How the Defense of Marriage Act Affects Your Immigration Case

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that was signed into law in May of 1996 by President Bill Clinton, legally defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Almost two decades later, in June of 2015, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, a definitive move that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

For immigrants who had previously been prohibited from entering the United States under marriage immigration applications or prevented from gaining gain citizenship through marriage to a same-sex partner, the end of DOMA marked many changes. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services immediately put into place provisions that would allow same-sex married couples the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex families.

Changes Not Universal

According to Lambda Legal, however, there are some things for immigrants to think about, especially because states still have the ability to discriminate against same-sex couples, despite the Supreme Court decision providing protection for same-sex married couples. As the laws have changed, confusion between the different state and federal laws had led to many same-sex immigrants being denied immigration benefits and other deserved rights despite federal laws.

Because of the end of DOMA, the following immigration changes are in place for same-sex couples or spouses:

  • U. S. citizens in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national can now file a Form I-130 to file a petition to sponsor a spouse for a family-based immigration visa. While other immigration laws may be a factor in the approval or denial of the petition, same-sex marriage will not play a role.
  • A U.S. citizen who is engaged to a foreign national of the same sex may file Form I-129F in order to file a petition for a fiancé or fiancée to enter the United States to marry, as long as other immigration requirements are met.
  • Couples who were married in a foreign country or state that recognizes same-sex marriages, but live in a state that does not can still fill an immigrant visa petition, as the paperwork regarding the marriage itself takes precedence over residence.

An Immigration Attorney Can Answer Complicated Questions

Becoming a United States citizen is a joyful, but complicated, process, and even when laws seem solid, such as the Supreme Court’s ruling of DOMA as unconstitutional, changes are happening regularly, and having an experienced immigration attorney at your side can help make the process less complex. Call Sanchez-Roig Law, P.A., today at 305-373-5385.