Sponsorship of foreign gay spouses became easier for gay Americans. Gay Americans living in states where gay marriage is not recognized can now sponsor a foreign spouse for U.S. citizenship if the same-sex couple was married in a state where gay marriage is recognized, according to new policies set forth by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). With the Supreme Court’s recent overruling of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), USCIS issued a response on July 1, 2013 to answer questions about sponsorship of foreign gay spouses.
While DOMA was in effect, USCIS did not allow a gay American to sponsor a foreign spouse for citizenship. Now that DOMA has been overturned, USCIS can no longer deny the benefits of marriage to married gay couples that are offered to married heterosexual couples in most circumstances. However, the Supreme Court has still left it to the states to decide whether gay couples can be married. Only thirteen states currently allow gay marriage. This has raised the question for married gay couples as to whether they can file immigration petitions for spouses. USCIS has said that they can.
With some limited exceptions, USCIS will look to the state where the couple was married to decide if the couple is married, instead of looking to where the couple lives now. So for example, a gay American living in Ohio, where gay marriage is currently not recognized, can marry a foreigner in New York, where gay marriage is recognized. The couple can return to their home in Ohio and the American spouse can file a petition with USCIS to sponsor the foreign spouse. The foreign spouse is eligible for U.S. citizenship just as a heterosexual spouse would be.
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