Folks who know me know that I have pretty complicated political feelings about marriage equality, but when DOMA died the first thing that I thought of was queer immigrants – particularly, that those who were married to U.S. citizens and would now be eligible to be petitioned for by their spouses for permanent residency. While the percentage of queer immigrant folks who would be able to take advantage of this is probably quite low, any relief or good news in this mess of a national immigration conversation feels like a big deal. But of course, the process won’t be as simple as it would be for straight folks. Seth over at Colorlines details some concerns facing LGBTQ immigrants trying to obtain permanent residency through their U.S. citizen spouses:
What [Amir] Rasoulpour is worried about in particular are the parts of the marriage-based visa process that include investigation by federal immigration officers into the validity of a marriage. For straight couples able to live in the world with full public knowledge of their relationship, this is not a problem. But for LGBT couples who may not be out to their families, communities, neighbors or bosses, the prospect of a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer showing up at their apartment building or calling their mother to ask about the relationship poses a pretty serious risk.
“The immigration process is pretty invasive,” Rasoulpour says. “People are on different levels of how out they are, and fears about being outed could stand in the way of applying.”
This verification process is indeed incredibly invasive, with immigration officials asking all sorts of intimate information of the couple and their families in order to verify the relationship, which of course comes at a huge cost for folks who may not be out or are out selectively. While advocates are calling for guidelines to protect same-sex couples in this situation, so far U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to put forth any protections.