How to Get a Same-Sex Marriage Green Card – Sponsoring Your Partner
The United States is one of 31 countries in the world that legally recognizes same-sex couples, which means that all legal processes apply to same-sex and heterosexual marriages equally. When it comes to immigration, same-sex couples can use the same channel as heterosexual couples to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence. That process starts with the I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative. Once the petition is approved, then spouse may adjust their status to Permanent Residence. Spouses residing abroad may obtain a visa for entry through the National Visa Center to join the petitioning spouse in America.
Navigating this process can be complex, and there are some obstacles that some same-sex couples may face while applying. Check out this overview of the process and helpful pointers on how to submit the strongest petition for residency.
Are We Eligible?
Just like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples must be legally married – either in the United States or another country that recognizes same-sex marriages. The petitioning spouse must be a citizen or legal resident of the United States married to the beneficiary, who is either legally residing in the United States on an immigrant visa or residing abroad.
Unfortunately, civil unions or unions in countries that do not recognize same-sex marriages are not considered marriages for the purpose of a marriage visa. An alternative option for couples in these situations is the K-1 visa, also called the fiancé visa. A fiancé visa allows a couple legally marries within 90 days of approval of the visa to apply for an Adjustment of Status afterwards. Consult with a qualified attorney about your situation to determine what visa is the most appropriate for your situation.
What Documentation Do We Need?
A key step in the process is establishing your identity and marriage through documentation. The essential documents are a birth certificate, photographs, proof of marriage, a medical examination of the applicant, recent tax returns, a passport, and documentation of a bona fide marriage.
Documentation of a bona fide marriage shows that the application has been submitted in good faith based on a real marriage. It includes but is not limited to joint leases, joint bank accounts, joint insurance policies, utility bills under both names, joint tax filings, joint credit card statements, copies of correspondence through text message or letter, mail addressed to both names, photos of the couple, and affidavits from people who can attest to your relationship.
For same-sex couples, it may be challenging to gather documentation to prove a bona fide marriage. For couples who cannot live together out of fear of discrimination, gathering proof is not an easy task because having the same address is a requirement for many of the documents. Additionally, some couples may not have a relationship with disapproving relatives, making proof of the relationship appear weaker. If you are in this situation, there are a variety of ways to
prove that you are in a bona fide marriage. Discuss your application with an immigration lawyer to identify what documents you should include.
What About the Final Interview?
At the final step of the process, the interview with the USCIS officer, some couples express concern that they will face discrimination. Immigration officers undergo thorough training to ensure that they treat each applicant fairly, and the officers are aware of the challenges that same-sex couples face. The best policy is to be honest and transparent during your interview to ensure that the officer understands your situation fully.