...no matter how many domestic partnership rights your city or state or company grants you, it will not protect your relationship if your partner is not a U.S. citizen? No matter how long you've been together?
If my [same-sex] partner and I enter into a civil union in Vermont, will the government recognize it for immigration purposes?
No, a civil union conferred by the state of Vermont is not recognized by the federal government, which oversees immigration.
Can I marry my same-sex partner in the U.S. so I can change my status to legal permanent resident?
No. A federal law, the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) passed in 1996, states that the federal government will not respect same-sex marriages. Therefore, even when states begin to end their discrimination and allow same-sex couples to marry, marrying a same-sex partner in the U.S. will not affect immigration status until DOMA is repealed or deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
Do other countries recognize same-sex partnerships for the immigration purposes?
Yes. 14 countries consider same-sex partners as families for immigration purposes: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
What if my partner and I are legally married in another country? Will that allow me to sponsor my spouse for U.S. immigration?
No. The law stating that the U.S. government does not respect marriages between same-sex couples applies no matter where the couple was married. Further, depending on your circumstances, getting married in another country could even lead to your spouse's deportation. While this law may be challenged in court, doing so may be very risky, both for your partner who may be deported, and for other same-sex bi-national couples. Before making any decisions about marriage, consult a qualified immigration attorney who is knowledgeable about LGBT issues for individualized advice about your situation.
You should also be aware that legislation to allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration to the U.S. has been introduced in Congress. For more information about the Permanent Partners Immigration Act or to work for its passage, contact the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force or the Human Rights Campaign.
Generally, people with HIV are barred from both entering the country and receiving Legal Permanent Resident status (a green card). However, some waivers are available that permit people to enter the country or change their status to LPR. Before applying for a green card, you may want to find out your HIV status ahead of time at a site that conducts anonymous testing. You can find such a site by calling the National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-AIDS.
What types of waivers are available?
* HIV Waiver—Family: If you have an immediate family member that is a legal permanent resident or a citizen, they may obtain an HIV waiver on your behalf. To qualify, you must show that a close relative who is a U.S. citizen will sponsor you, that you will not be a danger to public health, that there is a minimum possibility of you spreading HIV, and that you will not become a “public charge.”
* HIV Waiver—Humanitarian: See section on asylum below.
How does the government determine if you are a “public charge”?
The government may determine you are a “public charge” and deny you legal permanent residency or re-entry into the U.S. if you leave for a period of time. A “public charge” is a person who cannot support him- or herself without cash benefits such as Social Security Income (SSI). Public charge is not a barrier to obtaining citizenships, nor is it an issue for people granted asylum. To determine whether a person will become a public charge, the government looks at a number of factors including age, health, income, family size and education and skills....