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Learn how the Defense of Marriage Act impacts the dependents of international students.

Can a DSO issue Forms I-20 to Same-Sex Spouses?

August 6, 2013

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Based on this ruling, the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs has advised consulates that their officials may issue derivative visas based on same-sex marriage if the marriage is “recognized in the place of celebration.” That is, if the country where the couple married recognizes same-sex marriage as legal, then the U.S. government will recognize the union as legal for visa issuance, irrespective of where the couple plans to reside. The Department of State will be updating the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) reciprocity tables pursuant to 9 FAM 41.105 to identify what types of marriages are available for same-sex couples.

Under current policy, designated school officials (DSOs) may issue Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status,” to spouses of F-1 and M-1 students who plan to accompany their spouse to the United States. This allows the spouse to apply for an F-2 or M-2 visa to enter the United States.

Since June 26, 2013, and the Supreme Court ruling, DSOs should continue to verify marriages consistent with current practices and should now do so for a same-sex marriage if it is “recognized in the place of celebration.” After verification of the marriage, a DSO then may issue a Form I-20 to a same-sex spouse of an F-1 or M-1 student who is seeking admission into the United States as an F-2 or M-2 dependent.

You can find more information about dependents on the Dependents resource page.

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