Department of Homeland Security Will Review Denied Green Card Petitions After DOMA Struck Down


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a system-wide review of denied green card petitions for same-sex marriages filed after February 2011, according to new guidelines issued on Friday morning. This comes on the heels of the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last month.

Same-sex spouses could not be green-card sponsors under DOMA. Because the Obama administration stopped defending DOMA on February 23, 2011, the DHS will reopen all denied green card petitions starting on that date. Its immigration branch, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) noted that it will “make a concerted effort to identify denials of I-130 petitions… at your last known address of the reopening and request updated information in support of your petition.” Gay couples whose applications were denied before that date “must notify USCIS by March 31, 2014” so that USCIS can reopen those petition cases. The guideline also entitles engaged couples to enter the United States for marriage.

Friday’s updated guidelines concretely follow up on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s earlier statement that the DHS would review all immigration visa petitions.

The Supreme Court decision made waves rather quickly among the bi-national couples community. Moments after the decision, a judge granted a deportation stay for a gay man who could now be sponsored for a green card by his spouse. And days after the decision, a U.S. citizen successfully sponsored his bi-national gay spouse for a green card.