United States Agency Will Not Deny Green Card Applications For Married Same-Sex Couples

On Friday, an article in The Daily Beast revealed that two United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) District Offices have both confirmed that that alien relative petitions and green card applications filed by married same-sex couples will not be denied.

Stop The Deportations explains the historical significance of these actions:

Ven "Instead, final decisions on these applications will be held in abeyance, i.e. put on hold.  This historic first seems to be directly linked to the Obama administration's change of position on DOMA announced on February 23.  The DOMA Project welcomes the new and exciting potential this presents for married gay and lesbian couples to obtain legal status and prevent deportations of the foreign partner. However, in this new and rapidly changing legal environment, we urge attorneys and binational couples to proceed with an abundance of caution."

"The significance of the 'abeyance' policy is two-fold: first, it means that petitions and applications that normally would have been denied because of DOMA, will now remain in "pending" status, and second, this status will give protection and benefits to the applicant for an indefinite period. The "abeyance" policy, it is presumed, will put these cases on hold while the ultimate fate of DOMA is determined by a decision of the Supreme Court or through repeal by Congress."

Last week, Andy reported a judge suspended deportation proceedings in the case of binational lesbian couple Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda and allowed the couple to apply for a green card.


  1. Michael says

    So what happens when you’re living in a state that bans same-sex marriages, but you have an overseas partner?

    If you’ve had to move to the US for a work assignment and you have a same-sex partner then it’s just an incredible mess of headache and heartache. The US needs a consistent *federal* recognition for partners; leaving it to the individual states doesn’t solve any of these issues.

  2. ryanb says

    This is the best news on gay equality since the repeal of DADT. As someone here legally but in a 14 year old bi-national relationship with my American partner (and the love of my life) a resolution to this issue can’t come quickly enough.

    My home country (Ireland) gives my American partner all the rights of civil partnership (including immigration rights) it’s time for America to honor its own commitments.

  3. InExile says

    As a person with a partner for 16 years, living in exile in his country for 5, this gives me a little hope that we may be able to return home. It would be so nice to live in our home, which sits empty.

  4. says

    “The US needs a consistent *federal* recognition for partners; leaving it to the individual states doesn’t solve any of these issues.”

    That’s absolutely right, Michael. We need federal civil marriage equality, period. But the state strategy–in addition to offering some protections to married couples–has been crucial in building political and legal momentum towards that federal goal. If same-sex marriage were not occurring in any state, then nothing would be happening at the federal level. News like this may not make the front page, but it’s good news–chipping away at the discrimination piece by piece, paving the way for bolder action. (While the bigots and Republicans work against us every step of the way.)

    This also shows why “marriage” is important. CUs and DPs, while valuable steps forward towards marriage, do not hold the same weight in the US that marriage does.

  5. Grant says

    Michael, you have the option of getting married, either in a state that has no residency requirement or abroad (e.g. Canada, Netherlands, etc.). Then, your new husband can file for a green card for you and this new policy will apply, from the look of things.

    But I think as many advocates are saying, just wait a little while to see what is going to happen and don’t wing it. The good news is that there is finally hope. I mean seriously, how hateful can you get deporting the legally married spouse of a gay person? Gay marriage is not going away and DOMA is plainly idiotic.

  6. Pete n SFO says

    great news… but gay couples are still held hostage by conservative courts & the obstructionist delays that could easily bring us to a new administration- one that may decide to start enforcing at any moment.

    We all know the laws are discriminatory & can’t change quickly enough. If only our elected officials understood the American legal values they claim to espouse.

  7. says

    Interesting side-step here. These offices are undercutting the effect of DOMA while remaining consistent with the administration’s duty to enforce it — they’ve just put in on hold pending the outcome of the civil trials.

    Nice move. At least someone in the government is using their heads.

