Green Card for LGBT Couples Through Marriage
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the “Defense of Marriage Act” (a law that stated marriage was between a man and a woman) was unconstitutional. The ruling meant that the Supreme Court of the United States recognized that LGBT individuals were free to love and marry who they wanted. Finally, LGBT individuals could enjoy full protection of their rights under the law.
Since that decision, LGBT couples in the United States share the same privileges and rights as any heterosexual couple. This includes, of course, the right of a LGBT US citizen or permanent resident to sponsor his/hers/their spouse for a green card based on marriage.
Green Card Process Through Marriage for LGBT Couples
The Green Card for LGBT Couples is the same as for heterosexual couples. The process starts with a US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse petitioning his/her/their spouse for an immigrant visa. The petitioner can also sponsor their stepchildren if the couple’s marriage occurred while the children were minors. The couple must be legally married.
Some foreign nationals who are married to a US citizen can apply to adjust status (apply for a green card) in the United States. This is usually the case for couples that are already married and living together in the US. In these cases, a US citizen spouse submits a Petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and concurrently submits an Adjustment of Status application to obtain the green card.
What if My Spouse is Living Abroad?
The green card through marriage process is different if the foreign national spouse is living outside the United States. First, the US citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioner submits the appropriate petition to the USCIS. This petition must include all the evidentiary requirements at the time of submission. For example, the petitioner must prove that he/she/they have a bona fide marriage to the beneficiary (foreign national).
After the petition is approved, the beneficiary (foreign national) applies for the immigrant visa through a “Consular Process.” Consular process starts once the petition is approved and the petition is sent to the National Visa Center to apply for the immigrant visa. This is the second step of the immigration process. At this stage, the petitioner and the beneficiary must submit additional documents to the government to meet all the legal requirements.
For example, the petitioner must submit an Affidavit of Support proving that he/she/they have the financial means to support the foreign national in the United States. If the petitioner cannot prove that he/she/they meet the minimal income required to sponsor the foreign national, a “joint sponsor” may be used. The joint sponsor must also submit evidence that he/she/they is eligible to sponsor the foreign national.
The beneficiary (foreign national) must prove that he/she/they is a person of good moral character and is not inadmissible to the United States. This typically involves evidence that the person does not have any criminal convictions, violations of laws, or diseases that prevents them from becoming a U.S. resident.
Should I Worry About Discrimination Against my LGBT Marriage?
USCIS is barred by law from discriminating against same sex couples. If you and your spouse have a marriage relationship that is private, you have nothing to worry about since all your documentation will be kept confidential. You may still be worried that you might not have a lot of evidence to prove that your marriage is real. This may be the case if you are a newlywed. Sometimes, newlywed couples do not have all the evidence that USCIS typically likes to see.
USCIS scrutinizes all marriage-based cases to ensure marriages are real. It is their job to make sure that people are not simply marrying to obtain U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) in the US. Luckily, USCIS is not allowed to scrutinize LGBT marriages any more closely than it scrutinizes heterosexual marriages. Therefore, if you do not have a lot of evidence, you should not panic. With a little creativity and the help of your lawyer, you can find a way to prove that your marriage is real.
Here are some tips on the types of evidence you may use to prove that your marriage is real:
- File your next tax return as “married.” You can also amend your previous tax returns to reflect your marital status.
- Ask your friends and family to write statements or affidavits on your and your spouse’s behalf.
- Get copies of any tickets or hotel receipts for any trips you have taken together.
- Find receipts for gifts you have purchased each other.
- Take photos of your dates and with friends/family on holidays and special occasions. Take pictures of your home and places you have visited together throughout different dates.
- Write statements about your relationship, how you met and fell in love, the wedding plans, etc.
- Keep gathering evidence of your relationship even after you submit your petition. This will help in case USCIS asks for more information.
The Immigration Interview for LGBT Couples in the U.S.
Immigration interviews can be stressful. You may not know what to expect when dealing with a government official. However, you can ease your nerves by being prepared.
You can start by reviewing all the forms of your case. You and your spouse should know critical dates and each other’s information like current employer and parents’ names. You can also review the documents that you submitted with your application package.
Your lawyer can also prepare you for the interview. Your immigration lawyer can review your forms and documents with you, and help you gather any additional evidence that you have accumulated since you submitted your application package. Immigration lawyers can also represent LGBT couples during the immigration interview to ensure that it goes smoothly.
At the interview, the Immigration Officer is free to ask you any questions about you, your spouse, and the relationship. Do not be alarmed by this. You should answer honestly and truthfully. Take a deep breath and try to relax!
Are You Looking for the Best Legal Representation for your Case?
At Terra Immigration Partners, our lawyers have helped dozens of LGBT couples achieve the American Dream. We are honored to provide the best legal guidance to our LGBT clients throughout the world. Call us today and schedule your consultation with our immigration attorneys. We speak English, Spanish and Portuguese.