The Department of Homeland Security issued an FAQ on July 1, 2013, which it subsequently updated, in response to the Supreme Court's decision on June 26, 2013, United States v. Windsor, which struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. That law had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, regardless of whether they were legally valid in certain states or in other countries, and from conferring federal benefits on same-sex spouses that are enjoyed by heterosexual spouses.
The FAQ notes that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said she has "directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse." The FAQ includes the following questions and answers:
Q1: I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national. Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa?
A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse's admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.
Q2. I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex. Can I file a fiancé or fiancée petition for him or her?
A2. Yes. You may file a Form I-129F. As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for marriage.
Q3: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state or a foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?
A3: Yes. As a general matter, the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes. Just as USCIS applies all relevant laws to determine the validity of an opposite-sex marriage, we will apply all relevant laws to determine the validity of a same-sex marriage.
About 30,000 same-sex binational couples include spouses who may now be eligible for immigration benefits. The Supreme Court's ruling applies only to same-sex couples in the 13 states that recognize gay marriage, not to the other states that don't. Legal observers disagree whether a gay couple who gets married in one state and moves to another state that doesn't recognize the marriage will still be entitled to federal benefits.
The FAQ also notes that spouses who were married in a U.S. state or foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage, but who live in a state that does not, can file immigrant visa petitions for their spouses. The FAQ states that as a general matter, "the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes."
The FAQ also includes information about applying for benefits, what to do about previous denials, changes in eligibility based on same-sex marriage, residence requirements, inadmissibility waivers.
USCIS's new FAQ is available here.
The Supreme Court's DOMA decision is available here.
Another FAQ about the ruling's impact on immigration cases is available here.