Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling Provides New Immigration Opportunities for Same-Sex Spouses


The United States Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional has created an opportunity for certain foreign nationals in same-sex marriages to petition for immigration benefits previously barred by the DOMA.  These may include, depending on the immigration situation of the couple concerned, and the form and jurisdiction of the union:

  • Permanent resident visas (colloquially known as “green cards”) for foreign nationals married to United States citizens;
  • Nonimmigrant visas for those married to holders of nonimmigrant work or student visas, such as H-1Bs, L-1s, J-1s, and F-1s; and
  • K-1 visas for those engaged to be married to U.S. citizens, permitting the visa applicants to come to the United States for the purposes of getting married and seeking to become permanent residents based on the marriage. 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service approved the first permanent residency petition based on the beneficiary’s same-sex marriages to a United States citizen on July 1, 2013, and further changes in the agency’s procedures for adjudicating petitions based on same-sex marriages are likely to follow in the coming weeks.

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