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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,9 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 32
Kerry announces new visa policy - State Dept. will now treat all married couples the same
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Kerry announces new visa policy - State Dept. will now treat all married couples the same

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new visa policy on August 2, under which same-sex couples will be treated the same as opposite-sex couples.

Speaking at the U.S. Embassy in London, Kerry said the State Department is 'tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States' by changing the policy.

'I'm very pleased to be able to announce that effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses,' Kerry said.

'And here is exactly what this rule means: If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a noncitizen, 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.'

A POST-DOMA SHIFT
Kerry's announcement was confirmation that U.S. policy had changed to reflect the Supreme Court's landmark decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had already announced that visas for same-sex married couples would be processed 'in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse,' within hours of the court's ruling.

For U.S. citizens in same-sex marriages, their foreign-born spouses will now enjoy easier access to U.S. visas. The same preferential treatment will apply, as it does to straight husbands and wives who seek spousal visas.

'Now, 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, and that is what we believe is appropriate,' Kerry explained.

'Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage that will take effect in 2014.'

'If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.'

MARRIAGE IS REQUIRED
To apply for spousal visas, same-sex couples must be legally married. Domestic partnerships and civil unions do not confer the same rights as marriage for federal purposes. However, couples can be married in any jurisdiction where same-sex marriages are legally recognized.

A couple legally married in their home state or province can apply as married, even if their home country does not recognize same-sex marriage at a federal level. In Brazil, for example, several states allow Gay and Lesbian couples to marry, although there is no law at the national level that recognizes the marriages.

For couples who live in countries and states where same-sex marriage is not legal, they can be married in other countries that do recognize such marriages, and the State Department will recognize them as married couples.

For U.S. citizens who are engaged to foreign-born partners but cannot legally marry, the partners can apply for fiancé visas to travel to the U.S. for the purpose of marrying.

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