Same-sex spouses to get U.S. visa benefit


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with embassy staff after delivering a policy address on same-sex spouses applying for U.S. visas at the U.S. Embassy in London on Friday. (JASON REED/REUTERS)
August 2, 2013

The United States will immediately begin giving visa applications from same-sex spouses the same preferential consideration typically granted to opposite-sex spouses, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday.

The policy change means that a foreign national in a legal same-sex marriage with an American citizen can more easily acquire a U.S. entry visa and that applications from legally wed foreign gay couples will be considered jointly.

“If you’re the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you’re the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally,” Kerry said.

Kerry made the announcement in the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in London, one of the largest in the world. England and Wales approved gay marriage in July, but the law will not take effect until next year.

“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,” Kerry said.

The secretary said the change results from a review of State Department regulations after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June overturning a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Previously, all applications from adults seeking to enter the United States were considered individually unless the applicants were an opposite-sex married couple. That was not the case for U.S. citizens who wed their foreign same-sex partners in states or countries where such marriages are legal and then sought to bring their spouses to the United States to work or live.

Married gay couples from the 15 countries that have approved same-sex marriage will be evaluated for visas together, as will same-sex applicants from Mexican states that have legalized gay marriage. As in the United States, only some states in Mexico have legalized gay marriage.

The State Department said the new policy will apply equally at all 222 visa-processing posts worldwide, whether those posts are in countries that have legalized gay marriage or not.

Anne Gearan is The Washington Post's diplomatic correspondent.
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