Same sex marriage has been a constant feature in the news for more than a decade. With all the information and newly-minted regulations swirling around, it can be difficult to tell which laws are current and which laws apply to your particular situation.
If you or your same-sex spouse are trying to immigrate to the United States, there are three big misconceptions you should know about.
It's Harder for Same-Sex Couples to Immigrate
Until June of 2013, this misconception was true. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed 1996, prohibited same sex partners of American citizens from immigrating to the United States under the same expedited process available to different sex partners. Same sex spouses had to wait in line with other would-be immigrants as though they had no connection to an American citizen.
However, the Supreme Court overturned section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in its 2013 ruling in US v. Windsor, thus prohibiting immigration policy from discriminating against gay couples. Since then, same sex partners have been able to follow the same rules as other married couples.
You Have to Be Married to Receive an Advantage
Many people assume that they must be legally married to their same-sex partners to receive any advantage in the immigration process. That's not quite true. People engaged to be married to a US citizen, whether of the same or different sex, can qualify to move to the United States on a "fiancé visa."
These visas allow engaged persons to live in the United States for up to six months. After that, you must either marry or leave the county. Obtaining a fiancé visa requires proof of engagement and filing Form I-129F. The process can be tricky, so consult with a same-sex immigration law attorney before applying.
If Your State Doesn't Recognize Gay Marriage, it Doesn't Count
Although the federal government recognizes same sex marriages, many states in the United States still don't. However, that has nothing to do with the immigration process. If you plan to live in Kentucky, your same sex marriage counts just as much for immigration purposes as it would if you move to Oregon, though the former does not recognize same sex unions. Notably, however, you and your spouse would not be able to gain tax and other benefits in the state of Kentucky while you lived there.
Laws concerning same sex marriage and gay rights are still changing every year, but immigration rules have been stable since mid-2013. If you or your spouse are hoping to immigrate to the United States, contact a qualified same sex immigration lawyer to see how you can speed up the process.