At one time LGBTQ+ status was enough to get an immigration application denied. We’ve come a long way since then. Same-sex marriage is now recognized as legal in the United States, which means it is possible to sponsor a same-sex spouse for a green card exactly the same way a straight spouse could. Nevertheless, same-sex couples face unique challenges when they attempt to navigate the immigration system.
Giselle M. Rodriguez is a Boston immigration lawyer in Jamaica Plain who helps clients with the full range of immigration challenges, including the process for married LGBTQ+ couples. She is bilingual (English & Spanish). Contact Giselle today to discuss your case, or read on to learn more.
The same-sex marriage must be legal in the country and jurisdiction where it took place
A lack of legal standing in the immigrating spouse’s country of origin is a common problem for couples who may have gotten married outside of the United States. If the marriage was not legal in that location then you may need to get married a second time here in the US before filing Form I-130. If you don’t want to have a second ceremony, a fast courthouse wedding will suffice.
It may be difficult to prove you have a “bona fide relationship”
Though all couples can find it challenging to prove their marriage is legitimate, same-sex couples face some special issues. If your sexual orientation has prevented contact with in-laws, for example, then you will end up missing some vital pieces of evidence (photos, letters, emails, texts) that help you to prove the veracity of the relationship. It may also be impossible for your spouse to answer certain questions about the estranged family members that USCIS will ask.
Honesty helps. “I’ve never met my in-laws due to their religious or political beliefs,” for example, is usually an acceptable answer. The one thing you don’t want to do is panic and attempt to cover up the fact that your relationship does not exist legally.
Lack of joint documents
“Joint” documents may include joint bank accounts, joint tax returns, joint leases, joint mortgages, and the paper trail from putting your spouse on your health insurance. Those are all vital pieces of evidence that USCIS wants to see, partly because they show that the relationship has functioned in at least some of the same ways most straight, traditional marriages have.
Unfortunately, many same-sex couples have hesitated to file joint documentation, often because of concerns about discrimination. In some cases you can provide other documents that will serve the same purpose.
Employment discrimination is now illegal in all 50 states, and housing discrimination is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, which covers most housing. The only exceptions are single-family homes owned by private owners or multi-family homes with no more than four units. There are also some exceptions for housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs limiting housing to members.
Prior heterosexual marriages can complicate the process
“Bi-erasure” continues to threaten couples. So does the USCIS’s skepticism of the idea that a gay person could be pressured into a heterosexual marriage by traditionalist family members or for any number of other reasons. You must be ready to explain any previous marriages. You’ll be in an especially difficult situation if you applied for immigration benefits on the basis of past heterosexual marriages.
I can help with your LGBTQ+ spouses with the US immigration process
There are steps you can take prior to filing Form I-130 that can make the process go far more smoothly for you and your spouse. There are also ways you can prepare for your immigration interview that can make the process go far more smoothly for both of you. Some steps you can take while filing the initial application.
Working with me, Boston immigration attorney Giselle M. Rodriguez, is one way to ensure that you face as few bumps and hurdles while attempting to bring your spouse to the United States as possible. You can contact my office today.