Apr 10 2019

Canadian Citizens Face Challenges When Renewing L-1 Status at the U.S. Border

United States

At a glance

  • A number of ports of entry and pre-flight clearance stations are refusing to process applications from Canadian citizens seeking to renew or extend L-1 status, taking the position that these cases must first be approved by USCIS.
  • Canadian citizens planning to apply for renewal of L status should consult their immigration counsel to discuss options.

The issue

In recent weeks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have refused L-1 renewal applications at several ports of entry on the U.S.-Canada border, as well as pre-flight inspection stations at international airports in Canada. CBP is taking the position that Canadian L-1s are not permitted to seek renewal or extension of their status at ports of entry, but must instead have an extension of stay petition approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), despite longstanding regulations and practice permitting Canadian citizens to apply for L-1 classification at Canadian ports of entry.

Pre-clearance inspection stations at Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver international airports, as well as the port of entry at Blaine, Washington, have confirmed that they will not accept L-1 renewal applications. In addition, western land ports of entry and other preclearance stations have reportedly refused L-1 renewal applications, but have not confirmed a policy of doing so.  The new policy includes L-1 applications submitted pursuant to a company's approved L-1 Blanket petition.

The trend does not affect applications for initial L status made by Canadian citizens; these applications continue to be processed as normal.

What employers and foreign nationals should do now

Canadian citizens who will need to renew their L status should contact their designated Fragomen professional to discuss their options.

Those planning to renew their status at a port of entry or pre-clearance station should attempt to do so while they still have time remaining on their current L. If the port of entry refuses to adjudicate the application, the applicant may still be readmitted on the current L and be sponsored for a USCIS extension by the U.S. employer.

Canadian citizens with an imminent L expiration should carefully consider whether an application at the border is prudent. If the application is refused, the foreign national could face a long wait to reenter the United States while USCIS approval is sought.

What’s next for border L adjudications

Despite the increase in application refusals over the last several weeks, CBP has not announced any official change in border L adjudication policy. NAFTA and its implementing regulations permit Canadian citizens to appear at border ports of entry and pre-flight clearance stations to apply for renewal of their L status. The new CBP practice is in conflict with these rules.

Fragomen and other business immigration stakeholders are working to advocate for a return to longstanding border L renewal procedures.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.