By: Grant Godfrey
On July 2, 2013, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“CIS”), the government agency with primary responsibility over granting immigration benefits, issued an Alert containing a statement from the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and a Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) regarding implementation of the Supreme Court Decision that overturned a critical section of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”).
In her statement, Secretary Napolitano specifies that effective immediately, CIS has been directed to review immigrant visa petitions (commonly referred to as a petition for a “Green Card”) filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as it would for a petition filed by a heterosexual spouse. The FAQ reiterates Secretary Napolitano’s statement, and also clarifies that as a general matter CIS will look at the law of the place where the marriage was performed to determine if it is valid, not the spouse’s state of residence. This means that even if a spouse lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, in most cases the marriage will still be considered valid as long as it was conducted in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage.
Green Card sponsorship is only one of several benefits that heterosexual spouses are allowed (see Impact of the Supreme Court Striking Down the Defense of Marriage Act on Immigration). We will continue to monitor this situation, and expect that in the coming weeks more immigration benefits will be extended to same-sex couples.