This past June, the Supreme Court ruled The Defense of Marriage Act, the law preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, unconstitutional. Previously, even with New York and fourteen other states passing laws allowing gay marriage, DOMA had barred the federal government from granting permanent residency or citizenship or visas to same sex couples based on their relationship. The Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA has impacted close to one million LGBT immigrations, according to a recent study released by the Williams Institute. Of these immigrants, close to 2/3rds are undocumented and were unable to apply for legal status due to DOMA. 

Since the Supreme Court decision in June of this year, many same-sex couples and their families have had their immigration case reviewed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Several of these families have been granted legal status and are able to enjoy the same rights as opposite sex couples. In New York, one man, Pablo Garcia, had been living for two decades as an undocumented immigrant. After the ruling, his US citizen and same-sex spouse applied for citizenship on his behalf and he was granted legal status. Another man had previously been tied to one employer as the only visa he could attain was a work visa. After getting married to a same-sex US citizen, his spouse successfully applied for legal status and they are both enjoying legal status as a family. 

In addition to the immigration benefits that we’ve outlined before, same-sex couples can also apply for “Cancellation of Removal” for their same-sex spouse. The applying spouse must be a US Citizen or a legal resident and must prove that deportation of their same-sex spouse would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” if his or her spouse is deported. Prior to the ruling, only opposite-sex couples could apply. Now, both same and opposite-sex marriages have the right to file for Cancellation of Removal in order to obtain legal residency for their spouse.

Furthermore, same-sex couples can also apply for legal status of their relatives or step-relatives under family visas. Prior to the ruling, children of same-sex couples were not considered for immigration benefits under family visas. The ruling has since made it possible for all family members of same-sex couples to apply for lawful US residency.


Since previous efforts at immigration reform were hampered by the issue of gay marriage, the ruling has likely made future immigration reform easier to pass. The debate over whether or not to grant same-sex couples the same legal immigration benefits as opposite sex couples has been put to an end and congress can now focus on comprehensive immigration reform.


If you are interested in sponsoring your same or opposite sex spouse, call us at (855) 625-0800 and schedule a free consultation.