Same-Sex Marriage Green Cards & Immigration Benefits
You might be wondering whether the United States government recognizes same-sex marriage for green cards and other immigration benefits. Fortunately, it does. As with any other immigration case, you may benefit from talking to an Austin immigration attorney who can help you through the process, explain each step and answer your questions along the way.
Here’s what you need to know about same-sex marriage green cards and other immigration benefits available to same-sex couples.
Same-Sex Marriage Green Cards
Same-sex marriage is recognized as legal in every U.S. state, and the federal government recognizes these unions as legitimate when it comes to immigration. That means you can use all family-based immigration petitions to sponsor your same-sex partner as a U.S. immigrant. You, like all other couples, will be held to the same standards outlined in U.S. immigration law. That means you’ll have to show that you have a bona fide relationship and that your marriage is legally valid.
What is a Bona Fide Marriage Between Same-Sex Couples?
When you apply for an immigration benefit based on your marital relationship, you’ll have to show U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, that you’re in a bona fide marriage. A bona fide marriage is a genuine marriage – you’re married because you want to be together and intend to spend the rest of your lives together. (In contrast, a fraudulent marriage is one in which one party married the other simply to gain an immigration benefit.)
It's illegal to marry someone just to get an immigration benefit. If USCIS believes that your marriage is not genuine, it will not approve your same-sex marriage green card petition.
It’s up to you to prove that your marriage is valid when you apply for a green card for your spouse. USCIS will want documentation that shows you’re in a bona fide marriage.
How to Show USCIS That Your Marriage is Bona Fide
When your Austin immigration attorney submits your same-sex marriage green card petition to USCIS, they’ll include supporting documentation that shows USCIS that you’re in a bona fide marriage. (You’ll have to supply the documentation.) That documentation may include anything that any other married couple is likely to have, such as:
- Affidavits from people you know, such as your landlord, neighbors, family and friends, that attest that you live together
- Anniversary cards (or cards addressed to both of you for other occasions) from friends or family
- Any correspondence you have from friends, family or even businesses that show you share an address
- Bank statements that show you share money and that you have the same address
- Deeds to property that you both own together (and that shows both of your names)
- Driver’s licenses or other forms of identification that show the same home address for both of you
- Evidence that you have relationships with kids or step-kids, such as photos, school records and even ticket receipts from family vacations
- Health insurance of life insurance statements
- Kids’ birth certificates or adoption certificates that show both of you as parents
- Loan documents with both of your names on them
- Mortgage documents or a lease that shows both of your names
- Phone records that show you and your spouse communicate with each other regularly
- Photos from your life together, such as pictures from your wedding, honeymoon, vacations, holidays and other events
- Proof that you have met each other’s parents, such as photographs, emails and cards
- Receipts for gifts you’ve purchased for each other
- Screenshots from social media accounts that show you together on important and everyday occasions
- Tax returns that show both of your names
- Tickets to events you have both attended
- Travel itineraries from trips you’ve taken together
- Utility bills that show you have the same address
The more documentation you can include, the better off you’ll be. It’s always best to head off immigration officials’ questions by providing adequate proof that you and your spouse are married because you want to be – not because one of you wants an immigration benefit.
What if You Were Married to an Opposite-Sex Partner Before?
It’s okay if you or your spouse was married to an opposite-sex partner before your current marriage – many people were. However, you can expect that to come up during your green card interview; the USCIS official in your case will most likely ask about any prior marriages either of you had (same-sex or opposite-sex).
You’ll also have to prove that your previous marriages have been lawfully terminated, so you should have a copy of your divorce decree, an annulment document or a death certificate for your former spouse.
What if You Were Married in Another Country?
If you were married in a country that recognizes same-sex marriage as a valid relationship, you’re good to go. However, if you were married in a country that does not recognize same-sex marriage, you’ll likely encounter problems with U.S. immigration. That’s because a marriage must be legally valid in order for your relationship to qualify as a marriage in the United States. Unfortunately, some countries don’t recognize same-sex marriage – and that means USCIS officials’ hands are tied when it comes to allowing you to petition for a green card.
If you were married in another country that does not recognize same-sex marriage, you may need to re-marry your spouse in the United States. In that case, you’ll likely need a K-1 fiancé visa (see the later section “Fiancé Visas for Same-Sex Couples” to learn more). You may want to talk to an Austin immigration attorney to find out what steps you should take.
Unfortunately, K-1 fiancé visas are not available to the fiancés of lawful permanent residents. If you’re in a situation like this, you may want to speak with an attorney about your options.
Related: How to get a U.S. green card
Can Same-Sex Couples Get Other Immigration Benefits?
Same-sex couples are entitled to all the other immigration benefits that opposite-sex couples are entitled to. Because the United States recognizes same-sex marriage at the federal level, it would be discriminatory if you were denied an immigration benefit that you otherwise qualified for based solely upon the reason that you and your spouse are the same sex.
Fiancé Visas for Same-Sex Couples
You are entitled to apply for a fiancé visa for your foreign fiancé whether you’re a same-sex couple or a heterosexual couple. As long as the sponsor is a United States citizen, you can apply for a K-1 visa. These visas are not available to the fiancés of lawful permanent residents, however. If you’re a lawful permanent resident with a foreign fiancé, you may need to speak with an attorney about your options.