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L-1 border crossing for Canadians: Q&A

By September 9, 2021Immigration, L-1 Visa
Business Executives

Canadian nationals have one great advantage when applying for an L-1 visa: they don’t have to first file a petition with USCIS and get the L-1 visa at a Consulate (which is a great advantage especially nowadays given substantial backlogs at US Consulates worldwide), but they can apply for an L-1 visa at the border (similarly as for the TN visas ).

What is an L-1 visa?

The L-1 visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests or a manager/executive from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.  This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee or manager/executive to the United States to set one up.

Can Canadians apply for an L-1 visa at the border?

Yes, if they are applying for an initial L-1 visa. Canadian citizens do not have to first file a petition with USCIS and then apply for a TN visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad and can simply apply for an L-1 visa at a port of entry.

Where can I apply for an L-1 at the border?

You can either apply at a land border port of entry or at designated pre-clearance locations at certain airports in Canada. Please note that it may take some extra time to adjudicate the L petition, so especially if you will be applying at a pre-clearance location, you should arrive couple hours before your flight.

What documents will I need to bring to the border?

  • Your Canadian passport as an evidence of your Canadian nationality
  • Proof of qualifying relationship between the U.S. and the Canadian company
  • Proof the you worked for the Canadian company for at least 1 continuous year in the past 3 years in a managerial/executive/specialized skills knowledge capacity
  • Proof that you are coming to the U.S. to work in an executive/managerial/specialized knowledge capacity (you should bring a letter from your U.S. employer explaining what will be your duties, salary, and the length of the employment in the U.S.)
  • Proof that both the Canadian and U.S. entity are doing business

Do I still need to fill out and bring the USCIS forms?

Yes, even if you will be applying for an L-1 visa at the border, you will still need to bring the I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker USCIS form. More specifically, the petitioner (the U.S. entity) will need to fill out this form and send you 2 original signed copies of Form I-129.

Can I apply at the border if I am applying for a new office L-1 visa?

Yes, you can apply for an L-1 visa at the border even if you are applying for a new office L-1 visa. You will need to meet the specific requirements for a new office L-1 visa petition and submit some additional documents such for example a Business Plan, and you will need to get an office space before you apply for the L-1 visa.

What fee do I have to pay?

You will need to pay:

  • $500 anti-fraud fee
  • $460 I-129 filing fee, and
  • $6 for your paper I-94 in case your are crossing via the land border.

What will serve as an evidence of my L-1 status?

You will receive an L-1 stamp in your passport and in case your are crossing the border via land, you will also receive a paper I-94 form. The port of entry will also forward the I-129 form to USCIS. The USCIS Service Center tat has jurisdiction over your employment will then send you the I-797 Approval Notice .

For how long is my status valid?

If you got the L-1 status for a new office, then it will be valid for 1 year. If you got the regular L-1, then it will be valid for 3 years.

Can I renew my L-1 visa at the border?

No, in 2019, CBP started to refuse adjudicating L-1 renewals at the border. This means that to renew your L-1 visa, you would need to submit a renewal petition with USCIS.

Please see our blog post on whether you can bring your family to the U.S. on an L-1 here.

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