First Petitions for Same-Sex Immigration Benefits Already Being Granted

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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano wasted no time in stating that the government will immediately begin the process of reviewing applications for green cards (for permanent resident status) filed by same-sex spouses from other countries.

Prior to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of U.S. v. Windsor, U.S. citizens married to a same-sex partner from another country could not legally petition for immigration benefits for their spouses, including green cards.

Napolitano issued a press release stating that the Defense of Marriage Act (known as “DOMA”) “has denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits.” She added that “working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decisions so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”

Just yesterday, the Miami Herald reported that a same-sex couple living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida became the first gay couple in the nation to have their application for immigration benefits approved after the recent Supreme Court ruling. They were notified on Friday afternoon that their green card petition had been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Apparently, this is just the first in a wave of same-sex petitions expected to be approved in weeks and months to come. In the first three days after Section 3 of DOMA was struck down (the section prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of federal benefits) the non-profit Immigration Equality group received 1,276 inquiries to its legal hotline about federal immigration benefits for same-sex couples.

Thanks to the advocacy of many lawyers and many non-profit groups, it is now possible for binational same-sex couples to live in the U.S. without fear of deportation, provided that the proper fiancé or spousal visas are procured legally, and provided that the couple was or plans to be legally married in a state that recognizes their marriage.