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Same-sex spouses now allowed to apply for U.S. visas

August 02, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • A gay couple show off their wedding rings after tying the knot in San Francisco. On Friday, the State Department said that those in same-sex marriages will be given the same preferential consideration in their visa applications now enjoyed by those in opposite-sex marriages.
A gay couple show off their wedding rings after tying the knot in San Francisco.… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP )

Spouses in same-sex marriages will be given the same preferential consideration in their visa applications now enjoyed by those in opposite-sex marriages, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday.

Kerry made the announcement in the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in London, one of the largest of the 222 visa centers in the world. His statement was distributed via email to reporters around the world.

“As long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it, so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same,” Kerry said.

The new policy is effective immediately. It applies to spouses of U.S. citizens as well as non-U.S. citizens.

“Here is exactly what this rule means,” Kerry said. “If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.

“And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world,” said the secretary of state.

The change follows the June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. After the ruling, President Obama ordered a review by all government agencies to deal with rules that might now be considered discriminatory after the high court’s decision.

There are an estimated 26,000 same-sex couples in the United States with one partner who is not a U.S. citizen. A subset that group — those who are married — had been prevented from applying for green cards.

In the past decade, some of those non-citizens have been deported, even though they were legally married.

Many others have been in a legal limbo, with one partner living undocumented in the United States. Some couples have left the country entirely to be somewhere they can both work and live legally.

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