Immigration LawIt is possible to become a United States citizen by marrying someone who is already a legal resident? Before July 2013, this process was only available for married couples involving a man and a woman. However, when the Supreme Court decided that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, everything changed. President Obama swiftly directed all federal departments to comply with the Supreme Court decision. From then on, the U.S. Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS) has reviewed and accepted immigration visa petitions on behalf of same sex spouses just as they have for opposite-sex spouses in the past.

If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident who is currently in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national, your fiancé or fiancée will be able to apply to become a citizen once you have been married and living together for three years as long as all other requirements are met. The fact that you are in a same sex marriage will not affect your eligibility.

Adjustment of status through same sex marriage is, however, still rather complicated. There are only 19 states that currently allow same sex marriage and there are 31 states that outright ban same-sex marriage. Under the law, an applicant for adjustment of immigration status must establish validity of his or her marriage. Therefore, the marriage must be valid under the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage took place. If you were married in Los Angeles, where same sex marriage is legal, you can file for a green card.

This recent change in the law has opened doors for same sex spouses who have been waiting to become legal permanent residents and later citizens. If you previously submitted an application and were denied because of DOMA, your case can be reopened. The USCIS will reconsider prior decisions based on DOMA and reopen eligible I-130 petitions.

U.S. citizens and green card holders now have the right to petition for immigration benefits of same-sex spouses. However, the application process is still complicated and often confusing. Please seek the counsel of an experienced Los Angeles immigration lawyer who has successfully handled similar cases.