When Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was overturned by the Supreme Court, same-sex couples could confer immigration benefits. DOMA had formerly prevented same-sex couples from receiving the benefits of marriage under federal law. Now, however, when a citizen marries a legal permanent resident, or noncitizen, marriage benefits apply. In fact, visa petitions for a spouse of the same gender will be reviewed the same as any other petition for a spouse to receive citizenship.
Other benefits now afforded to LGBT bi-national families include the sponsoring of stepchildren, protecting domestic violence victims from deportation, follow-to-join benefits (in which children of a noncitizen who followed their parent into the country later do not have to wait longer for a visa) and allowing undocumented spouses to apply for a hardship waiver. These advantages are something to celebrate, but the process of naturalization for same-sex couples still is not perfect.
Gay marriage immigration rights do not prevent the invasive nature of naturalization. Marriage-based visa petitions require federal immigration officers to investigate on the validity of the relationship. This is fine for most couples, but if a same-gender couple is not out to their family, complications may arise. Fear of family confrontation may even prevent some couples from applying. Though the overturn of DOMA is a step forward, the world is still not the same for the LGBT community as it is for the straight community.
Marriage petitions are still only available to couples in states that honor same-sex marriage as the visa only applies to legal marriages. Civil unions and domestic partnerships do not qualify. Until all 50 states sanction same-sex marriages, partners will have to plan accordingly. This is a reason why many are afraid to apply for a visa. Uprooting life to get married is inconvenient.