Same Sex Marriage Immigration
June 26, 2013 marked a watershed moment for the LGBT community when the Supreme Court repealed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), opening up federal benefits to same-sex couples. Thanks to this recent development, same-sex couples today can access federal immigration benefits. However, there are still certain legal barriers and complications that may arise in the process. It is best to consult with a qualified attorney who has ample experience guiding same-sex couples through immigration law and its many complexities.
Immigration, being rife with bureaucracy, is dense with procedural and regulatory factors. Whether it’s applying for a visa or fighting against removal, any application process is going to be difficult for those who don’t possess a deep knowledge of immigration law, especially if the circumstances of their case include same-sex marriage. The experienced Texas immigration attorneys at Peek & Toland can streamline the application process for you and your loved one by helping you file paperwork and keeping you up to date with relevant regulations and procedures. If you wish to learn more about the services our firm provides, call (512) 474-4445.
What Immigration Benefits Can Same-Sex Couples Access?
After the United States v. Windsor decision was passed, giving same-sex couples equal access to all federal immigration benefits, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) almost immediately approved permanent resident status for same-sex couples. Other immigration benefits the Windsor decision opened up to same-sex couples include the following:
- Nonimmigrant visa sponsorship and green card;
- Provisional waivers for immigrants who entered without being inspected;
- I-601 waivers for individuals who committed fraud or triggered a 3/10 year bar;
- Defense against deportation based on extenuating circumstances;
- Relief from abuse by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); and
- Family-based petitions for immigration.
How Do Same-Sex Couples Qualify for Immigration Benefits?
Primarily, you and your spouse have to be married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage in order to access federal immigration benefits. When deciding whether a same-sex couple qualifies for benefits, USCIS and U.S. Embassies consider the location of the marriage itself rather than the spouses’ current place of residency. Same-sex couples should know that they will be subjected to the same, if not greater, scrutiny as straight couples during the application and interview process.
Besides the District of Columbia, 17 U.S. states currently recognize same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, Texas is not one of them.
Foreign countries that recognize same-sex marriage include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Iceland, Norway, South Africa, Spain, and many others.
If your foreign spouse lives in a country that has not legalized same-sex marriage, you may try applying for a fiancée petition then marry in one of the 17 states. However, it is not certain if every Embassy would issue a fiancée visa under these circumstances.
Helping Unite Same-Sex Couples
The Windsor decision has granted you and your spouse opportunities that weren’t available before. Yet, you are finding a new obstacle in immigration law itself. Let the compassionate and dedicated attorneys at Peek & Toland provide you with sound legal counsel so you can navigate the immigration process with ease and efficiency. Schedule a consultation with us online or over the phone.