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There are more than 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Almost 300,000 of those immigrants self identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Many of these individuals now have a pathway to citizenship that was blocked to them prior to recent actions by President Obama.

Same-sex marriage to a United States citizen is now a possible pathway to citizenship for many gay undocumented immigrants. Waivers may be required for many of these individuals. Others may be protected by a provision of the law called 245i for those who have had a petition filed by a family member before May 1, 2001. Other protections may include those afforded to victims of crime or as an abused spouse. If you are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and want to know what your rights are, know that our office has pioneered gay civil rights for over a decade. This is your home. Calling the lawyers at The Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles, P.C. will be your first step in finally feeling safe as a legal member of the United States community at (800) 792-9889.

The Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles congratulates the LGBT community on a great civil rights victory. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that prevented same-sex couples from obtaining federal immigration benefits. This is great news for many same-sex couples that are now going to receive the same immigration benefits available to different-sex couples.

The United States v. Windsor decision allows members of same-sex couples to petition their spouses who are living in the U.S. or abroad, for permanent resident status. Following the decision, Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a statement confirming the Department of Homeland Security would begin implementing the Windsor ruling “so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.” In fact, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has already approved permanent resident status for same-sex couples, not wasting any time implementing the Supreme Court decision.

Same-sex couples that are married in states or countries where same-sex marriage is recognized have equal access to other immigration benefits as well, besides permanent resident status through marriage.

The scope of the Windsor decision extends to many other immigration benefits, including:

  1. Same-sex spouses of individuals pursuing employment-based immigration benefits, such as green card and nonimmigrant visa sponsorship;
  2. Eligibility for provisional waivers for individuals that entered without inspection;
  3. Eligibility for I-601 waivers for persons who committed fraud or triggered a 3/10 year bar;
  4. Deportation defenses based on hardship to a U.S. citizen or green card spouse, for example in cancellation of removal or other waiver cases;
  5. Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) relief if abused by a same-sex spouse; and,
  6. Petition for stepchildren of a same-sex marriage.

Not all same-sex marriages are recognized by immigration. If a couple is married in a state or country where same-sex marriage is recognized, then the marriage will be recognized for immigration purposes. Therefore, the marriage has to take place in one of the U.S. states that currently recognized same-sex marriage or one of the counties outside the U.S. that allows same-sex marriage. USCIS and U.S. Embassies focus on where the marriage took place and not where one or both spouses live. Applicants should be aware that same-sex couples need to meet all other immigration laws and face the same scrutiny as straight couples during the application and interview process, or even greater.

Currently, same-sex marriages are valid in the U.S. in the District of Columbia and the following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (effective August 1, 2013), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (effective August 1, 2013), Vermont, and Washington State. Abroad, same-sex marriages are legal in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand (effective August 19, 2013), Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay (effective August 1, 2013), as well as certain jurisdictions in Mexico (Mexico City and Quintana Roo). Always check the state/country to see if it recognizes same-sex marriages at the time you plan to get married. One possibility if a country does not recognize same-sex marriage is to apply for a fiancée petition and then marry in the U.S. in a state that recognized these marriages. However, it remains to be seen if Embassies worldwide would issue a fiancée visa in these cases.

The Windsor decision is a new Supreme Court decision, issued in June of this year, and therefore it is important to contact an immigration attorney who is familiar with all the new changes regarding same-sex immigration benefits. We encourage you to contact The Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles in order for us to assist you with any of the above benefits. With more than 15 years of experience in immigration law and familiarity with all the new benefits now available to same-sex couples, we will evaluate your case and file all the necessary paperwork with little hassle to you.