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USCIS Confirms Immigration Benefits for Same-Sex Couples That Convert Civil Union to Marriage

September 19, 2014
Beata Leja

We previously wrote about the immigration benefits available to same-sex couples that convert their civil unions to marriages based on the new Illinois law. Under that Illinois law, couples wishing to convert their civil unions must do so by May 31, 2015. On September 12, 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chicago District Office confirmed in a liaison meeting with the Chicago Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association that such couples can in fact utilize the earlier marriage date (the date of the original civil union) when filing for immigration benefits.

The USCIS also clarified that in instances where the foreign national already obtained a conditional two-year green card, but would now be eligible for a permanent 10-year green card based on the earlier marriage date (the date of the original civil union), that such an individual may request to have the conditions removed from their green card by filing a Form I-751.

As an example:  Let’s say a same-sex couple entered into a civil union in Illinois on June 1, 2011, then married in Iowa (where marriage equality has been recognized since 2009) on June 1, 2012, and filed for a green card based on this marriage in July 2013 (after the DOMA was found unconstitutional). In that case, the foreign national spouse would only be eligible for a two-year conditional green card because the marriage that took place in Iowa in 2012 was less than two years old at the time of the green card filing in July 2013. But now, that same couple can convert their Illinois civil union to a marriage and have a valid marriage certificate back-dated to June 1, 2011—the date they entered into a civil union. As a result, their marriage would be considered more than two years old at the time of filing for the green card, making the foreign national eligible to apply for a permanent 10-year green card rather than a two-year conditional green card.

The USCIS now confirms that individuals in this situation may file the I-751 to remove the conditions on their permanent residence without having to wait until the 90-day period prior to the expiration of their conditional two-year green card. The USCIS also reiterated that a fee waiver may be available to such a request if the couple establishes the financial need necessary for all fee waiver requests.

Again, we urge all multinational couples in Illinois, who previously entered into a civil union, to take advantage of the new law and convert their civil union to a marriage by May 31, 2015.

Please contact an immigration attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. if you or your loved one need advice on eligibility for an immigration benefit based on marriage.

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