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A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer looks toward a car coming toward him Saturday, May 30, 2009, at the border crossing between the U.S. and Canada, in Blaine, Wash. (Elaine Thompson)
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer looks toward a car coming toward him Saturday, May 30, 2009, at the border crossing between the U.S. and Canada, in Blaine, Wash. (Elaine Thompson)

Start: Tony Wilson

Travelling on business? Don't say it's tourism Add to ...

Here’s another way of working in the United States under NAFTA: An employee of a Canadian business entering the United States to provide services as an executive, manager or employee with specialized knowledge to a parent, branch, affiliate, sister or subsidiary of the Canadian business in the United States may qualify as an individual for work authorization as an intra-company transferee, which is called “L-1” status.

“L-1A” status is for executives and managers and “L-1B” status is for specialized knowledge professionals.

The requirement for this classification is that the individual seeking L-1 status must have been an employee in Canada for a minimum of one continuous year for the previous three years in a similar position prior to the transfer. Both the Canadian and U.S. business entities must actively be doing business. More extensive provisions apply for individuals seeking admission on behalf of their employer to enter the United States to open a new office there.

If approved, L-1A status may be issued for up to three years initially, up to a maximum of seven years. L-1B status may be issued for up to three years as well, up to a maximum of five years. L-1 status for new office scenarios will only be issued initially for a maximum of one year.

Exceptions to the maximum stay provisions apply to Canadians who enter the United States intermittently and who do not spend more than six months in a year in the United States in L-1 status. Common reasons for refusals of L-1 status are: failure to adequately demonstrate that both entities are actively involved in business, failure to demonstrate a managerial or specialized knowledge function of the employee, or attempting to submit documents for adjudication when an individual does not plan to start work on the date the application is submitted at the port of entry.

Although L-1 status is available to all foreign nationals, Canadian citizens are permitted to submit L-1 petitions at certain border crossings or at U.S. preclearance at Canadian airports. Submitting through the service centre in the United States is also an option.

While it may seem like an overwhelming task to assess and apply for valid work authorization to the United States, it will be worth the steps and costs involved in the long run to ensure you do not violate immigration laws by illegally working south of the border. Being found to have worked in the United States unlawfully can result in inadmissibility to enter for years to come and possibly forever.

But remember, the above discussion provides general information and it is not intended to be a complete overview of the applicable U.S. immigration laws, and often you’ll need to consult with a lawyer experienced in U.S./Canada immigration matters.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Vancouver franchise lawyer Tony Wilson's book Manage Your Online Reputation was published by Self Counsel Press in December, 2010.

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