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Kerry: US LGBT marital visa process now regularized

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has been directed to begin processing visa applications for same-sex spouses in the standard way that such visas would be handled for heterosexual spouses of U.S. citizens. Kerry announced the change, which is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in US v. Windsor which invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while on a diplomatic trip to London.

"Effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it considers the application of opposite-sex spouses," Kerry told reporters.

While the policy change was welcome news to the many married gay and lesbian couples whose marriages had, until now, offered no guarantee of living in the same country, there were a number of questions that remain unanswered.

Kerry affirmed that "As long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it, ... every married couple will be treated exactly the same." He also made clear that the new policy will be put into practice in all of the more than 200 U.S. visa processing centers worldwide, even in countries that don't allow same-sex marriages.

But what about K-1 fiancé/fiancée visas for gays and lesbians who are engaged but not yet married? On the surface, it appears there would be no reason to treat LGBT applicants for K-1 visas any differently from heterosexual applicants, but the question will certainly arise. Will already being married be the only situation in which LGBT citizens and green card holders can sponsor their partners for family visas?

Source: TIME, "U.S. Eases Process for Same-Sex Couples to Get Visas," Associated Press Aug. 2, 2013

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