LGBT Immigration

At HaleyNelson & Heilbrun, LLP, our attorneys have helped many gay, lesbian, and transgender applicants obtain asylum, residency or sponsor a loved one.

Asylum based on sexual orientation or transgender status is a ground for asylum where an individual has suffered persecution in the past or has a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to their home country. Because of the extremely difficult and dangerous conditions for LGBT people in many countries, asylum can be an effective means of obtaining lawful status in the United States. As in other asylum cases, the law requires that an applicant apply for asylum within one year of entry into the United States. There are exceptions to this one-year deadline, including extraordinary circumstances and changed circumstances. However, because of the difficulty of overcoming the one-year deadline, we encourage you to consult with an experienced attorney before applying for asylum.

For years the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) which defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, prevented same-sex marriages from being federally recognized. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in which it found a portion of the DOMA unconstitutional, paving the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Less than a month after the Supreme Court's ruling, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a precedential decision in which it confirmed that same-sex marriage licenses must be recognized for purposes of U.S. immigration law so long as the marriage was valid under the law where the marriage was celebrated.

Since June 2013, our attorneys have successfully helped numerous LGBT clients obtain permanent residency based on valid same-sex marriage licenses. We counsel these individuals and their loved ones on a wide range of immigration issues relating to fiancé(e) visas, marriage based residency applications, and immigration waivers that require a showing of hardship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse. With extensive experience representing LGBT clients, we understand the unique issues same-sex couples face in the immigration process.

Marriages where one spouse is transgender, however, may be a basis for petitioning a loved one for residency. For immigration purposes, a marriage is valid if is valid in the state where it took place. Currently, a number of states recognize legal gender changes and subsequent marriages. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge, experience and sensitivity in representing couples in these types of cases and have provided specific training to USCIS officers regarding transgender-based applications.

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Providing quality legal representation and exceptional client services to immigrants and their families.