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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs