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USCIS quickly reverses itself in same sex spousal visa cases

Immigration authorities say they have changed course again on how it will handle applications for green cards in cases involving same sex couples. Last week U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) officials announced that applications from foreign nationals married to a U.S. citizen of the same sex would be put on hold in light of the Obama administration's announcement that it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Shortly thereafter, USCIS spokesman Chris Bently said that government lawyers concluded DOMA must continue to be followed.

Generally, citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. can petition for various types of family visas under U.S. immigration law. Opposite sex foreign spouses of U.S. citizens ordinarily can qualify for a green card as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen. DOMA defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The law prohibits the federal government from recognizing marriages between same sex couples.

Attorneys in the Department of Homeland Security reportedly conducted a review of the law. The attorneys concluded that despite the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA, the law remains in effect and must be followed at the federal level.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced in February that the government would no longer defend DOMA. As this blog reported last week, Holder's announcement influenced at least one immigration judge to postpone a deportation order against a woman from Argentina who is married to a female U.S citizen.

The USCIS decision to return to its standard procedure of denying applications for immigration benefits for same sex couples reportedly has not affected the postponement of the Argentine woman's deportation case.

Source: AP via ABC27, "US back to denying same sex couples visas," 30 Mar 2011

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