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

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

Islamic State Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are a notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to the Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs