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LGBTQ Immigration: Strategies for Unique Challenges for Same-Sex Couples

blog14.pngWith the passage of same-sex marriage in the United States, same-sex couples can now be married in all 50 states and USCIS recognizes the validity of those marriages. However, while same-sex relationships may be legally recognized, there still exists cultural bias and homophobia presenting unique challenges to same-sex couples. Specifically, same-sex couples may not hold themselves out to the public in the same way as their opposite-sex couple counterparts.

Here are some ways to ensure your same-sex marriage case is approved:

  1. If you are not out, be honest about your fears and reservations. Individuals choose not to be out-of-the-closet in their public life for a number of reasons including family, religion, and work-related reasons. It is important for both partners to recognize and talk through those issues before going to a marriage interview. Generally speaking, immigration officers are very understanding when it comes to such issues, but they may not assume you have valid reasons for not being out unless you tell them. Therefore, it is important for both partners to understand why they do not hold themselves out as a married couple and to show that you understand and support one another.

  2. Develop alternative forms of evidence. A couple can overcome a presumption of fraud by showing documentary evidence of their relationship such as joint finances, health insurance, utility bills, etc. For same-sex couples who may keep those things separate, it is important to demonstrate your relationship with one another and creating a narrative to go with it. Such evidence can include identical travel itineraries, receipts for gifts to one another, personal photos, and other documents that show that even if you are not out as a couple, you still live like one.

  3. You can choose your "family." One of the typical questions to come up in a marriage interview is "what's your relationship with your spouse's family?" For men and women who may not be out-of-the-closet or who may not have a relationship with their family because of their LGBTQ status, this can be a tough question. Instead, focus on the "family" you do have. Do you have a close group of friends who know about your relationship? Do you have siblings or long-time family friends who know your spouse? Sometimes these relationships, which may not be based on genetics, are the strongest support for same-sex individuals and couples. It may be a good idea to get letters of support from them as part of your support package.

While progress on LGBTQ rights in the U.S. has been made, there are still many unique challenges that bi-national same-sex couples experience. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney who understands these issues and can guide you through the process of obtaining a Green Card through marriage. A good attorney should be both a confidant and an advocate, so you should seek out an attorney who respects and understands your particular challenges.

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