Ever since the overturn of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the USCIS has been granting green cards to spouses of same sex marriages. Before when DOMA was in effect, these green card applications were simply put on hold without anyone looking at it, since it was not possible to issue green cards based on same sex marriages. Now that it is possible, people often wonder would the process and interview be any different from a marriage between a man and a woman. Considering all aspects of the application, gay or straight marriages actually are not handled any differently. However, the USCIS does give some leeway for gay marriages in terms of supporting evidence. So, what do you need to have a successful application? A genuine marriage!
A genuine marriage will produce the necessary evidence to convince the USCIS that the marriage is bona fide legitimate and that it is not a fraudulent way for someone to get a green card. Keeping in line with green card marriage applications between a man and a woman, you still need documents to prove the marriage is real. Besides the obvious marriage certificate, you need to produce documents such as:
- Joint ownership of bank accounts
- Joint ownership of financial securities
- Joint ownership of property, real estate assets
- Both names on a rental lease
- Joint insurance policies
- Joint tax returns
- Both names on utilities bills, telephone bills
- Evidence of relationship through photographs
- Plane tickets, phone call records for long distance relationships
- Adopted children
The list is not meant to be complete and exhaustive, but you should understand any documents that show that both of you are in a relationship will help your case. Now, the leeway mentioned earlier is the photographs of weddings, engagements, and other events where other family members and friends may be present. The USCIS understands that some people escaped to America because their home country or culture strictly forbids gay relationships. In those cases, it is probably nearly impossible to have photos of a family gathering, wedding, engagement of a gay couple since they could both be executed for doing something as simple as entering into a relationship with a person of the same sex. Therefore, it is probably OK in that case to not have photographs of family gatherings or wedding celebrations. But this is not to say that you shouldn’t have any photos at all. Most people in relationships, gay or straight, go on trips or vacations and spend time with each other. Just show those photos. It will be ok that the photos may never contain family members or friends. This is the one aspect of a gay marriage that will differ from a straight marriage and the USCIS understands that. Of course, if your home country is tolerant of gay marriages, like Netherlands, then you better have a good excuse why there are no public photos of the celebration of your gay marriage.
In general, the law does not differentiate green card applications between straight or gay marriages. The USCIS officer will look at and review the entire application as a whole. Additional supporting documents such as an explanation on how your home country or culture is intolerant of gays and that you found your happiness and freedom in America will probably help your case in proving without a doubt that the marriage is real. You can also obtain affidavits from friends who knows of your gay marriage/relationship and can vouch for you. The friends simply need to state how long they have known you, how did they get to know you, how did they get to know your spouse, how long have they known you have been marriage or in this relationship, and if they helped you in your relationship in some way. The one thing you don’t have to worry is being discriminated against for being in a gay relationship. It would be against federal law for the USCIS officer to deny your case base on bias or his/her own judgement. As long as your marriage is real, gay or straight, the USCIS has a duty to grant you the green card.