Same-sex couples in Colorado now can sponsor their noncitizen partner for citizenship or a green card – if they are married.
Up until recently, same-sex partners were not eligible for the same rights as heterosexual married couples, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Defense of Marriage Act helped to change that, according to Aurora immigration attorney Bryon Large.
“What that means is that if you live in a state that does not recognize marriage equality like Colorado,” he says, “the federal government will still recognize immigration benefits in Colorado.”
Colorado performs civil unions, but Large says U.S. Immigration officials have decided to recognize the state where a marriage is celebrated, versus where the couple resides.
Having their marriage status recognized means same-sex couples are eligible for faster processing of citizenship and green card applications.
Mindy Barton, legal director for the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, says the new rights afforded to same-sex couples where one person is a noncitizen represent a step forward when it comes to equal protection for all.
“Being able to sponsor a partner for citizenship has been a longstanding part of who we are as Americans,” she says. “So being able to have equal treatment of gay and lesbian spouses is vitally important to being able to achieve full equality.”
Both Barton and Large recommend same-sex couples that need help with immigration issues consult an attorney.
The GLBT Community Center of Colorado has a list of people with experience in the area.