that the requirements for approval of the petition and admission as an L are no different for citizens of Canada than for any other petition beneficiaries. The only difference is that citizens of Canada may present an L1 petition to CBP in conjunction with an application for admission.
A citizen of Canada may present the Form I-129 or Form I-129S at a:
- Class A port of entry located on the United States-Canadian border; or
- At a United States pre-clearance/pre-flight station in Canada.
Although any Class A port of entry or pre-clearance/pre-flight station will adjudicate the L petition, CBP has designated 14 ports of entry for “optimized processing” of first-time Canadian applicants for admission in the L1 category. Canadian citizens who are seeking admission in L nonimmigrant status in this way are strongly advised to use one of the designated ports of entry for optimized processing. We have the list of the designated ports of entry here.
Applying for Admission in L1 Status
At the port of entry, the beneficiary must first demonstrate that he or she is a Canadian citizen. If the beneficiary does not possess Canadian citizenship (permanent residency does not qualify), then he or she may only be admitted after obtaining an L1 visa from a U.S. consulate. Furthermore, the beneficiary must not have any grounds of inadmissibility (not withstanding whether the petition is approvable for L1 status).
Although the petitioning employer need not appear with the Canadian citizen beneficiary who is seeking admission, the Form I-129 or Form I-129S must “bear the authorized signature of the petitioner.” An immigration officer at the port of entry or pre-clearance/pre-flight station will determine the eligibility of the applicant for admission for L status.
If the applicant for admission is seeking admission with a Form I-129, he or she must present:
- Two copies of the Form I-129.
If the applicant for admission is seeking admission with a Form I-129S, he or she must present:
- The original and two copies of the Form I-129S
- Three copies of the Form I-797, Notice of Approval of Nonimmigrant Visa Petition.
In both cases, the petition must be submitted with evidence supporting the beneficiary's eligibility for L status. CBP recommends that the applicant also bring a prepaid Express Mail Envelope addressed to the California Service Center or the Vermont Service Center (see CPB document [PDF version] to determine the correct service center).1 Individual petitions must be accompanied by evidence that the petitioning employer has a qualifying relationship with the foreign employer for which the beneficiary worked. For blanket petitions, the approved Form I-129S will suffice for establishing this relationship between the petitioner and the foreign entity, but the beneficiary will still be required to demonstrate that he or she meets the requirements for the status sought.2
Based upon the evaluation of the evidence submitted with the petition, the immigration officer may do one of the following:
- After receiving the fee, approve the petition and prepare a Form I-94 for 1 year (if the petition was for a “new office”) or up to 3 years (all other cases);
- If the petition is deficient, return it to the applicant for admission in order that he or she can obtain the necessary documentation from the petitioner to overcome the deficiency;
- Deny the petition and notify the petitioner of the reasons for denial and the right to appeal; or
- Forward the petition to USCIS with a recommendation for denial of a formal denial cannot be issued at the port of entry.3
The dependent spouse and minor child(ren) of Canadian citizens may also seek admission at a CBP port of entry in L2 status without obtaining an L2 visa at the consulate. In such a situation, the L2 dependent may be admitted for the same duration as the principal without an L2 visa. The eligibility requirements for L2 status and the rules while in L2 status are otherwise the same as for any other L2. If the spouse or child(ren) are not Canadian citizens, they must present an L2 visa for admission (unless otherwise exempt).
While being permitted to present an L1 petition to CBP in conjunction with an application for admission greatly streamlines the L1 process for citizens of Canada, it is important for petitioners and beneficiaries to not be complacent in carefully completing the petition. Because the evidentiary requirements to demonstrate eligibility for L1 status are the same, the petition must be carefully completed to demonstrate eligibility for L1 status. As with any other L1 visa petition, the petitioner and beneficiary are well-advised to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help in meticulously filing a petition accompanied by comprehensive evidence supporting the beneficiary's eligibility for L1 status.
To learn about the evidentiary requirements for L status, please consult our comprehensive selection of articles:
- Overview of Requirements for L1 and L2 Visas
- L1A Visa Overview
- L1B Visa Overview
- L Blanket Petitions
- CBP, Standards for Accepting and Adjudicating I-129 Petitions for L-1 Intracompany Transferee Petitions for Canadian Citizens Under NAFTA (Jan. 3, 2012)
- CBP, NAFTA Guide for TN and L Applicants (June 2012), published on AILA InfoNet at Doc. No. 13091643
Resources and Materials:
Kurzban, Ira J. Kurzban's Immigration Law Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Outline and Reference Tool. 14th ed. Washington D.C.: AILA Publications, 2014. 865, Print. Treatises & Primers.