Dear Yetta, Just over a year ago my wife and I were married in New York, and since then, we’ve moved to Ohio. She’s an American citizen and I’m not. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned DOMA, can I become a citizen? Does it matter that Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages?
—Married in OH
The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor was a major win for our community because it overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and determined that the federal government cannot treat married same-sex couples any differently than other married couples. This means that, post-Windsor, an American citizen can petition on behalf of his or her same-sex spouse for immigration benefits.
Your spouse can immediately petition for your green card, which is conditioned on you staying married to each other. The green card application will require you and your spouse to provide, among other things, proof of the marriage, your spouse’s financial condition, and her ability to support you financially if you should fall on hard times. After you’ve been married for two years you can begin the process to apply for permanent resident status and eventually apply for citizenship.
As for living in a state without marriage equality, there is every indication that, for immigration purposes, the federal government will look to whether your marriage was legal in the “place of celebration” rather than where you live when you file the green card petition. So, even though you’re living in Ohio, you should still obtain immigration benefits from your spouse because you were married in New York, where there is marriage equality. This is particularly important for the people who live in states without access even to civil unions, as it should allow them to enjoy at least some of the benefits of a federally recognized marriage.
As with many immigration applications, a marriage-based petition requires very specific information, so it’s best to consult with an attorney with immigration experience to discuss your specific circumstances. All in all, this is an empowering act. Bravo for taking this important step.
Congratulations and good luck!
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*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.