USCIS Explains Changes Made After Supreme Court's DOMA Ruling

Once the Supreme Court overturned a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional in June 2013, this opened the doors for same-sex married couples to apply for and obtain federal benefits that were previously reserved only for opposite-sex spouses. These benefits included family-based immigration benefits. On July 1, 2013, Janet Napolitano (the Secretary of the Homeland Security) announced that due to the Supreme Court ruling, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had been ordered to start reviewing immigration visa petitions for same-sex spouses in the same way it would review visa petitions for heterosexual spouses, according to USCIS.

In order to help the public better understand the changes that have occurred, USCIS provided helpful information on its website about its new visa review policies and about how same-sex married couples can expect to be affected. Here's an overview of some of the key points that were explained by the federal agency:

Visas for Spouses: U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can now sponsor their foreign-national, same-sex spouses through family-based immigration visas. This is done by filing a Form I-130, along with other relevant application materials. The same-sex nature of the applicants' marriage will no longer serve as a basis for denial.

Visas for Fiancées: U.S. citizens can petition for visas to allow their foreign-national, same-sex fiancées to come to the United States. This is done by filing a Form I-129F.

State of Residence Doesn't Matter: Even when gay or lesbian spouses live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, they can still petition for family-based immigration visas as long as they were married in a state in the U.S. or a foreign country that legally recognizes these types of marriages.

Reconsideration for Previously Denied Petitions: Spouses whose immigration-related petitions were previously denied solely because they did not qualify under the overturned section of DOMA now have the chance to have the decisions reconsidered by USCIS. In addition to providing another review of the petition, the federal agency will also reopen any other associated applications. Previously denied petitioners are advised to notify the agency of any petitions that need to be reconsidered. For petitions that were denied before February 23, 2011, a request for reconsideration will need to be made by March 31, 2014.

These are just some of the various facts that same-sex married couples should be aware of concerning their new eligibility for marriage and fiancée visas. In order to obtain more in-depth information about your gay marriage immigration matter, do not hesitate to consult with our experienced New Jersey immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett, Esq., P.C. Contact our firm today so that we can help you take advantage of your rights!