Same-sex marriages is a difficult topic even in the United States, let alone other countries. Because not all countries allow same-sex marriages, you may be persecuted in your home country for being gay. But the United States made it a lot easier for gay immigrants to move to the U.S. as a spouse of an American citizen or a permanent resident (a green card holder). What is more, you can even apply for asylum as a gay refugee in the U.S. if you think that you will be tortured or imprisoned for being gay in your country.
So, basically, what opportunities are available for gay couples in the U.S.? Thanks to the fact that gay marriages are recognized throughout the country, you can immigrate to any U.S. state to join your spouse or to marry your fiance(e). Several years ago this was not possible. What is more, you can apply for a green card in a same-sex marriage sooner than usually.
Most green card applicants – including gay applicants – must reside in the U.S. for five years to become eligible for permanent residentship. But if you were married to a U.S. citizen, including a citizen of the same sex as you, then you are allowed to apply for a Permanent Resident Card in only three years.
Same-sex marriages in the United States
Your American spouse or fiance(e) should only file Petition for Alien Relative (forms I-130 and I-130A) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the petition is approved, you will get a visa and be allowed to legally enter the United States. And the fact that you have the same sex as your spouse or fiance(e) will not be a bar for receiving a visa.
Even if the previous petition in your favor was denied because of the DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – the petitions for gay immigrants are currently treated equally to heterosexual immigrants. (Since 1996, DOMA ordered only marriages of heterosexual couples to be allowed and recognized between states in the U.S.)
Practically speaking, it does not matter whether your gay marriage will happen in New York, Maryland, Ohio, or any other U.S. state. Thanks to the successful court decisions in cases Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) and United States v. Windsor (2013), gay marriages are recognized throughout the entire country.
In all, to become eligible for a green card in the United States, you should:
- Ask your fiance(e) to apply for K1 Fiancé visa; or
- Arrive to the U.S. and marry with your fiance(e) who will need to file Form I-130 after your marriage;
- Apply Form I-130A after marriage (note that your fiance(e) may apply Form I-130 on your behalf with Form I-130 if you cannot arrive to the U.S. for some reason);
- Get ready other documents to prove your relation to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
- Get ready to the interview with USCIS.
Basically, the process for receiving a visa as a gay immigrant is greatly simplified. And, as we have already mentioned, you may arrive the U.S. as a gay refugee. Once you are granted asylum, in a year you will be able to apply for a Permanent Resident Card.
To weigh your options, you also may want to contact an immigration lawyer or attorney. An immigration lawyer will help gather all necessary documentation and will make sure that your rights as a gay couple are protected and respected.