Getting married to – or already being married to – a U.S. citizen is one of the more common ways that people obtain lawful permanent residency. This is more typically known as getting a green card.
This is true for same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples. If you were or are going to be legally married anywhere within the U.S., that marriage is considered valid for obtaining a green card. That’s assuming, of course, that it’s a legitimate marriage and not the sham “green card marriage” people often hear about.
Why you may need a K-1 visa first
What if you were married in a country where same-sex marriage isn’t legal? Perhaps you had some type of ceremony in your spouse’s home country (or another country), but the marriage isn’t recognized under that country’s laws. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get married again in the U.S. in order for your partner to be considered your legal spouse and obtain a green card.
If your partner hasn’t yet moved to the U.S., the easiest way to get them here is probably for them to obtain a K-1 visa, or Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiance(e). Once you’re married, you can then sponsor your spouse for a green card.
Navigating the green card investigation
Keep in mind that you’ll go through the same investigative process as any other married couple where one spouse is seeking a green card. That can feel highly intrusive to anyone. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees will likely visit your home, conduct multiple interviews with you (together and separately) and possibly talk to your family, friends and others. They’ll want to see documentation as well as photos showing that you’re a real couple with some history together.
You shouldn’t be treated any differently during this process than an opposite-sex married couple would be. However, that doesn’t mean that discrimination can’t occur.
Wherever you are in this process, it’s always wise to have legal guidance. This can help the process move forward more easily and expeditiously for both of you.