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USCIS announces future possibility for same-sex spousal green cards

There are numerous provisions that allow U.S. citizens to petition for immigrant family members of the citizen to become a permanent resident in the country. Experienced family immigration lawyers in Florida, as across the country, understand that many U.S. citizens have spouses, parents, children and even siblings who may not be U.S. citizens.

On Monday, U.S. immigration officials announced that foreign nationals who have been legally married to a same-sex partner who is a U.S. citizen may apply for a green card as an immediate relative. The caveat in the announcement is that it still remains unclear whether the government will begin to issue green cards to same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens.

For a number of years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) automatically rejected petitions for permanent residency filed by same-sex spouses of American citizens. Last month, however, the Obama administration announced that it will no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. USCIS does not plan to immediately grant spousal green cards in same sex cases. Instead, USCIS spokesman Christopher S. Bentley says the agency will put applications for spousal green cards on hold, at least temporarily, until USCIS receives guidance from the Department of Homeland Security on how to proceed in cases involving same-sex partners.

USCIS says it has not implemented any changes in policy, but has decided to hold applications in abeyance pending further guidance from the Obama administration. USCIS says the agency will not automatically reject the petition due to the change in position the Obama administration has made regarding DOMA.

The decision to put applications for spousal green cards on hold in same-sex cases does not extend to deportation proceedings. However, the Washington Post reports that in light of the Obama administration change of position regarding DOMA, at least one New York immigration judge put a stop to deportation hearings in a case involving an Argentine woman married to a female U.S. citizen.

Source: Washington Post, "Federal agency halts green-card decisions for some gay immigrants," Sandhya Somashekhar 28 Mar 2011

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