According to information provided by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), if you’re a Canadian seeking admission to the US in L-1 Intracompany Transferee status (including L-1A Multinational Managers and Executives and L-1B Specialized Knowledge Employees) under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the process of obtaining the USCIS I-797 L-1A Approval Notice may now be a little faster.  AILA/CBP Liaison Committee Practice Pointer, “Pre-Paid Mailers for Canadians under NAFTA”.

By way of background, pursuant to NAFTA, a citizen of Canada may apply for L-1 Intracompany Transferee status directly at an approved Port of Entry or Preclearance Station and concurrently seek admission to the US in L-1 status.  The L-1 Petition is filed with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Port of Entry such as the Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge or an airport preclearance station, among others.

NAFTA provides authority for CBP officers to adjudicate the L-1 petitions.  After a CBP officer favorably adjudicates an L-1 Intracompany Transferee petition, using regular US Mail or Priority Mail, the CBP officer sends the L-1 petition package and record of action taken, to a United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Service Center (either the Vermont Service Center or the California Service Center, as appropriate). 

USCIS then creates a Form I-797 Notice of Action to confirm the CBP decision to approve L-1 Intracompany Transferee status and the validity dates of the approval.  USCIS sends the I-797 Notice of Action (i.e., L-1 Approval Notice) to the L-1 Petitioner. 

As mentioned, CBP sends L-1 packages to USCIS using regular US mail rather than overnight or priority mail.  This, of course, can result in a delay between the time when a Canadian presents a petition for L-1 Intracompany Transferee status to CBP at a US port of entry and the time when the L-1 Intracompany Transferee Petitioner receives the approval notice from USCIS.  Henceforth, CBP will begin accepting prepaid Express Mail Flat Rate Envelopes with L-1 petitions from Canadian applicants.  When provided, CBP will use such mailers to send an L-1 petition package to USCIS.

This should result in the L-1 Petitioner receiving the USCIS I-797 L-1A Approval Notice a few days quicker than in the past.  The effect will hopefully benefit Canadian L-1 Intracompany Transferees in two main ways.  First, Canadian L-1s who travel frequently and may not always receive the I-797 for subsequent trips to the US.  This forces the CBP officer to have to manually verify the person’s nonimmigrant status when they seek admission to the US.  So, faster receipt of the L-1 Approval Notice should make the admission process more efficient. 

Next, some Canadian L-1s have non-Canadian dependents.  While a Canadian citizen is visa-exempt, non-Canadian dependents (spouse and minor unmarried children) are not and must obtain L-2 visa stamps before seeking admission to the US in L-2 status.  In order for the L-2 visa stamp to be issued, the US Department of State must receive information regarding the L-1 petition from USCIS.  With the quicker transfer of the L-1 petition package from CBP to USCIS, non-Canadian L-2 family members should be able to join the Canadian L-1 in the US more quickly.