Beginning in late December 2018 and peaking in March 2019, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at various preclearance offices and land ports of entry began refusing to adjudicate blanket and individual L-1 petitions for readmission. During this time, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) actively investigated these reports and worked with local CBP liaisons to get clarity on CBP’s inconsistent information on adjudications. Once it became clear that these reports were indicative of a national policy change or directive, AILA’s CBP Liaison Committee raised the issue with CBP Headquarters and requested that CBP provide clarification to the field that pursuant to NAFTA Canadian nationals are able to file L-1 petitions in conjunction with an application for admission at CBP ports of entry. Despite these efforts, AILA continued to receive reports that showed the number of CBP locations that had adopted the new policy was steadily growing.
In April 2019 the committee met with CBP HQ in person to discuss the ongoing issue impacting AILA members and their clients and to persuade CBP to rescind this policy. Subsequent to this meeting, the CBP Liaison Committee provided the agency with a legal memo outlining the legal and practical concerns brought forth by this change. While AILA believes this to be a change in policy, CBP relayed that in its interpretation, NAFTA’s implementing regulations require that only new Canadian L-1 petitions be adjudicated at CBP locations and that other “extensions” would be required to be filed with USCIS.
In response to engagement with AILA, the CBP did confirm that commuter/intermittent L-1s did not fall within the definition of extension and could be processed whether an initial period of stay or subsequent period. These petitions are filed for individuals that reside in Canada and commute to the United States to work in L-1 status for less than 50% of their work and thus are not subject to the normal time limitations in L status under 8 CFR §214.2(l)(12)(ii). CBP indicated that the difference for commuter/intermittent L-1’s which they consider neither initial cases or extensions would be reinforced to the field as they hold training on this new policy.
We advise Canadian L-1 status holders to reach out to their ZP attorney while they have ample time left on their current L-1 status to discuss options.