No Limitation

Same sex US fiancée visa petitions now OK – but beware of scammers

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Last month, the US Supreme Court decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Essentially, DOMA was a federal law that defines a legal marriage as that between a man and a woman. By striking it down as being unconstitutional, this meant that laws in various states allowing same sex marriages are now considered legal.

This major US Supreme Court decision has far-reaching ramifications. For all practical and theoretical purposes, same sex spouses will now be treated legally as similar to opposite sex spouses. They will have the same legal benefits and liabilities as opposite sex spouses. For example: Real or personal property, acquired during marriage, generally becomes community property (unless the source of the acquisition funds is identified and recognized as separate property belonging to only one of the spouses). The debt of one party generally also becomes community debt with some exceptions.

Issues re social security benefits, pension rights, insurance coverage, widow or widower benefits, estate inheritance, etc. – are all affected.

Shortly after the US Supreme Court decision, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a directive that henceforth, same sex spouses will have the same benefits under the US immigration laws as opposite sex spouses. For example: Immigrant visas can now be filed by US citizens for their same sex spouses; Those entering the US on nonimmigrant working visas or investors’ visas can  also now include their same sex spouses as their dependents.

But these same sex spousal benefits are conditional on the marriage being legal in the country or state where it took place. Currently, there are 15 countries including the US where same sex marriage is considered legal: Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa, Norway, Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Canada, France, New Zealand, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, Brazil.

For countries where same sex marriage is not legal like the Philippines and others, many ask me if there are other alternatives to bring their same sex boyfriends or girlfriends to the US.

One way of course is to go to any of the mentioned countries above and get married there. But this involves securing visas, hotel and travel expenses, lengthy travel times, language problems, making marriage arrangements and other hassles.

In my column article three weeks ago, I suggested utilizing fiancée (or fiancé) visa petitions, which I conjectured, could be a viable option. I theorized that even if the couple is not yet married, they will be getting married in the US in a state (like California)  where same sex marriage is now legal. I figured that Secretary Napolitano, a reasonable person and other equally reasonable people involved in determining immigration policy – would not object to fiancée visa petitions in same sex relationships – as it is in keeping with the spirit of the law. I figured correctly.

Six days ago, Napolitano issued another official directive to the US Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) – stating that henceforth, I-129 Fiancée Visa petitions by US citizens in same sex relationships will be honored and  processed by her agency. This is a tremendous benefit for those coming from countries like the Philippines where same sex marriage is not considered legal. They can now come to the US on fiancée visas and get married here.

Currently, the processing time for fiancée  visa  petitions is from five to eight months. When the fiancée arrives in the US, the couple needs to get married within 90 days after which the fiancée may apply for adjustment of status to secure her immigrant visa.

As in so many other immigration law matters, certain complex issues and  details are involved.

The services of competent and honest immigration lawyers can be very valuable. But please, be careful of crooks and scammers.  I consistently warn immigrant communities and individuals about: 1) Non-licensed individuals practicing law or doing illegal things. 2) Licensed lawyers who file frivolous asylum claims which may temporarily provide employment authorization to applicants but which are eventually denied administratively subjecting applicants to removal proceedings in court. 3) Licensed lawyers who advertise heavily and charge clients enormous fees.

Many of these lawyers who advertise heavily are not even officially certified by the State Bar as Specialists or Experts in Immigration Law – but charge even as much as 15 times more than Certified Expert-Specialists. Who do you think pays for their costly advertisements?

Call the State Bar to verify whether a lawyer is a certified Immigration Law Specialist or Expert.

For the California State Bar telephones: Northern California 415-538-2000 , Southern California 213-765-1000 State Bars regulate lawyers.

To be fair, even those lawyers not certified as Expert-Specialists in Immigration Law by the State

Bar in a state is not prohibited from practicing Immigration Law. But being officially certified as an expert guarantees the client that the lawyer knows his stuff. To be a certified Expert Specialist, the lawyer must pass a difficult set of exams and must have had extensive experience in practically all the different kinds of immigration law cases.

It’s a good idea to consult with two or three lawyers before deciding on which one to retain. This is money well spent. A competent honest lawyer can really help and can save the client a lot of headaches and money.

From 1990 to 2008, a Filipino-American woman who styled herself as a “Bonded Immigration Law Consultant” – operated offices in different parts of the US purportedly providing legal services to mostly Filipino immigrants. She had offices in San Jose, La Jollla, Beverly Hills and New York City.

