News / USA

US to Reconsider Gay Couples' Immigration Petitions

Julian Marsh, left, with his husband Tray Popov, a Bulgarian graduate student, are the first gay couple in the States to have their application for immigration benefits approved after landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Julian Marsh, left, with his husband Tray Popov, a Bulgarian graduate student, are the first gay couple in the States to have their application for immigration benefits approved after landmark Supreme Court ruling.
A new decision by the Obama administration could make it easier for love to reach beyond borders. U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement issued new guidelines Friday ordering a system-wide review of visa petitions denied solely on the basis of sexual preference.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Services said it will reopen relevant petitions or applications dating back to February 23, 2011, when President Barack Obama said it was unconstitutional for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to bar same-sex couples from receiving federal, tax and retirement benefits.

The new guidelines expand a directive the Department of Homeland Security issued last month after the Supreme Court struck down part of DOMA. In the directive, DHS Chief Janet Napolitano announced same-sex couples can secure legal permanent residency, or green cards, for their foreign spouses the same way heterosexual couples can.

The legal advocacy group Immigration Equality says as many as 36,000 couples could be affected by the decision. The New York-based group welcomed the new development on Friday.

“We’re very pleased with the guidance that came out today,” said Victoria Neilson, the group’s legal director. “It’s great to see they’re going to be reopening these cases on their own where they can and they’ve given an email address where couples can write to as well.”

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said last month his department has kept a record of each petition it has denied on the basis of same-sex marriage since February 2011, and that it was prepared to act.

Now, it is. USCIS said it would make a “concerted effort” to identify and alert the affected couples and it encouraged applicants to contact immigration services using the email address, USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov, if they believe their petition was denied because of their sexual preference.

USCIS said it also would reconsider petitions denied before February 23, 2011, if applicants notify the department by March 31, 2014.

Immigration officials have not said how many applications they have kept track of, or what nationalities are on the list. Neilson said since last month, her group has received 2,300 inquiries from bi-national couples about the Supreme Court decision on DOMA. Of those, she said about 11 percent of the foreign spouses are from Mexico; five percent each come from Canada and Brazil; four percent are from the Philippines and three percent come from the United Kingdom.

For those couples dealing with USCIS, she said, it’s all “good news.” Facing greater difficulty, Neilson said, are bi-national couples applying for work visas through U.S. State Department consulates around the world.

“We’ve been hearing from people abroad and going to consulates that they’ve been told the consulate can’t do anything until they get guidance from the State Department,” she said. “Even for simple applications like employment skilled worker visa, U.S. citizens can’t bring their spouse until they get guidance from State.”

The State Department did not respond to a request for information on when it would issue guidelines to its foreign branches on how to process same-sex couple visa requests.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid