“Every married couple will be treated exactly the same,” Secretary Kerry said, announcing a change to the U.S. visa process for same-sex spouses in 2013. It’s as simple as that — the same rules for married couples when it comes to visas, regardless of whether they’re same-sex or opposite-sex.
But with rapid changes to how laws treat same-sex couples in countries throughout the world and all the different visa situations, “simple” needs some explaining.
Since August 2013, the same-sex spouse of someone applying for a visa has been eligible for a derivative visa, meaning he or she has the same visa eligibility as an opposite-sex spouse. Also, a noncitizen who marries a U.S. citizen of the same sex is eligible for the same immigration benefits as an opposite-sex spouse.
With the 2015 Supreme Court ruling ensuring a nationwide right to same-sex marriage in the U.S., same-sex spouses are treated identically to opposite-sex spouses in the eyes of federal law.
Are children and stepchildren included?
Children and stepchildren of same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses’ children.
Are same-sex domestic partners and partners in civil unions eligible for derivative visas?
Only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage where it took place will let a partner be considered a spouse for immigration purposes. But that’s the same for opposite-sex couples.
Can the same-sex fiancé of a U.S. citizen receive a visa?
As with opposite-sex couples, an engagement may allow a same-sex fiancé to enter the U.S. to marry, as long as all other immigration requirements are met. The Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that same-sex couples could marry in any state in the nation. (Before the ruling, only 37 states and the capital city of Washington had made marriage legal for gay couples.)
If you still have questions, you can watch the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Google+ Hangout on visa guidelines for same-sex spouses.
The bottom line, as Secretary Kerry said, is that so long as the marriage is recognized as legal in the place where it occurred, “that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same.”