Friday, August 2, 2013

Department of State Issues Guidance for Consular Posts after Windsor Decision

The Department of State recently issued guidance to its consular posts (U.S. consulates and embassies) following the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  The following is a list of highlights from the guideline:
·         Visa applications filed by a same-sex spouse will be reviewed in the same manner as those filed by an opposite-sex spouse. 
·         A same-sex marriage is now valid for immigration purposes as long as the marriage is recognized in the “place of celebration.”  The same-sex marriage is valid even if the couple resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. 
·         The same-sex marriage is valid even if the applicant is applying in a country in which same-sex marriage is illegal.
·         Same-sex spouses and their children are now equally eligible for non-immigrant visa (NIV) derivative visas. 
·         A spouse of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident may apply for an immigrant visa (so long as the priority date is current) after USCIS approves the I-130.  The place of celebration will determine whether the marriage is legally valid, not the applicants’ place of domicile.
·         FiancĂ©(e) visas are now available for same-sex partners of U.S. Citizens.
·         Diversity Visa applicants (green-card lottery) may now include same-sex spouses in their initial entry or add a spouse acquired after the initial registration.  For DV 2013 and DV 2014, same-sex couples will not be automatically disqualified for not including their same-sex spouse on their original entry.

Interestingly, the Department of State guidance asks consular sections to identify what types of marriage are available for same-sex couples in-country and update the reciprocity tables, pursuant to 9 FAM 41.105.  This leaves open the question of whether civil unions or other forms of legally recognized same-sex partnerships will be recognized as “marriage” for immigration purposes.  We will keep you posted on this.

The Department of State guidance can be found here and more user-friendly FAQs here.