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Client Alert – US Customs & Border Protection Rejecting L-1 Renewals

Until quite recently, Canadian citizens were able to submit renewal L-1 nonimmigrant visa petitions at US ports-of-entry. However, many Canadian citizens seeking renewals of their L-1 nonimmigrant visa petitions have recently been rejected by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Created in 1970 by the US Government to facilitate the movement of executives, managers, and specialized knowledge personnel employed by global business organizations, the L-1 nonimmigrant visa category is currently the most widely utilized work-authorized US nonimmigrant visa category.

To qualify for the L-1 nonimmigrant visa category, the Beneficiary must have been, at the time the petition is submitted to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or CBP, employed for a minimum of one year in the last three years by a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliated company of the US petitioning employer. This qualifying employment must be in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity.

Since entering the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian citizens have been able to appear at Canadian border US ports of entry or Canadian pre-clearance airports to apply for a renewal of their L-1 NIV status without first obtaining an approval from USCIS.

While CBP has not officially confirmed a change in policy or practice, Canadian citizens applying for L-1 readmission at various Canadian ports of entry are not being allowed to renew their L-1s under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Instead, they are being told that they must first obtain approval of their L-1 petition by USCIS in the US.

Employers and Canadian L-1 applicants should be aware of the situation and should work closely with immigration counsel to determine the most appropriate strategy for L-1 renewal.

Our firm will continue to monitor developments on this issue and report on updates as they occur.