U.S. CIS Clarifies New Benefits to Same-Sex Couples Post-DOMA

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Section 3, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.” More recently, USCIS updated their frequently asked questions (FAQ) outlining how those changes will take effect.

USCIS clarified that “the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes.” As a result, a petitioner does not have to reside in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriage to obtain the benefit. Also, a same-sex engagement may now allow a foreign fiancé to enter the U.S. after filing a Form I-129F if all other requirements are met.

USCIS will reopen previous applications and petitions if it can be shown that they were denied solely on the basis of DOMA Section 3. There is no fee to request reconsideration. Send requests to USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov. Denials of I-130 petitions occurring prior to February 23, 2011 must be pointed out to USCIS by March 31, 2014.

These new policies are effective immediately; there is no need to wait for new regulations or guidance.

Categories: Immigration Blog