In 2008, federal authorities raided her offices and seized her files. According to the charges filed against her, she victimized numerous unsuspecting undocumented immigrants charging them more than $7000 each – giving them the false  promise that they would eventually get their immigrant visas if they have an approved Alien Labor Certification from the Department of Labor and an employment based petition filed for them. The reality is that in general, an undocumented or overstaying alien cannot adjust his or her status on the basis of an employment-based petition.

Most of the woman’s victims were either Filipino owners of care or nursing homes who paid for her fees or undocumented immigrant  employees of these facilities who gave her monthly payments from their limited incomes. After more than three years of investigation, a federal grand jury indicted her in May 2010. She is charged with numerous counts of immigration, mail and tax fraud.  Federal authorities allege that she earned millions that she did not properly declare in her income tax returns. Her case is ongoing.

Unsuspecting hardworking innocent undocumented immigrants with limited resources eager to legalize their papers – often fall victims to greedy no-compassion scammers who cause them so much pain and suffering. So – be careful.

Note: The California State Bar honors Atty. Ted Laguatan as one of less than  29 US lawyers officially certified continuously for almost 25 years now  as Expert-Specialists in Immigration Law. He also does human rights, accident injury and wrongful death cases. For communications (San Francisco area): 455 Hickey Blvd. Ste. 516, Daly City Ca 94015. Tel 650-991-1154  Fax 650-991-1186 email: laguatanlaw@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • boybakal

    Poor US of A.
    Land of illegal immigrants, now land of mga bakla.

    • Saloi-CDR

      oi na-inggit ang kumare kong pa-boybakal pero girlbaklesh

  • Johnby

    To Boybakal. If God did not love gays and lesbians, surely He would not have made so many of them. Poor you. Your internal world is so full of prejudice and ignorance. You do not see gays and lesbians as having the same rights as other human beings. Some of the most outstanding human beings who ever lived are gays and lesbians.

    • boybakal

      Did I say something wrong about the gays…None.
      The topic is about the US that keep changing its demographic.

      • Johnby

        To Boybakal. When you wrote “Poor US, land of illegal immigrants, now land of baklas”, you clearly were suggesting negative connotations about gay people. Now that you realize that what you said was very politically incorrect, you are saying its about demographics that you were referring to..

      • boybakal

        What I said is direct, no further interpretation or thinking.
        Poor US of A….isn’t it correct….with trillion debts.
        Changing demographics….land of illegals and land of baklas is really changing the face of america.
        It is politically correct.

    • boybakal

      Leviticus 18:22

      You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
      Leviticus 20:13
      If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have
      committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood
      is upon them.

      Romans 1:26-27
      For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For
      their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to
      nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and
      were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless
      acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their
      error.

      1 Corinthians 6:9-10
      Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the
      kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor
      idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, will
      inherit the kingdom of God.

      • Johnby

        “If a person is gay, seeks God, has good will, who am I to judge?” – Pope Francis

      • boybakal

        He is only a Pope.
        His statement is not written in the Bible of God.

      • Johnby

        Boybakal. I’ll grant you this. Same sex relationship is a very tough issue for Christians to resolve. We are commanded to love our neighbor. Therefore we should. And a big percentage of our neighbors are gays and lesbians. Loving them as Christians means having compassion for them and understanding their situations as best as we can.

        I don’t think a person freely chooses to be gay or lesbian. He or she is what he or she is even from childhood. There are internal and external forces that determines people’s genders.

        Being human, gays and lesbians are sexual creatures just like heterosexuals and have sexual needs.

        Some biblical scholars take the position that ideas expressed in the bible should be interpreted within the context of the fact situation under which the idea is being expressed.

        So therefore, we cannot absolutely judge nor condemn anyone in absolute terms.

      • boybakal

        I don’t condemn or judge the gays or lesbians.
        You are the one getting out of hand, out of topic by dragging the gays as bad people.

        I only wrote that US is becoming Land of Illegals and Gays….
        what is wrong about that.

      • Johnby

        Boybakal,

        You wrote: “Poor U.S., land of illegal immigrants and now land of baklas.”

        You see nothing condemning about this statement? Why would you characterize the U.S. as “poor” if you were not condemning illegal immigrants and baklas?

    • boybakal

      Agree with you, God love Gays and Lesbians….

      “The Genesis passage is very clear, that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that
      brought on the destruction of the city was indeed linked to homosexuality.”

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