Freedom, Government & Politics, News

5 Immigration Benefits for Same-Sex Couples, Post-DOMA

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LIVE EVENT: Join a live Facebook Q&A event this Thursday, August 29th at 1PM PT!  We’re hosting a live chat with immigration attorney Elizabeth Blandon of Blandon Law who will be answering consumer questions on immigration benefits for same-sex couples after June’s Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. Post your questions directly to the event wall, then join us Thursday for answers: http://on.fb.me/16OtZ0Q.

Family unity is the cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy, and until very recently, the definition of “family” did not include families with same-sex couples at the center. Couples who had wed where gay marriage is recognized at the state level did not receive recognition, or benefits, at the federal level. That changed on June 25th.

Landmark Supreme Court Case Extends Federal Benefits to Gay Couples

doma4_bannerThe U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25th decision in United States v. Windsor struck down Article 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined a marriage as being between “one man and one woman.” With the definition of marriage now broadened to include same-sex couples, these couples are legally entitled to the many benefits that heterosexual couples have. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now must recognize legal same-sex unions.

This change in policy will affect binational same-sex couples–estimated between 28,000 and 36,000 here in the U.S.–as long as one partner is a citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. These couples do not enjoy special privileges as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, but can now follow the immigration procedures that have long been available to heterosexual couples, including:

1) Sponsor a spouse or fiancé

Married and engaged heterosexual couples have access to K visas that allow for quick entry into the country. Now, gay couples have access, too. Fiancés can apply for K-1 visas, intended to allow entry in order to get married, and spouses can apply for K-3 visas, which allow them to apply for permanent residency once they’re here. They may also work in the meantime.

2) Sponsor a spouse’s or fiancé’s children

Before Windsor, only a member of a heterosexual couple was considered a “stepparent” to their partner’s children. For gay couples, that relationship was unclear. Now they can sponsor their fiancé’s children for a K-2 visa or their spouse’s children for a K-4 visa. Children must be unmarried and under the age of 21 to be eligible.

3) Enjoy “following to join” benefits

“Following to join” helps families reunite in the U.S. if they were not able to travel together. Immediate family members (including spouse and children) of a permanent citizen are eligible.

4) Apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers

For people who came to the U.S. or reside here illegally, gaining legal status is a difficult process that can last years. As of March of this year, the USCIS began accepting applications for provisional waivers that allow eligible people to stay in the U.S. while their case is being handled. Provisional waivers are not necessarily easy to come by, as applicants need to show that their spouse (not the applicant) will suffer “extreme hardship” if they are out of the country too long.

5) Be protected from deportation in cases of domestic abuse

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), protects both men and women who are victims of domestic abuse, was reauthorized earlier this year. It protects individuals who are not citizens or LPRs and who might be unwilling to leave an abusive partner for fear of deportation. Abused partners of same-sex couples are now protected under the VAWA act.

LIVE EVENT: Join a live Facebook Q&A event this Thursday, August 29th at 1PM PT!  We’re hosting a live chat with immigration attorney Elizabeth Blandon of Blandon Law who will be answering consumer questions on immigration benefits for same-sex couples after June’s Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. Post your questions directly to the event wall, then join us Thursday for answers: http://on.fb.me/16OtZ0Q.

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