  8. cbdcs4u says

    My Philippine partner of over 8 years now has been consistently denied both a student visa and a visitor’s visa, simply on the grounds that the US Immigration Department does not believe that he will return to the country of his origin after he has completed his studies or visited this country. This has forced me to endure the expense of having to maintain two domiciles and remain in exile with my partner for at least six months out of each year since we met. At 74, my declining health has made it increasingly difficult for me to endure the rigors of travel and as a result, I have not been able to be with my partner for over two years now. I sometimes wonder if I will ever see him again.

  9. says

    Yes this is good news, but his Partner still can’t legally work in the US, So he has to just sit unemployed, ineligible for any public assistance, and should he be caught working illegally the deportation would immediately kick back in and the marriage issue would not make any difference.

    So long as DOMA is still on the books, same sex bi-national couples will always be in a no-win situation.

  10. Matthew N says

    I wouldn’t be so sure about the “can’t legally work” part. Normally, while green card applications are pending, the applicants will receive EAC (employment authorization) and AP (ability to re-enter the country). So I would imagine these cases are the same. And they can be extended indefinitely until the green card application is approved or rejected.

  11. MSquare says

    MATTHEW N, DAVEUSERICUK, I’m with Matthew on this one, and it’s mentioned in the DailyBeast article, I think. When a married couple files for green card, while the process is running (for months usually till the interview), the foreigner gets social security number and work permit automatically at the beginning. Also, once the DOMA is decided, and the guys (gals) have been married for over 2 years, the foreigner is issued permanent green card, where as usually it would be just a temporary one.

  12. Michael says

    Usually foreign national transferred to the US are brought in on H or L visas, and green cards are applied for much later if the stay is going to be significant.

    Opposite sex spouses in such situations can work, same sex partners are not recognised under these visas and cannot enter even as a dependent of the worker.

  13. chris says

    I have been through four immigration attorneys trying to get permission for my Brazilian Partner to remain in the USA. All four attorneys tell me there is no hope other than send him to college for four years to get a bachelors degree. He already speaks five languages, how much smarter does he need to be? The cost of going to college as a foreign student is MORE than TWICE the price of a regular student. At the end of the college stay he may or may not be allowed to stay. He is not allowed to work, or have a social security number. He cannot open a business here and hire American workers. The house is up for sale, got an offer today, I think I smell Brazilian BBQ in my future.

  14. Brett says

    As someone who works in immigration, this makes me extremely happy to hear. I’ve handled several cases where partners have been forced to make-up statuses to be with their other partners, i.e. applying for a student visa with no real desire to actually study. In addition to green card cases, I hope this will eventually trickle down to applying to the dependents of nonimmigrants (L, H, TN, F-1 etc.) as well.

  15. says

    I’m sorry but this is all nonsense, wonderfully symbolic nonsense, but nonsense all the same.

    Same sex couple’s Green Card Petitions will not be approved as long as DOMA is still on the books. Also this does NOTHING for bi-national same sex couples like us, living overseas, or couples where the Non-American partner is not currently IN the U.S.

    As far as the Administration taking these “significant steps” goes… There is no logical reason that the steps taken this year (Declining to defend DOMA, putting pending deportations on hold ect.) couldn’t have been taken THREE YEARS AGO.

    That might have helped move current court challenges to DOMA through the system faster. Instead we had the Obama DOJ filing legal briefs defending DOMA by comparing same sex marriage to incest… How soon we forget huh?

    The legislation recently introduced to repeal DOMA is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. Why? Simple, the GOP and it’s rabidly wingnutty base are desperate to keep LGBT Americans as the one last minority it is safe for them to promote the hatred of, for fundraising purposes.

    When the Republican Party wants to deport children BORN HERE because their Parents were not citizens, do you honestly think these bigots are going to sit idly by and allow same sex couples even a small dose of equality?

    I am VERY glad that the couples who were facing forced separation have been given a reprieve, but unless DOMA is repealed it will be only a temporary one.

    I know this feels like it should be seen as some sort of positive step forward, but I just can’t get excited because Barack Obama (with one eye on his re-elect) has suddenly moved from active opposition to Marriage Equality, to passive indifference.

    This is window dressing ahead of the 2012 re-election kickoff. Which Huffington Post says is coming in April. Nothing more…

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