A Bulgarian immigrant in Florida has become the first gay spouse to be approved for a green card. It's an immigration milestone that comes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that limited marriage rights to opposite-sex couples.
The notice of approval of a permanent resident visa, known as a green card, was issued by e-mail late Friday to Traian Popov, 41, who lives with his American spouse, Julian Marsh, 55, in Fort Lauderdale, reports The New York Times.
Caught Off Guard
The happy couple received the news when they were out celebrating Marsh's 55th birthday.
The Obama administration seems to be acting quickly to update visa policies in light of the Court's ruling Wednesday that invalidated a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.
In fact, the green card approval came so fast that it caught the couple's immigration lawyer off guard. "I thought, 'Am I reading this wrong?'" their lawyer told the Times.
Typically, marriage is a common way for an immigrant to get a green card.
However, DOMA, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages as a means for any visa.
The Supreme Court's decision, which will affect same-sex couples in a number of ways, eliminates that restriction and paves the way for U.S. citizens seeking green cards for foreign spouses of the same sex.
New Procedures Pending
The visa agency, United States Immigration and Citizenship Services, will soon announce new procedures early for same-sex binational couples seeking green cards, according to immigration officials.
For the last two years, the agency has kept a list of same-sex couples whose green card petitions were denied, the officials said, anticipating that the Supreme Court would eventually weigh in on DOMA.
Those denials will now be reversed without couples having to present new applications, if no other issues have arisen. Gay couples with no denials, like Marsh and Popov, will move through the system at the same pace as traditional spouses, officials told the Times.
Married couples interested in learning more about the green card process can check out FindLaw's free Guide to Applying for Your Green Card. For answers to questions about your specific situation, it's best to consult an experienced immigration lawyer near you.