Aftermath of Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, the same sex couples might be eligible for immigration and visa benefits

June 26, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that has prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. After hearing another case on the same day the court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in California to resume. The court held that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal the district court’s decision which declared unconstitutional to an amendment of the Constitution of California, the amendment was adopted through a ballot measure, popularly know as proposition 8 which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Aftermath of those decisions, it is most likely that the same sex couples might have standing for more federal benefits including immigration and a visa to a same sex couples. The same same sex couples who are legally married may be entitled to a dependent visa as well as the right to file a Relative Petition. Immigrant advocates said the impact will be huge for the estimated 30,000 bi-national couples in the U.S (Soure: Daily News). 

While the Supreme Court’s decision will have immediate effects, however it will take time for USCIS and Department of State to implement this change. Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano issued a statement on the the ruling of the Supreme Court. Secretary Napolitano applauded the decision holding a provision of DOMA as unconstitutional. She announced that the DHS will work with federal partners, including the Department of Justice, to ensure immigration benefits for same-sex couples. At the sidelines of a conference of immigration lawyers, USCIS Director Alejandro indicated that since February 2011, when the Administration opined on the unconstitutionality of DOMA, USCIS has kept a list of all I-130 petitions filed by same-sex bi-national couples that were denied, and is now prepared to act accordingly.

We will update our clients as these changes are implemented. In the meantime, if you or somebody you know has additional questions about possible changes please contact our office for further detail.