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Gay and Lesbian Immigration Policies


A group that wants immigration reform for gay partners marches in the Long Beach Pride Parade.

A group that wants immigration reform for gay partners marches in the Long Beach Pride Parade.

© David McNew/Getty Images
Binational Couples and Same-Sex Immigration

Say you meet the man of your dreams while vacationing in a foreign country. After some time you both tire of the distance and desire to be together. Should you move to his country of residence or should he move to yours? The immigration policies in whichever country you choose determines whether either of you will be able to sponsor the other for legal citizenship.

In most countries, heterosexual citizens can sponsor their foreign partners for legal residence. However, only 19 countries throughout the world allow lesbian and gay citizens to sponsor their foreign partners. As a result, many gay and lesbian binational couples are forced to either live apart in their respective countries of citizenship or live illegally in one country.

Current Status

The United States and Same-Sex Immigration

The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 prohibits federal recognition of same-sex couples in the United States. Therefore, the gay and lesbian foreign parnters of legal U.S. citizens are not recognized for immigration purposes.

In response to America's lag in gay immigration rights, in 2000 the Permanent Partners Immigration Act was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), then in 2001, 2003, 2005 (under the title "Uniting American Families Act"), and again in 2007. The bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee, without progress.

In the latest push for equal immigration rights, Rep. Nadler and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have co-sponsored the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 in both the House of Representatives and Senate. The bill, introduced on February 12, 2009, would allow gay nationals to bring their partners into the United States under the same criteria as heterosexual nationals.


According to the American Civil Liberties Union, approximately 75% of the 1 million green cards issued in the United States yearly are issued to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents–most of which are heterosexual spouses. The 2000 U.S. census records 6% of the 594,391 same-sex "unmarried partners" are comprised of one citizen and one non-citizen.

Binational gay partners are thus forced to either live apart or violate immigration policies, which can result in deportation. More on Gay Immigration Rights >>
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