Spousal immigration available to Texas same-sex couples
The repeal of DOMA means that same-sex couples now qualify for marriage-based immigration.
October 23, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Spousal immigration available to Texas same-sex couples
Article provided by Petty & Stewart, PLLC
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When the Supreme Court of the United States decided earlier this year to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, many things changed for same-sex couples in the United States. The decision to require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages did much more than confer symbolic status to couples who were wedded in states that grant legal recognition to same-sex unions. It also gave these couples access to a wide swath of marriage-related federal benefits.
These benefits are available to all same-sex couples who get married in a state that allows same-sex marriage, even if the state in which the couple resides does not recognize such unions. This means that Texas same-sex couples can take advantage of these rights as long as they have been married in one of the 14 states that allow same-sex marriage.
USCIS not drawing distinction for same-sex couples
Perhaps one of the most important of these benefits is the ability to seek family immigration for the same-sex foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen. While this right has long been available to opposite sex-couples, same-sex couples were often left in a state of limbo. Many were faced with the terrible task of choosing between breaking up, moving overseas or having one spouse live in the United States as an undocumented immigrant.
After the Supreme Court's decision, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would treat immigration petitions involving same-sex couples exactly the same as those involving opposite-sex couples. The agency has said it does not know exactly how many same-sex foreign spouses have been granted legal permanent residency because its record-keeping system does not distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Immigration hurdles still present
While the ability to petition for spousal immigration is a major step forward for same-sex couples, it is important to recognize that the process will not be without its hurdles.
In marriage-based immigration cases, it is not uncommon for officials to ask questions about a couple's private life to ensure they have married for valid reasons, and not simply to get a visa. If the interview is not conclusive, officials may reach out to the couple's families to learn more about the strength of their relationship. This can be problematic if one or both spouses have not disclosed their relationship to their family for fear of disapproval or being ostracized. Officials may also look to see whether one spouse has covered the other on his or her employer-sponsored benefit plan. However, in conservative states like Texas, many people in same-sex relationships do not seek this coverage because they are not comfortable being out at work.
In addition to these privacy issues, in many cases the foreign partner in a same-sex relationship has lived in the United States without legal authorization for months or even years. Overcoming this undocumented residency can sometimes be difficult.
It is for these reasons that it is so important for Texas same-sex couples to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney will be able to review all of the factors relevant to the couple's situation in order to help them devise the best plan for moving forward.
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