United States citizens can now sponsor a foreign-born same-sex spouse to obtain permanent residence status (a green card). The law requires that the couple be legally wed legally in a state or country that allows it and have a bona fide marriage. The couple can now proceed on their immigration applications the same way other couples have in the past. The new law is aimed to treat same sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples in the immigration system.
On June 26th, the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v.Windsor, overturned a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and spouses as heterosexual. The Court gave same-sex married couples access to the full range of government and other benefits that have traditionally only been available to heterosexual spouse in the 5-4 decision. Same sex marriages are now eligible for benefits included under federal laws and regulations, including those related to: Social Security, housing, taxes, criminal sanctions, copyright, and veterans’ benefits.
Last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) gives same-sex married couples the same federal rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples. However, for some federal benefits and programs, such as taxes and Social Security, the ruling generally applies only to same-sex couples living in states where they can legally marry.
But other programs, such as immigration, may not depend on the couple’s state of residency.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano indicated that while working with the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court Decision will be implemented and that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly with respect to the immigration system.
Currently, same-sex marriage is only permitted in 13 states (so called “recognition states”) and the District of Columbia. Those states include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Many same sex couples who don’t live in recognition states go to recognition states to get married, and then go back home. Further, if the couple is married abroad, as long as the marriage was legally recognized in that country, they can now apply for immigration benefits. Hence the law now applies to bi-national same-sex couples.
If you are considering filing an application for a greencard based upon this new law, or your case has been denied, contact us today.