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What you need to know about same-sex marriage and immigration

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) affords same-sex couples the same rights granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as opposite-sex couples. So, the same privileges and challenges apply to the immigration process, from applications to fees to interviews.

If your partner is not a citizen, a marriage-based visa is a one of the most common ways to bring them to the U.S.

Engagement visa

  • Nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé (K-1). With this visa, you and your partner may marry in the U.S. You can sponsor your fiancé(e)’s nonimmigrant visa by filing Form I-129F with the USCIS. There are a number of requirements you must meet—the most important being that you must marry within 90 days of your fiancé entering the U.S.

Marriage visas

  • Immigrant visa for a spouse (IR1 or CR1). You can sponsor your spouse for an immigrant visa by filing Form I-130 with the USCIS. You’ll have to prove beyond a doubt that your marriage is legal, which will be especially important if you were married in a foreign country. The USCIS will likely require a marriage certificate from a government entity of that country or other evidence, such as joint bank accounts, photos of the wedding and anything else you have to support the authenticity of your relationship.
  • Nonimmigrant visa for a spouse (K-3). If you and your spouse got married in another country, you can file for a K-3 nonimmigrant visa, which must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. After your spouse has this visa, they can travel to the U.S.

What if my state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage? Will it matter for immigration?

Your state’s position on same-sex marriage will not affect the decision of the USCIS regarding your visa application. What matters is that your marriage was legal where it was officiated, making you eligible for the benefits granted by the office.

Remember that immigration is a complex matter, and missteps are hard to overcome. Consider speaking to an experienced immigration attorney for advice along your journey.

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