The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and allow same sex couples the same federal benefits as those in heterosexual marriages was viewed as a major victory for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. But this decision was not immediately translated to the Diversity Visa Program by the State Department.
Unfortunately, not long after the Supreme Court’s decision, individuals in same sex marriages who had won the green card lottery were told by members of the State Department that their same sex spouses could not accompany them to the United States, even though individuals in heterosexual marriages who win the green card lottery are allowed to have their spouses accompany them to the United States under what is known as a derivative visa.
The Diversity Visa Lottery
The green card lottery, which is officially known as the Diversity Visa program, awards visas through a lottery system to individuals from nations which are underrepresented by immigrants in the United States. This means that only individuals from certain nations can qualify to play the diversity visa program, but, if won, the person is granted a green card (also known as “lawful permanent residency”) and all the benefits which go along with it.
The State Department Was Wrong
Shortly after the Supreme Court decision that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, green card lottery winners in same sex marriages were still being told that their marriages did not qualify for the benefit of bringing a spouse to the United States under a derivative visa. Essentially, the U.S. State Department was enforcing the old rules after the new rules should have taken effect. Anyone at the U.S. Department of State who denied derivative visas to diversity visa lottery winners in same sex marriages was wrong.
After the decision by the Supreme Court to reverse the Defense of Marriage Act, individuals in same sex marriages can receive the same immigration benefits as individuals in heterosexual marriages. This includes the benefit of green card lottery winners to have their spouses accompany them to the United States under a derivative visa.
To receive the same sex benefit of bringing a spouse to the United States, the lottery winner’s marriage must be legally recognized in a nation that recognizes same sex marriages or recognized in a U.S. state which recognizes same sex marriages.
Partner with an Attorney for the Benefits You Deserve
The new system in place removes many barriers to government benefits for those in same sex marriages, including benefits under the immigration system, but that does not mean that going through the immigration process is any easier – it is still a meticulous and confusing process that should not be faced without the help of an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.
Even if they have already been denied a derivative visa for a same sex spouse, individuals should still speak with an attorney. In most cases, if the reason for the denial was because of the same sex aspect of the marriage alone, an attorney may be able to help the spouse receive a derivative visa by appealing the original decision.
Like the initial immigration process, the appeal process can be just as confusing and frustrating, which is why an attorney should be partnered with from the beginning. With an attorney by their side, anyone filing for any sort of visa or appeal can be sure that their paperwork will be filled out properly and that their applications have the highest chance of being approved as possible.
Sam Shihab & Associates Can Help
If you are an immigrant with any questions or concerns regarding your status, visa, green card application, or any other legal matter, speak at once to an experienced Columbus immigration attorney. A good immigration lawyer can help you and your family with any immigration issue you face and defend you if you’re accused of violating immigration law.
Our immigration attorneys will review your forms and applications for thoroughness and accuracy. Immigration laws will continually change, but an experienced immigration attorney will always be able to give you the most up-to-date legal advice you need.
Contact us today!